For the past 23 years, Michael Williams has been trapped inside the computer program Hello Learning 1994. Here he has lived with his captor / friend Jobe The Globe in begrudging peace…that is before the bugs started taking over. Combining animation and live acting, Williams takes us on a hilariously wild and ridiculous ride as he performs his Broadway stage show about Colonel Harland David Sanders (what else is he gonna do with his time?), introduces us to his famous historical friends and heroically fights computer bugs.
It wouldn’t be a Michael Williams show without lots of pop culture, celebrity and movie references, and this 90s theme lets him include many from that time period. We get an amusing nostalgia trip in the midst of a wacky story that also manages to get in some witty digs at the modern world.
Williams has set himself the gargantuan task of performing to a rigid script with audio and visual cues that need to be hit exactly; a far cry from his usual ramshackle delivery that we know and love. While he does tend to drift from the scripted words and comes in early with physical gestures he tends to get laughs from them with a well placed look of comical frustration. Along with his appropriately dishevelled appearance (you certainly wouldn’t look spiffy in the same situation) it allows him to exploit the lovable loser aspect of his stage persona for both sympathy and chuckles.
His program design combines his signature animation style with the layout of these types of software titles with a brilliant attention to detail. The encyclopaedia entries are quite comprehensive which contain lots of amusing misinformation and jokes relating to the story. You often wish that you could pause the show to read through them all. He has created a wonderful lived in universe that has a clever logic to it and a beautiful frozen in time aesthetic.
This ambitious and satisfying performance is a tour de force in lo-fi / hi-tech, all singing and dancing, animation / live action mashup. It’s impressive in its scope, often poignant and regularly gutbusting. A perfect way to spend your time at the festival.
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.
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 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.
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. 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.
Happy Hogmanay from the Squirrels and hoping 2017 brings you more laughs than sorrow. X
Comedy at Christmas time is the perfect choice for festive celebrations. Sometimes Very Christmassy, sometimes a look at the year gone by (& aren’t we just hanging out for 2016 to have gone bye bye?), sometimes a chance to drink, laugh and forget…. The Comedy Rooms in Melbourne are putting on some Fantastic line ups throughout December and brilliant comedians doing exciting Christmas shows. So organise your bookings, get together with your friends to laugh and forget about the past year and the coming Christmas family obligations.
3 Sat – A Very Judy Christmas – The Butterfly Club
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
Michael Williams (aka That Guy With The Easel) based his latest show around the loose theme of “mild spectacular” and, much like Michael’s previous work, it revelled in the wackiness associated with the mundane. Add lots of inventive, hand crafted visual aides and you essentially have what Michael is all about; a guy appearing as if he’s making it all up as he goes along, but the hours of work put into it are clearly on display.
There was a faux laziness running through this performance which was contrasted by brief moments of single-minded dedication to a single task. These extremes were the source of the majority of the humour with some self deprecation thrown in for good measure. Plenty of half-arsed pop culture references made the audience feel more knowledgeable than our hero so that we could laugh at his “ineptness”.
Having only seen Michael perform short stand up spots, I was impressed with the inclusion of video work alongside the cards on the easel. Displaying a similar art style to his drawn pieces, we saw animations, drawings, still photos and filmed segments. The screen was also used for the promised 3D content that ran from the gimmicky to the pointless to the impressive.
There were also some audio components which Michael could interactive with as well as a show stopper of a song. This big production number of promised “stupidest thing you will see at the festival” was set up earlier in the show but still came as a surprise when revealed.
This was a rather ramshackle operation with Michael acting as his own tech. It tended to hamper the flow of the performance and leave him on stage in the dark as he provided commentary to the video segments. Was this an attempt at emphasising a reclusive persona by hiding in the shadows, or simply a case of not knowing how to control the lighting? Some may see this as adding to the “low tech” aesthetics of the material while others will view it as poor production values.
If you are able to set your expectations at a reasonably low level and allow yourself to be swept away with Michael’s lo-fi aesthetics you will have a fun time. There is plenty of silliness and absurdity to bring plenty of laughs and smiles.
Michael Williams’ Mild Spectacular (in 3D) is on at Softbelly