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)

sammy-j-award-winner

 

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

 

Michael Williams : An Evening With Michael Williams (Who is Trapped under a Boulder)

By Lisa Clark
Michael Williams 2016

Yes, Michael Williams is trapped under a rock for the majority of this show. You will have to come along to find out the why’s and hows and so forth, and yes there are references to the film 127 Hours. There are also lots of other references to 80s and 90s TV and movies that are often hilarious. The whole Windows 95 feel of the graphics makes you wonder if the show isn’t set in an earlier period. Maybe it is. Or not. There is also a really exciting bit where… oh Damn, I can‘t really tell you about that because it will spoil the big surprise which is so much bloody fun!

Most surprising for me was the big opening introduction number to the tune of Mac The Knife which Michael sells hard and sings fairly well. There are other hilarious comedy songs sprinkled throughout, I’m still singing “Graph Jokes” to the tune of Footloose, and he is joined by his cohort Jack Druce for a dance number from singing in the rain. Alright Michael will never be Gene Kelly, but it’s all a big hoot and he and Jack are enthusiastic and very funny.

Michael Williams has come a long way since he was the shy kid who brought his big easel in a car packed with other aspiring comedians driving 3 hours from Warrnambool for a gig in Melbourne, got a lot of awesome laughs from his drawings on a giant flip pad, (remember the comedy flip pad craze? Well Michael found ways to get laughs from them that were better than most), and then it was all the way back again. (What is it about Warrnambool? Duff, Dave Hughes, Tom Ballard. Something in the whale filled water no doubt). This Michael Williams is all singing, all dancing and all modern technology. Why stick with giant flip pads when there are projectors and all of the internet at your disposal? Though his drawings still have that hand made charm and add to the sense of nostalgia that permeates the show.

Michael Williams has been a popular local performer for a long time, anyone who sees him can’t help but love his work, and it’s time he was rescued from his rock of obscurity and was appreciated by a wider audience. I can see his comic ability with graphics working beautifully on TV. This is a fabulous, funny adorable show from Michael and something I can definitely recommend for the whole family.

An Evening With Michael Williams (Who is Trapped under a Boulder) is on at Trades Hall until April 3

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/an-evening-with-michael-williams-who-is-trapped-under-a-boulder-michael-williams

CapperJack – Back In The Habit Reloaded 2000

By Colin Flaherty Capperjack

Capperjack bill themselves as a sketch duo like no other and they sure aren’t kidding. Nick Capper and Jack Druce perform an off the wall strand of sketch that, no matter how bat-shit crazy each sketch gets, feeds a narrative arc. They also bill this show as the second in a saga but missing the previous instalment won’t affect your enjoyment of this hilariously wacky story.

The main gist of the tale involved Capper and Druce as co-hosts of a talk show. They were getting restless so they approached their benefactor Diesel Guts Calhoun about changing the format. This led to the creation of a show within the talk show, Ernest Capper and the Low Flying Duck, complete with Jack Thompson-esque narration, visuals and an epic ballad.

The talk show element allowed them to poke fun at this television format and perform some hilarious commercials during the “breaks”. The action also moved to the world outside of the talk show, a world full of ridiculously grotesque characters and a twisted logic of its own. This gave them plenty of excuses to dress up and put on silly voices (particularly Capper) which was a hoot. When minor characters threatened to outstay their welcome, it reeked of indulgence but added to the insanity.

This was a rather dense script that threatened to trip them up at one point but a quick thinking techie reset the scene for them and we were back on track. There were lots of crazy ideas thrown into this show and even when they seemed quite random in isolation, it all tied into the narrative beautifully. We saw plenty of word play, butchering of phrases and deliberately lame concepts taken to extreme lengths. There were even some cheeky jibes at the comedy industry to appeal to the comedy nerds / comics.

One puzzling thing was the game cards distributed to the audience as we entered the venue. These suggested that we were to play an interactive role in the show but when the relevant scene rolled around, we were relegated to the roles of extras with no input other than being warm bodies and applauding the on stage action. I guess this baffling experience fitted in with the surreal nature of the show.

