A 2000 strong crowd are waiting for comedy legend Russ Danger to take the stage. Holding the fort is warm up comedian Liam Ryan. He dances for our amusement during the absence of the headliner in this wonderful study of anxiety & humiliation that seamlessly merges this intriguing premise with an hour of Ryan’s solid hilarious stand up.
We get brilliant routines covering embarrassing situations in public while trying to act cool, being the assistant manager at a bar in London and the astonishing situations his parents and grandparents put their offspring through. These stories suit the theme perfectly as does some material about doing warm up for TV that slots in nicely with his patter before the “ravenous fans”.
Ryan is already a bundle of energy on stage with lots of excitement and movement so adding the nervous energy of a comic pushed into an impossible corner can only enhance the show. He has an exaggerated actorly air to his delivery which heightens the absurdity perfectly. The anxiety isn’t pushed so far as to detract from his stand up, instead he adds amusing lines as he verbalises his fears and comments on his surroundings in an almost stream of conscience ranting that is a delight to watch.
Some nice touches are added to flesh out the story of the missing headliner and make some jokes about the pitfalls of being a warm up act. An uncooperative tech guy, doomed negotiations with the promoter and the intense heat of the spotlight has us sympathising with our hero. This signals to us not to play the role of an angry mob, a scenario this story could have easily lead to, but a much subtler resolution that has us leaving the show with smiles on our faces.
This is a brilliant hour in the hands of a consummate comedian.
By Lisa Clark
Fear is the Mind Killer. Fear can cripple people from living their life with freedom and joy. Two years ago Melbourne Comedy Festival Stalwarts Watson put on a horror comedy show in the historical and genuinely creepy Melbourne Gaol. Anyone who went will never forget all the hilarious and terrifying hijinx that took place in that Gaol. It will no doubt go down in Festival history as one of the best things ever put on at the festival. This year, Watson’ Go To Hell connects through to that show but taking us to the even deeper, darker places in between the two that are the inspiration for this show.
Watson have always loved to play act movies for us and here they get to play out some famous horror film scenes for laughs, but this isn’t the bulk of the show. It’s just part of the whole exploration of fear and links back to a more innocent time for Watson. Things have changed.
Like going to a Horror Movie, from the title and poster of Go To Hell you know you’re in for something scary when you’re seated in the Beckett Theatre but you don’t know what or how. The stage is a big empty black space and the audience doesn’t know when or if anyone will appear behind them or above them or next to them. At least you have the reassurance of being in the safe hands of the endearing and funny Watson crew who will guide you on this rollercoaster ride of a show and bring you through the other side.
The surround sound soundscape is visceral and the original music spine tingling. Director Steven Gates did not create the soundscape, it was created by Gillian Lever but he was obviously a big influence on its existence, he did design the soundscape for Inside with Frank Woodley & Simon Yates and I remember it blew me away.
I can’t tell you about the crux of the show, you’re going to have to find that out for yourself. But you know those sorts of comedy shows that have you crying with laughter then crying with empathy, ‘til it all gets mixed up? You know the sort of show that critics love? This is one of those shows. I loved it.
1) He is ageing nicely. This is Liam’s fourth year doing a solo show at the Comedy Festival and like a good wine he is trapped in glass, chock full of alcohol and available for purchase.
2) In a world full of disappointment you deserve a show that delivers. Probably. Or maybe you deserve less than that. I’m not your biographer. If you deserve less then take this opportunity to treat yourself. Then set your mind to self-improvement.
3) Because he can play the flute. He doesn’t want you to know that because it’s embarrassing and a curly-haired man playing the flute is just saaad.
4) People who have seen his shows have really liked them and said they’re “a Comedy Festival nugget of gold” (**** Herald Sun) and “an hour of non-stop laughs from a performer that just keeps getting better every year” (Squirrel Comedy).
5) Liam is the best friend you never had. Or asked for. Or needed. Or want to drive to the airport. Or– he’s standing right behind me isn’t he?
Liam Ryan: Well That’s Disappointing is on at The Upstairs Lounge @ Little Sista April 11 – 23
The 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival is back bigger than ever and the Squirrels are here to help you chose which shows to spend your money and time on. There are shows that we have already seen and also some intriguing shows that have piqued our interest.
A number of MICF shows have run prior to the festival and we have already reviewed some of these. We’ll give the usual disclaimer that Festival shows are ever evolving beasts, so the show’s we have covered may have undergone changes (hopefully for the better!) since we saw them.
This is the first ever live version of Andy Zaltzman’s podcast. It promises live guests, people on screens, freshly-hewn satire, lies, puns and high-grade bullshit. Sounds like tonnes of fun. (You can see his own standup show too, sold separately)
The last time Daniel performed here in 2015 it was with his astonishing, gorgeous, experimental play Polyphony. It involved 20 pre-recorded characters (played by actors and comedians) on MP3players being played by audience members. I was lucky enough to see it towards the end of the run, on a night when it all ran beautifully and it blew my mind. If audience participation was the comedy trend, Daniel fashioned it into couture art. We’ve missed out on a lot of his finished shows in Melbourne over the past ten years but he’s making up for it by giving us Three types of Kitson, including a filmed show we never got to see.
1.Stories For The Starlit Sky with Gavin Osbourne
Actually 3 plays in one (of his 3 shows). It will be long, why not bring a packed lunch? 3 of his delightful heartwarming and funny stories from Daniel with Gavin on the Guitar.
