Squirrel writers’ 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Round up

So that was the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival. Once again the weather was changeable, with reports that it was the wettest summer in Scotland for 80 years. We arrived in the rain, but the frequent showers were never enough to dampen our enthusiasm. There were four Squirrels in Edinburgh this year and all of us have written below about shows we’ve loved, or not loved, or not had the chance to write about previously.

Hannah GadsbyThe Big news to come out of this special anniversary festival is that Australia’s own multi award winning (The Barry, The Helpmann, Adelaide Best Comedy) comedy champion Hannah Gadsby has won the Best Comedy Show Award at Edinburgh. It was a joint win with John Robins and my impression is that their shows are a sort of yin and yang, with John’s show The Darkness of Robins being an anguished cry of help from the depths of a breakup with his more famous girlfriend Sara Pascoe (who was doing her own take on the breakup in an equally well reviewed but not nominated Fringe show Lads, Lads, Lads) and Hannah’s being a powerful, rallying rant of revelation against the apocalypse, Nanette. Previous Australian winners of Best Comedy at Edinburgh Fringe are Los Trios Ringbarkus, Lano & Woodley, Brendon Burns and Sam Simmons.

Other nominees for the 2017 Edinburgh Best Comedy Award were Ahir Shah, Elf Lyons, Jordan Brookes, Mae Martin, Mat Ewins, Sophie Wilan and Spencer Jones.

Best Newcomer Winner at Edinburgh Fringe was Natalie Palamides for Laid. The Nominees for Best Newcomer were; Chris Washington, Darren Harriott, Ed Night, Kwame Asante, Lauren Pattison, Lucy Pearman and Rob Kemp.

Rob Kemp did win Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Performer and Mat Ewins Presents Adventureman 7: The Return of Adventureman won best Comedians’ Choice Award Best Show.

Hannah will bring Nanette for its premiere season at the Sydney Opera House from  September 27 – October 8, before a string of encore performances at the Arts Centre Melbourne from Nov 18 culminating in Hamer Hall on Dec 1. I shouldn’t have to urge you to see it, if you’ve missed out on it so far.

Squirrel writers’ Edinburgh Fringe Round up

Colin Flaherty

My highlights at Fringe happen to be ones that I have reviewed, in particular Big Howard Little Howard

Big Howard, Little Howard (Howard Read) – Man and Boy

Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick Fun Hour

Simon Munnery – Renegade Plumber

I also enjoyed Stuart Goldsmith – Like I Mean It, a hilarious hour that follows on from his previous show Compared to What where he continues to explore life with his new wife and son. He presents plenty of brilliant observations and plays around with the bird with clipped wings husband angle perfectly.

One off event WiFi Wars was a hoot, even though many of the games refused to play correctly on my underpowered tablet (I was only expecting to word process and web surf on it after all!). This late night, tech heavy show had punters competing individually as well as in teams. We laughed, we cheered and we got our geek on!

I had high hopes for Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, an ambitious show featuring complicated puppetry, a crazy blurb and some wacky characters but I found it overlong and not enough laughs to hold my attention. Apart from the wonderful voicing of the characters, the expressionless puppets failed to connect with me.

Lisa Clark

I loved all the shows I reviewed with Jayde Adams (Is Jayded) being the exciting new discovery of the Fringe for me. The following are shows I loved but did not get a Squirrel write up.

Craig Ferguson ShowCraig Ferguson – The Craig Ferguson Show. All the Squirrels saw Craig’s recording of his live radio show and we all enjoyed it. Starting at 11.30pm to go live for drive time in the USA as well as Canada and Mexico, it went for 2 hours and consisted of two very entertaining in-depth chats with performers who were old friends of Craig. In our case an old close friend impressionist/comedian Jan Ravens and Scottish writer Iain Rankin.

Chris Coltrane – Make Love & Smash Fascism – a rather lovely, warm and approachable political comedian who taught me about the evils of Neo Liberalism which is extreme capitalism & pro privatisation of everything which basically seems to be the road to anarchy.

Dave Johns – I, Fillum Star. Dave Johns has been a jobbing comedian all his life and just as he was planning his retirement (he was going to give kids donkey rides at the seaside), he got a part in a film. On the 1st day director Ken Loach said, oh by the way the film is named after your character because you are the lead. I, Daniel Blake won a swag of awards taking Dave to Cannes and the BAFTAs and giving him a cracking tale to tell, and being a great comedian means Dave knows how to tell it for maximum laughs. This was a joy to experience with the message that it’s never too late.

Yianni Agisilaou – Pockets of Equality. As the title suggests, it’s about sexual politics and pockets. More importantly it was a very personal heartwarming show about love and family and one of the best shows I’ve ever seen Yianni do.