This pair worked perfectly as a comedic duo with Druce’s droll demeanour suiting the role of straight man while Capper spouted all sorts of silly nonsense. When they were playing themselves, these were wonderfully heightened versions that gave them licence to poke fun at each other’s real life achievements.

With an insanely short Fringe run, you’d better rush if you wish to catch the awesomeness of Capperjack.

CapperJack – Back In The Habit Reloaded 2000 is on at the Imperial Hotel until October 2nd

For booking details visit https://www.melbournefringe.com.au/program/event/view/d4ed23ae-ca42-4016-85b2-8a5defefcb39

Jack Druce : Adventure Peach

By Alanta Colley
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Jack Druce is a decent, upright, sort of fellow. As he points out he has an uncanny resemblance to the archetypal wholesome 1950’s boy as depicted in American adverts for Coca Cola or a diner. One couldn’t imagine such a figure having any less than pure thoughts and ambitions.

Playing off this archetype Druce examines the concepts of bravery and adventure; synonymous with the boy hero of Tin Tin and other comics of Druce’s youth. What does bravery mean in a modern day context? How does one imbue adventure in their day to day lives? There’s comedy in the contrast between Druce’s confessed passion for bravery and adventure and his gentle on stage persona.

Druce tells the tales of love that didn’t quite eventuate, and the perils of dating. He compares the ideals of being the sort of person who can talk to complete strangers, with the outcomes of run ins with the world’s more eccentric characters in public. Rather than hunting baddies or discovering buried treasure; Druce’s adventures tend to be more about what he finds in a refrigerator, job opportunities he finds on Gumtree, missing something live on the internet, or discovering the rules you’ve been playing a game by your whole life aren’t universally accepted.

This show holds plenty an anecdote, and the self aware Druce reflecting on how the situations he finds himself in look like to an outside examiner. This is not dramatic or life changing comedy; Druce focuses more on the more tiny details of life than the snowy peaks. In this sense Druce’s comedy is quite relatable. This isn’t a big laugh show, but it is pleasant enough.

A gentle and genial night of comedy.

Adventure Peach is on at Trades Hall and Melb Town Hall until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/adventure-peach-jack-druce

5 Good Reasons to go to St Ali to see Jack Druce, Ross Daniels, Brad Hearne, The Classic Tale of Faust and Rob Lloyd.

This is St Ali’s first year as a Comedy Festival venue and they are jumping in with gusto. St Ali is the venue for ten official MICF shows  and seven of them will include at least one night with an Auslan interpreter. Their late night shows under the umbrella of ‘The Late Night Percolator, have a sophisticated Melbourne comedy in a cafe kind of vibe, but also sound like a hoot! They include The Comedy Manifesto Reunion night, musical comedy, kareoke with comedians, trivia, burlesque and a puppet night. It’s a venue run by performers and I urge comedy fans to support them in their venture away (but not too far away) from the CBD.

5 Good Reasons to go to the venue St Ali

1. We feature internationally renowned 5 star and green room award nominated artists

2. We have parties every night from Tues – Sat where our cafe doors open to the public with free shows and awesome DJs

3. It’s an Artist Run Initiative, so we do our best to support our artists in as many ways as we possibly can

4. You can drive there easily and PARK around the corner for free after 6pm!! A novel concept. Alternatively, we’re an easy tram ride.

5. We’re actually funny, we like to dance, our heart is in exactly the right place, and we’re inviting you into our little nook to play with us.

Learn about all that is happening at St Ali at The St Ali Comedy website.

If you need any more convincing, consider the following:

5 Good Reasons to see JACK DRUCE – INTROVERT DEF JAM 
Jack Druce

1.  If you see a show out side of the Town Hall area you don’t have to be hounded by people flyering you, this means you have a pleasant walk out, and comedians have their self esteem crushed.