2.Not Yet But Soon – A Work in Progress Stand up Show.
Well its another work in Progress, but having done it in Sydney before Melbourne it should be fairly well formed. An hour and a half, but knowing Daniel probably longer. Its mostly on late too, 10 pm so have a little nap during the day.
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne – March 30th to April 16th(Various dates and times)- https://goo.gl/bry3Tv
3.It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later – On Film
A 7 year old show we never got to see in Australia, but here it is preserved forever on film and Daniel will be there to introduce it.
A comedy night for charity produced by our own Erin Davidson and we can promise you she has organised a cracker of a lineup. Names she cannot name, but some of the top names in Australian comedy and this may be the only place during the festival you get to see some of them. Also you get to laugh for a good cause.
Josh has hooked up with Daniel from Die Roten Punkte and they promise famous guest stars in this mini comedy music festival. I’ve had a bit of a taste of this one and it has got my mouth watering for more.
Michael Williams: Escape from a 90s Educational CD-ROM!
One of the recipients of this year’s Moosehead Grants, you can always be rely upon Williams to present an inventive and hilarious show. Last year he was one of our favourites, with the added Moosehead creative seal of approval, this is sure to be a doozy!
Hero Complex was the Talk of Melbourne Fringe and the talk was: “Have you Seen it? You HAVE TO SEE IT!!!” We were so glad we did. It won Best Comedy Show at Melbourne Fringe 2016 and has just won the first Weekly Award for comedy at Adelaide Fringe 2017. It is side achingly hilarious, and face hurtingly joyous. It’s better to go in knowing as little as possible; yes it is about Sammy J’s love for The Phantom but also about much, much more.
Five audience members – in one caravan – with three spiteful old grannies – for 15 minutes. These terrifying characters by Thomas Jaspers, Kyle Minall and Scott Brennan will be more so in such close quarters and sure to be hilarious.
After scaring the stuffing out of laughing audiences at the Old Melbourne Gaol during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe, Watson (Adam McKenzie, Liam Ryan and Tegan Higginbotham) return with a show of frights and laughs. Another Moosehead recipent so expectations are high.
Liam Ryan has noticed a pattern in his life – the minute things start going well for him, a moment of horrifying embarrassment looms from behind to grab him, like a terrifying spectre. In OH GOD IT’S BEHIND YOU, Ryan recounts his hilarious tales of humiliation for our amusement. It’s a fantastic show that’s mortifyingly relatable.
Ryan has a rich tapestry of embarrassing anecdotes to tell, from a minor food-related accident to a full-blown fire emergency. Regardless of where the story falls on the scale of severity, they are all equally entertaining. There’s not a dull second in OH GOD IT’S BEHIND YOU. Ryan is a natural storyteller, capable of injecting suspense and hilarity into even the most run-of-the-mill occurrences. The story of his first attempt to flirt with a girl is particularly well-told – you can see what’s going to happen from a mile away, but Ryan’s wording still makes the outcome feel surprising. It’s as though you’re standing right there, watching the events unfold in slow motion.
Ryan is completely at ease on the stage. His delivery is pitch-perfect, striking a balance between rehearsed performance and casual conversation. The show also includes some very impressive musical accompaniment, provided by Ryan –and some less impressive musical accompaniment, provided by an audience member. As a whole, OH GOD IT’S BEHIND YOU is cleverly composed and consistently funny. I attended on opening night and already the show appeared very polished – a testament to Ryan’s skill and quick wit.
If you like your stand-up, OH GOD IT’S BEHIND YOU is essential viewing. It’s an hour of non-stop laughs from a performer that just keeps getting better every year.
Liam Ryan – OH GOD IT’S BEHIND YOU is on in the Evatt Room at Trades Hall until April 17
When you’re a kid, everything’s easy. A big van comes round to your school and a puppet tells you how to live your life. You’re sorted. But as an adult, puppet-based life advice is sorely lacking, and that’s where WATSON (Tegan Higginbotham, Adam McKenzie and Liam Ryan) come in. In The Life Education Van for Adults, WATSON tackle the big issues we face as grown-ups – relationships, sex, employment – and give questionable tips on how to get by, via the magic of sketch comedy.
The trio had a difficult task this year, following on from the success of Who’s Afraid of the Dark?, their very successful Melbourne Gaol show. The Life Education Van for Adults is simpler in its staging and scope, but just as hilarious. We see snippets of the show they do for schools, tips for the adults in the room and some flashbacks that show how they became the people they are today. Linking everything together is a story about the group being stuck in the desert that provides great opportunity to showcase their superb comedic relationship. Higginbotham, McKenzie and Ryan are equally strong performers, each taking a turn at being the most ridiculous person on stage.
WATSON are a group of performers that look like they’re having an enormous amount of fun, and that energy is infectious. Their sketches are witty and sharply-written, but performed in a slightly shambolic way that makes them feel off-the-cuff. Higginbotham, McKenzie and Ryan deliver the laughs the whole way through, with particular highlights being a section on life hacks and a sketch about dating in the modern era, told with Jane Austen-style sensibilities.
The Life Education van for Adults is highly entertaining, wonderfully silly, and if you do a little googling at home, possibly very educational. Get in fast if you’re keen to check it out, as shows have been selling out.
WATSON – The Life Education Van for Adults! is on at Melbourne Town Hall’s Backstage Room until April 16