Disappointing shows were; Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, a puppet show where three puppeteers per puppet failed to give the faceless repulsive puppets any personality, or make an interesting show. Then there was The Great Comedy Cooking Challenge which in no way described the show at all. The two guys had not planned their Festival show at all leaving the audience more bemused than amused and the main one telling the story of how he fell in love with cooking kept saying “I think that might’ve gotten a better laugh”. Nup.

Back to other highlights for me which were the inimitable and indefatigable Doug Anthony Allstars – Near Death Experience, Wifi Wars live online gaming which was a completely different kind of Festival show and finally, Simon Munnery doing a gorgeously crafted show about fixing things, bookended by two great songs. I was lucky to see Simon when Renegade Plumber had been bedded in and found it to be the tightest show I’ve seen of his in years, it was a beautiful blend of the personal and political, with the title perfectly describing the show.

Phoebe O’Brien

Fringe Shows that were highlights not formally reviewed

2 Become 1

The Swipe Right Theatre Company have created a fun and fabulous night that will capture your heart with its upbeat mix of 90’s music. It will also hit you right in the funny bone with A grade performances from a heavenly cast.

The cast of four stunning vocalists sing the hits; from Destiny’s Child to Des’ree to the Spice Girls and so many more! The 90’s bangers are intertwined within a story of friendship and heartbreak, as one of character’s, Jess breaks up with her boyfriend. After the news, her best gal pals do the only thing that would obviously ‘help’ Jess from a breakdown due to the breakup…speed dating.
At its core ‘2 Become 1’ is heartfelt and funny. You can even have a little boogie and sing-a-long of your own while you’re there. Now tell me, what more could you want? Could you really, really want?

David Quirk – Cowboy MouthDavid Quirk Cowboy mouth

After missing David Quirk during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there was no better option than to catch his show ‘Cowboy Mouth’ at the Fringe. Quirk is the king when it comes to long form narrative story-telling, his tales from his childhood and the awkward meeting with his neighbour were tops.

Amongst the anecdotes, the show was knitted together with audio clips of the recollections of dreams people have had about him.
ps. Quirk performed on a bus and had an excellent jacket. Very cool.

Britney – John
A hidden treasure amongst the thousands of incredible Fringe shows was the sketch duo behind John. Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson are two 20 something year old mates from the UK, who make up ‘Britney’.

In their show ‘John’, the pair reminisce about the time they were just out of high school, exploring America and working on a documentary about president of Congress; John Hancock. For the documentary, they filmed interviews around America with other men with the same name. Their trip abroad became the centre for the show, with critique of the footage and their interviewing technique strong points of the show. Their ability to create stand-alone vignettes and natural storytelling was a highlight, revealing the effort both Clive and Robertson put into their follow up to their previous show ‘Britney’…which is also now the name of their duo, not confusing at all. I strongly believe we will be hearing big things from these two talented performers.

Alice Marshall – Blood
In her show solo show Blood, Alice Marshall captivates her audience with wonderfully executed character sketch comedy. Marshall has great comedic timing, while delivering a punchy hour of pure joy. I can’t wait to see more of her work further down the track.

Ron Bingham

My Squirrel fest started with a couple of excellent Aussie acts which turned out to be highlights Laura Davis (Cake in the Rain) and the Doug Anthony All Stars (Near Death Experience).

The three other shows that made me laugh out loud the most were:

Lucy Pearman – Maid of Cabbage Look What Youu Made Me Do

Demi Lardner – Look What You Made Me Do

Mark Steel – Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.

Lucy and Demi for their props and general air of controlled chaos, and Mark for his political insights and honesty about his recent marital troubles. I also enjoyed Muriel -(Bad Master) for their use of multimedia and fun sketches and The Canon -(A Literary Sketch Show) for their literary humour

I saw some fabulous new talent (two were deservedly nominated for best newcomer – Lauren Pattison and Lucy Pearman) and caught up with some excellent established acts. Saw some early shows and some late ones, drank a little too much of the free alcohol early on, nearly got blown off the top of Arthurs Seat after seeing a show up there called This Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Richie, and missed a lot of acts (ones I regret most not managing to fit into my schedule include Sarah Kendall, Ingrid Oliver and Hannah Gadsby). Importantly I only saw two shows which didn’t achieve the high standard I expect. Met a lot of lovely people, as always, and have already pre-booked for next year.

Hannah Gadsby – Nanette

By Lisa Clark
Hannah Gadsby

It’s genuinely difficult to write about this astonishing, fearless, gut-wrenching show. If you are a fan you cannot miss it, if not you probably should see it anyway.