2.  My show is called ‘Introvert Def Jam’ and Involves a lot of ranting about StarWars and also at St Ali is Rob Lloyd doing a show about Dr. Who, So you could line up a perfect nerdy Comedy Double bill.

3. This is the first time this has happened, if this grows to be the biggest, coolest, comedy place in town, then you get to be the hip and trendy person who say’s “ohh, yea… St. Ali comedy I went there back in 2012… no big deal.’

4. Go there before the show to enjoy world class food and coffee

5. It always bothers me when a comedy night advertises its self with things external to the performance its self, like bar deals and venue stuff. The only real reason you should come and see a show at St Ali is that they have a picked spectacular line up of unique and talented comedians and you will have a really fun time.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/introvert-def-jam-jack-druce/

5 Good Reasons to see ROSS DANIELS – PUNKED
Punked
1. If you missed it last time, or even if you didn’t, here’s your last chance to see my acclaimed one person show in a special encore season.

2. It’s made up of not only stand up, but story telling, characters, improvisation and real drama.

3. You’ll witness the birth of punk rock in a very cool [as in hip not uninsulated] venue.

4. I zip around the stage transforming into punks, evil cops, Molly Meldrum, my grandparents, former Queensland premier/dictator Joh Bjelke-Petersen, myself at age 15 and more.

5. You don’t have to be into punk, history, Brisbane or police to enjoy it. Audiences of all ages and locations [as well as the critics] have embraced ‘Punked’!

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/punked-ross-daniels/
5 Good Reasons to see BRAD HEARNE – DEAF DEFYING
Brad Hearne

1. Given that there will be an AUSLAN interpreter for two of the shows you can come and see what rude words look like in sign language and then insult your co workers the following day without their knowledge.

2.Two words – Pity Vote, Australia has a proud tradition of championing people like me in the arts. Just look at every season of Australian Idol.

3.People are going to get a unique insight into what it’s like to be a partially deaf person in a hearing world. But it’s not just wall to wall deafness, because that would be weird…and really quiet. I also tell a funny story about getting a haircut.

4.If you come to my show it will validate my sense of self worth. Okay, so that one doesn’t do much for you,…but hey there’s always that karma thing.

5.MICF at St Ali – what could be better. There’s comedy, there’s caffiene, there’s late night shenanigans. It’s like spending an evening inside a really funny can of Red Bull!

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/deaf-defying-brad-hearne/
5 Good Reasons to see RAG THEATRE’S – THE CLASSIC TALE OF FAUST
Faust

1. possibility of free vodka

2. possibility of free easter eggs

3. Debi Rice’s new poem

4. Scott Gooding in a Tux

5. support art made in collaboration with communities

http://www.thatgirlentertainment.com/stalicomedy/portfolio/rags-theatre-faust/

5 Good Reasons to see ROB LLOYD – WHO, ME???
Who Me?

Five!?! Ha…I can give you ELEVEN good reasons to see ‘WHO, ME’ at St Ali during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

1- Like the First Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ can be a little cranky but it does have a heart of gold.

2- Like the Second Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ is slapstick joy to watch but has a deeper side.

3- ‘WHO, ME’ is as stylish and classy as the Third Doctors frilly shirts and velvet jackets.

4- Like the Fourth Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ isn’t as stupid as it seems.

5- ‘WHO, ME’ thinks a vegetable is an appropriate fashion accessory, like the Fifth Doctor.

6- Like the Sixth Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ can be pompous and self important but only for a very brief time.

7- Like the Seventh Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ is enigmatic and controlling.

8- Like the Eighth Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ has an exciting motorbike/ambulance chase (chase not guaranteed).

9- ‘WHO, ME’ loves to be dark and broody, like the Ninth Doctor.

10- Like the Tenth Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ appeals to ‘the ladies’.

11- Like the Eleventh Doctor, ‘WHO, ME’ thinks Fish Fingers and Custard is delicious.

And that would be one of the nerdiest promos for a show you will every read my friends!

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/who-me-rob-lloyd/