Comedy in the Dark

By Ron Bingham

A very interesting concept, which can be brilliant or not, depending on how much the comedian relies on props, facial expressions, gestures or costume. The host of Comedy in the Dark is Mark Olver and it starts with the lights on (as are the transitions as it wouldn’t do to have the comedian fall off stage or get lost on the way from backstage). The guests today were Rob Rouse, Margaret Thatcher (and a picture of Winston Churchill) and John Kearns.

Mark did an excellent job as host, with some audience interaction, most notably with the lady who had 200 small (foot tall toy) cows and the Brooklyn couple who had to describe their wedding buffet for Mark to judge.

Rob Rouse had obviously done Comedy in the Dark before, as he came prepared with a chair and a backpack with a couple of surprise props. He started by removing his trousers (in the dark of course) and talking about chickens, children and marriage. I’d talk about the props he used (and the ones he pretended he might also have in his bag), but I think he could be a regular to this gig and it’s better to keep the surprise factor there.

Following Rob was Maggie (in full costume) and Winnie, which needed half of the invisible prop work described before the dialogue, which sort of spoiled it a bit. The last spot, John Kearns, played a character which seemed to rely on seeing him in his hillbilly costume to complete most of the jokes.

So, it’s a fascinating concept, but not one that will work for every comedian. It is very dark in there, but be warned the lights can come up unexpectedly. It’s also warm and comfortable, so sit down the back if you come in a bit tired. Well recommended to “see” at least once, and the guests change daily (on a board out the front of the venue).

Comedy in the Dark is on at Just the Tonic at The Community Project.
For Tickets and more information go to the Edinburgh Fringe Website:

John Kearns : Sight Gags For Perverts

By Colin Flaherty

John Kearns would be the first to admit that his show is not everyone’s cup of tea. Describing a solo trip to Berlin amongst other exercises in frustration endured over his twenty six years, he presented a exploration into loneliness, disappointment and expectation that was all over the shop in terms of mood, pacing and humourous content.

Kicking things off with a bang, Kearns donned his trademark wig and false teeth, mounted a deflated horse called Trigger and presented several high energy segments of absurd lunacy. It was these moments of silliness, pointed out as his most “accessible”, that had most of the crowd rolling on the floor.

The mood quickly turned as the sad clown aspect of the show kicked in. Melancholic monologues musing on frequent disillusionment with his world and a very long mime set in a hotel room slowed the pace to a crawl. The occasional amusing line or exaggerated gesture broke up the dour atmosphere but the audience was silent through these sequences, either in shock or enthralled wonder, save for the odd bit of nervous laughter. It was in these moments that he could either lose the audience through boredom or have them hailing him as a genius. Extremely pregnant pauses were effective in building tension and loud outbursts of anger and frustration were great releases for both us and him.

His material was very clever and insightful but the packaging of it was the barrier. Rarely breaking from character, Kearns has the appearance of a ranting madman but, despite his defeatist attitude and rough appearance, this was a damaged guy with witty insights into the human condition who is worth listening to. He even covers the zen of comedy, making it fascinating for comedy geeks like me, but this narrows his already small demographic even further.

Audience interaction played a significant role in his performance. Some of it was a little invasive but it was never malicious (he is playing lower status after all) and it felt like a group bonding experience with us all being kindred souls in life, especially in the finale.

I personally thought this was a brilliant show but it’s easy to see why others will not agree. This is comedy for the patient not those wanting the recommended 4-6 laughs per minute.

Sight Gags For Perverts is on at Melb Town Hall – Old Met Shop until April 20