While skilfully written and brilliantly performed by Hannah at her most eloquent and charismatic, Nannette remains raw and stark. There are no bells and whistles to this show, it is a beautifully written letter to her comedy fans to explain some big life decisions. It’s a reminiscence of her life, and a look at how she has cooked up some raw life experiences into more palatable comedy routine fodder. She revisits familiar routines and shows us the reality behind the comedy curtain.

Hannah doesn’t owe us anything and she makes that clear but she gives us one hell of a show anyway. Even her art history comedy fans are given the gift of an evisceration of society’s relationship with Van Gogh, his art and his mental illness. Something Melbournians can keep in mind when going to see the Van Gough exhibition that starts at NGV later this month. At the same time Hannah explores her own art and its connection with her mental issues and the love of family.

This feels like another MICF show that has been born out of the darkness of 2016. World upheavals over the past year have left us all feeling dismayed and have also led to a reassessment of Hannah’s life that she needs to share with us. It is often very funny, but Hannah is not afraid to take a break from the laughter and the relaxed, clumsy country dag that we know and talk brutally and directly to us about some serious, heartfelt, personal stuff. Hannah is mad as hell, but also more confident, about her craft and her self.

It’s so great to live in a city where we have a Comedy Festival that is a safe space for this kind of brave theatre. Take a loved one to this show so you can hug them afterwards and hang out for a while afterwards to talk and decompress.

Nannette is on at Melbourne Town Hall (Lower Town Hall) until April 23

A Year’s Round Up and 5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016

By Lisa Clark

It’s hard to think of any great positive things that happened to the world in 2016. Apart from the odd sporting achievement, it was a nonstop pileup of deplorable crud. Australian comedy however didn’t let us down, delivering performances that will stand out, no doubt, for years to come. So to cheer myself up about the dreadful year that was I thought I’d just do a roundup of good things that happened in Australian Comedy this year.

It always brings me joy to see good comedy coming out of TV, I can remember when I would be rolling in the aisles to so many comedians on stage and felt so frustrated that their voices were not heard on TV except occasionally on the odd panel show. It was one of the reasons I set up this site. I wanted the world to know how wonderful Australian standup comedians are. This year it was so satisfying to see so many live standup performances on TV shows such as Comedy Next Gen and Comedy Up Late as well as the usual Festival Galas and Just For Laughs specials. We saw comedians working in different formats like The Katering Show, Sammy J’s Playground Politics, Who’s Line is it Anyway Australia and Hard Quiz. It’s exciting to watch Comedy Showroom give fresh comedy ideas a go and to see the sweet sitcom Rosehaven bloom so beautifully. Sitcoms have always been so bloody hard to do successfully in Australia and this year we’ve also had Here Come the Habibs doing well on 9 of all places and Upper Middle Bogan as strong, funny and heart-warming as ever in its third season.  This is all along side regular shows such as Mad As Hell, Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery and The Weekly.  There was happily too much comedy on TV for me to cover properly but I’ll leave that to the TV websites. Just to say 2016 was a great year to see Australian standup comedians doing exciting and wonderful things on TV and of course beaming around the world online.

Meanwhile comedians on stage have been creating astonishing, hilarious work. I didn’t get to see everything, as usual, it’s just impossible, but I thought I’d share some of my own personal highlights of the year.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival was celebrating 30 years as a Thing and put on a fun party for comedy fans with shows such as Cal Wilson’s Sunday arvos at The Victorian Arts Centre speaking with different generations of comedians in The Decades That Were and comedy tours with Rod Quantock.

Also at the Festival this year was The Wedding of Zoe Coombes Marr and Rhys Nicholson. There have been a few great comedy weddings over the years, but this riotous spectacle which was making a clear statement in support of same-sex marriage could not be bettered. The bridesmaids were Denise Scott, Judith Lucy and Celia Pacquola, MC Hannah Gadsby made a fabulous funny and moving speech. The Priest was Geraldine Hickey, Celebrant Ben Noble. Entertainment was provided by Tina Del Twist, Peter & Bambi Heaven, Hot Brown Honey, The Daredevil Chicken Club, The Butterfly Glee Club, The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic and Melbourne Uni Choirs, Wil Anderson, Adrienne Truscott and The True Australian Patriots.

Other general comedy highlights were laughter filled Sunday afternoons at the live podcast recordings of Josh Earl’s Who Do You Think I Am?  There was the return of The Bedroom Philosopher at Local Laughs singing about haberdashery and a reboot of The Doug Anthony Allstars. Tripod celebrated 20 years on stage with a gift of their songs in book form and performing them with guests on stage, ending the year with one of their best Christmas shows ever. The new exciting discoveries in 2016 included funny musical acts Jude Perl and Sarah Wall & Freya Long of The Astrudes, then the astute, warm, political comedy of Sami Shah, Alanta Colley and character comedian Haley Tantau as her alter ego Cindy Salmon.

Finally, as is traditional, I’m including an End of Year List; 5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016. As you can imagine it’s hard to pick out only five great festival shows for the whole year, its been a really great year for live comedy.


5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016
Zoe Coombs Marr
1.  Zoe Coombes-Marr Trigger Warning. (MICF) The show captured the zeitgeist of the comedy world. I was laughing so hard I was worried I’d lose control of my bodily functions. I literally fell off my seat at one point. So many thoughts I’ve been thinking that she wrapped up and detonated. She destroyed me and remade me as a stronger woman. It won the Barry Award for best show at the 2016 MICF and deservedly so.

(Thanks to modern technology and smart TV people it’s been filmed and you can probably see it on ABCiView as part of Comedy Next Gen, not quite the same as live, but do it. WATCH IT. Then watch all the others)



2. Sammy J – Hero Complex. (Melbourne Fringe) Sammy has been wowing audiences for years, but this one had the audience whooping and cheering with pure joy. It’s about the love of unpopular nerdy pursuits, in this case a passion for The Phantom comics and a friendship borne from that. The show is full of secrets and reveals, so it hard to say more except that it is gobsmacking, weepingly hilarious and will have you grinning for hours, perhaps days afterwards. This won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and will get a run at festivals in 2017 so DON’T miss it.


Zanzoop pic

3. Zanzoop – Feeble Minds. (MICF) Who knew a late night show in a rundown night club about an alien chat show would become the talk of MICF? All three performers added their amazing talents, my highlights being Aaron Chen as Owen Wilson with Tom Walker as Jackie Chan and the heart-warming family reunion of snarky host Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) and his alien dad (Cam Campbell) at the end.


4. Micheal Williams: An Evening with Michael Williams (who is trapped under a boulder) – with Jack Druce. (MICF) Michael has moved from delighting us with his clip board of sophisticated cartoon humour to giving us an all singing, all dancing audio visual extravaganza and puppet show.Michael Williams 2016 A delightfully silly show had the audience gasping when the boulder suddenly came to life and was fun for the whole family. Michael has received a 2017 Moosehead Award, so am looking forward to his Moosehead show in 2017!


5. True Australian Patriots (MICF). Noticing in the MICF programme that three of Australia’s most promising comedians had teamed up to lampoon right wing protest groups had comedy fans very excited and we were not disappointed. Anne Edmonds,Damien Power and Greg Larsen are all at the top of their game and gave us a riotous late night of political satire and bizarre love triangle that hit the perfect tone and bashed us right in the comedy solar plexus. True Australian Patriots


Happy Hogmanay from the Squirrels and hoping 2017 brings you more laughs than sorrow. X


Hannah Gadsby: Dogmatic

By Phillip Lescaut Dogmatic

“No woe” is Hannah Gadsby’s mantra and go-to throwaway line in her latest MICF offering Dogmatic, a show she claims will boast her sunnier side. But this is still the Hannah Australia knows and loves, a comic known for being disarmingly funny while musing on such light fare as homophobic violence and depression. So even though Dogmatic, with its liberal sprinkling of gently funny anecdotes, pup videos and pop songs, marks something of a thematic departure for the comedian and actor, Hannah has still put plenty of her heart into the show, too. There are serious themes snuck in with the spoonful of sugar of her humour, enough to warrant the inclusion of Lifeline and BeyondBlue’s contact details on the big screen behind her for the second year in a row. And like in previous years, it’s the heart on Hannah’s sleeve that sets her apart; in a style reminiscent of American comedian Tig Notaro, she’s often at her best when juggling the heartbreaking and the hilarious.

Hannah’s admitted lack of commitment to staying merry is mirrored by Dogmatic’s always amusing but scattershot structure. It’s an enjoyable show throughout, certainly, and can be sort of divided into two acts loosely tied together with the aforementioned dog videos and a shoestring-budget reproduction of Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour. The first half sees Hannah mostly skirting around heavy drama to tell the kind of tales that are the bread and butter of stand-ups; run-ins with bizarre, conspiracy theory-believing American southerners, reminiscences of embarrassing but well-meaning parents, budding romances interrupted by misbehaving dogs. Even when not leaping over the bar of riotous hilarity she’s set in previous years, Dogmatic’s first half is engaging and consistently funny, and Hannah has an almost instinctive ability to provoke laughs with the slightest shimmy of her body or seemingly unimportant mutter. What’s also important is the person she reveals through these stories; a genuine outsider and underdog (d’you get it? underdog?) who learned to be funny to navigate her alien existence, and remained earnestly who she was until the world suddenly embraced her.

When the second half of the show begins, Hannah’s choice of stories become crystal clear, as is the constant ghostly presence of Taylor Swift via song. During this closing act, Hannah expertly blurs stand-up with a kind of withering social studies lecture, as she deconstructs Taylor’s persona and status as pop’s most ubiquitous and irritatingly untouchable figure. Now established as a genuine outsider, Hannah punctures the more dubious outsider-turned-feminist-hero bubble that insulates Taylor from any criticism with such intelligent precision that she never resorts to insulting the woman. This portion of the show was not where the biggest laughs came, but it was its most interesting and brave moment (come on, have you seen what those Swifties and Beliebers are like on the internet?). With Dogmatic, Hannah Gadsby proves she’s not willing to rest on the laurels her deeply personal, heartfelt comedy has earned her; she’s turning her gaze outward and investigating the world with the same thoughtfulness, and ruthlessness.

Hannah Gadsby is performing Dogmatic at ACMI

For more information see the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website:


Hannah Gadsby – Donkey

By Elyce Phillips Hannah Gadsby - Donkey

Depression has been a mainstay of Hannah Gadsby’s career for some time now. It has provided her with a lot of brilliant stand-up material. But recently, Gadsby was informed that she did not in fact have depression, but a different, rather surprising disorder. Armed with this new diagnosis, she’s a little kinder to herself these days. It’s a new comedian up on the stage. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of Gadsby’s work – her new show, ‘Donkey’, is hilarious.

In a slightly scattered, meandering way, Gadsby talks about taking her mental health seriously, and tells some brutally honest stories of times where she did not. While we may not experience these problems with the frequency and to the crippling degree that Gadsby has, her stories are intensely relatable. Who among us hasn’t been filled with rage on account of an uppity hipster barista, or eaten from a less-than-ideal receptacle in the absence of clean dishes? Gadsby’s comedy embraces the fact that all of our brains work a little bit differently and none of us are perfect.

Gadsby’s storytelling style is casual and endearing. At the start of the show she let us know that she had taken a holiday from her medication that day, and in doing so had completely forgotten to drink water all day. This led to her downing two bottles right before the show, adding a layer of tension as the hour progressed. Despite her success and the fact that she’s now playing bigger venues, Gadsby remains very down-to-earth. The pace of the show is quite slow and relaxed, but the jokes are quick-witted and sharp.

Donkey is an incredibly uplifting show. Although it deals with some dark material, it ultimately shows that we have the capacity to make ourselves and our lives better.

Hannah Gadsby – Donkey is on at Melbourne Town Hall until April 19

Hannah Gadsby : The Exhibitionist

By Alanta Colley

Barry Award nominee and author of the successful ABC art doco ‘Hannah Gadsby’s Oz’, Hannah Gadsby is back this Comedy Festival with a fresh batch of self-deprecation and tragi-comedy.

In this year’s show Hannah turns her trained art historian’s eye to the hilariously terrible world of the selfie. The theme is simple and effective. Hannah guides us through some of the internet’s most egregious examples of selfies which communicate much more than the composer intended. We learn of the failed cleavage shot; the tense selfie, the pet selfie and the selfie with unfortunate background composition. In a media-soaked world the demonstration of poorly executed self promotion through selfies is truly hilarious. Hannah then takes us on an adventure through the selfies of the ages (painted portraits, both of others and self-portraits) and we start to examine the symbolism of composition. So much has changed with the advent of the Iphone, and yet, in many ways, so little.

Hannah, of course, turns the critical eye on her own selfies, and even more unfortunately the portraits seized by others of Hannah while out and about, capturing many of Hannah’s less flattering sides. We take a tour of Gadsby’s awkward, traumatic and unglamorous childhood and adolescence through the through the artless photography conducted by her folks. Catharsis is achieved as Gadsby airs the skeletons of her youth.

Gadsby is a master of self-deprecation and holding up to the light those parts of her life that the rest of us would do our best to bury. In this show Hannah combines the style of her annual Art Lecture series through examination and analysis of the image, with her more direct stand-up, which usually focuses on exploration of herself. It’s a pleasing fusion.

The mistress of the anti-climax and over-lord of understatement; the furiously clever Hannah Gadsby is always a pleasure to spend an hour with. You’ll not be disappointed with this visual journey to the self.

The Exhibitionist is on at Melb Town Hall – Supper Room until April 20