Midsumma Comedy Extravaganza

By Lisa Clark 

Bobby Macumber
Midsumma Extravaganza

Midsumma Comedy Extravaganza was exactly that, a big extravaganza of gay comedy. Thomas Jaspers has put this together brilliantly with every performer in the right part of the bill doing what they do best and they all chip in to help create a party atmosphere.

The audience are up for it and the performers delivered. Joel Creasey was, of course, a consummate host providing a lot of goss about living on the island and hanging out with Marcia Brady on a reality show. He’ll be dining out on that for many years to come no doubt. His finding-himself-at-an-orgy material also goes down a treat.

First up on the deck is the relaxed and affable Kirsty Webeck, who’s standup I’ve seen only once before and tonight I can appreciate how she’s developed the new comedy ideas she was trying out then, into some pretty solid material that had the audience in fits. It was a beautiful and hilarious set about dealing with other people’s perceptions of you. Her Festival show this year is bound to be a cracker. Kirsty is creating a strong and confident, crowd pleasing stage persona and is definitely one to keep an eye on.

I’ve not seen Bobby Macumber in a few years and realise, I’ve been missing out. She’s developed into a very fine storytelling comedian. Bobby is definitely in her comfort zone here, playing on the home ground and it’s a joy to experience. Families-being-embarrassing stories, but from the gay family member’s perspective and the room was in full empathy with her hilarious experiences.

Rhys Nicholson is a comedian at the top of his game and match ready for the Festival season. This is mostly new material, which I heard him talking about later on Dave O’Neil’s fabulous podcast – The Debrief, but you would never know Rhys hadn’t been doing it for a year. Sharp and sassy as ever, he knew this was a safe space to get laughs from some very adult sex and drugs material and he was right. Definitely the highlight of the evening and often the highlight of any comedy evening, Rhys is on his way to stardom.

Perhaps knowing that Rhys is a hard act to follow, Joel Creasey was back to reset the audience ready for a lesser known comedian Lori Bell who brought an Adelaide perspective to the night. Lori is better known as Granny Flaps and has been performing as Granny for several years, I’ve not seen her perform stand up as herself before and it was right up there with the high standard  of the rest . I hope to see a lot more of her.

Finally Dolly Diamond brought the cabaret to the night. Dolly does good old fashioned British cabaret, she feels like a cross between Dick Emery’s Mandy (“Oooh You Are Awful”) and Julian Clary. She does fairly good insulting crowd work, is quick on the witty aside and has the audience join her in a song or two. I saw her die the death at the Festival Club a couple of years ago with material that came across as dated and tired, but here she shines with radiant exuberance, being a total contrast with the rest of the night and gives the audience a big finish with a silly singalong to go home on.

This was a fabulous one off experience at Midsumma, an explosion of joy in the comfortable surrounds of the Fairfax Studio at The Arts Centre that was packed out with happy punters. Hopefully the well named Extravaganza will be back next year with another memorable line up.

Midsumma Comedy Extravaganza was at The Fairfax Studio at The Arts Centre on Jan 24.

Rhys Nicholson: I’m Fine

By Phoebe O’Brien Rhys I'm Fine pic

Rhys Nicholson is sharp-tongued and in full force with his new show I’m Fine.

Nicholson hits you like a sugar rush. He is delectable and sweetly enticing, yet in moments can have you crashing. Nicholson’s dizzying mix of glamour within a stark reality is tied together neatly in one of his own best bow ties.

Performing at the Underbelly Med Quad Nicholson is not afraid to test the audience early on and go that extra bit darker for the laughs, often teasing ‘it’s going to get darker’. And it does.

Threaded throughout the show is his mother’s saying ‘you either commit to something or you run away’ which Nicholson provides charming retellings of examples of each. He forms these chaotic yet somehow bright versions of his earlier years, where the common idea that ‘it’s not funny now, but it will be later’ rings true for many of the yarns he spins.

A highlight to Nicholson, is his incredible ability to build upon the joke he has already set up in a sort of rapid fire round. It’s almost as if he has a self timer on where he must get out the most quips before time runs out. Clearly a credit to his natural quick wit and tight writing technique.

Amongst chat about dicks, Nicholson brings light to mental health in honest anecdotal stories of his own anxiety. Showcasing his seamless effort to perform contrasting material.

I’m Fine is like a high speed train almost on the verge of derailing but quickly stays on track in this clever and energetic hour.

You will definitely want to commit to Rhys Nicholson.


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


Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Nominees

On Monday morning at the Spiegeltent the Nominees for the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards were Announced with the aid of Guest Barry Humphries. You may have heard of him, The Barry Award is named after him.

Congratulations to all the phenomenal Nominees!

The Golden Gibbo 

Asher Treleaven & Gypsy Wood – Peter & Bambi Heaven – The Magic Inside

Luis Brown – Lessons With Luis

Tommy Dassallo – Little Golden Dassallo

Zoe Coombs Marr – Dave Trigger Warning

Best Newcomer Barry Announcing the Barry's

Demi Lardner – Life Mechanic

Guy Montgomery (NZ) – Guy Montcomedy

Tom Walker – Beep Boop

Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Finally Dead

The Barry Award

Zoe Coombs Marr – Dave Trigger Warning

Damien Power – Sell Mum into Slavery

Luisa Omielan (UK) – Am I Right Ladies?!

Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening

Anne Edmonds That’s Eddotainment

David O’Doherty (IRE) – We Are All In The Gutter, But Some Of Us Are Looking At David O’Doherty

Rhys Nicholson – Bone Fide

There are more Awards that will be announced next weekend.

Also RAW Comedy Award for 2016 was won by Danielle Walker from Victoria


Rhys Nicholson – Bona Fide

By Elyce Phillips Rhys pic

Rhys Nicholson, aka Mama Showbiz, is back in Melbourne with a new hour of stand-up in Bona Fide. It’s faced-paced comedy that barely gives you time to catch your breath between the punchlines, from an extremely talented comedian.

At 26, Nicholson’s noticing that his friends are starting to settle down, getting married and buying property. In the meantime, he and his boyfriend of six years are travelling for work and holidaying in France. They’d maybe like to get married at some point but, unfortunately, marriage equality still has a ways to go in this country. Bona Fide strings together a bunch of stories about growing up – from Nicholson’s teen years where he was figuring out who he was, to learning how to behave at weddings. Though the specifics of Nicholson’s material are not something many of us have experience with – most in the audience aren’t internationally touring comedians – Nicholson’s humour is very relatable. A section on his dealings with anxiety seemed to particularly strike a chord, getting big laughs from the room.

Nicholson’s delivery is perfect – sharp, witty and acidic. There’s not a slow moment in Bona Fide. Every single story, every little aside is perfectly placed. Nicholson struck up a good rapport with the audience, easily winning over those who had not seen him perform before.  He’s a natural on the stage and consistently hilarious.

Nicholson’s stand-up is just moving from strength to strength and Bona Fide is his best show yet. And if you bring along some cash, you can snap up a snazzy brooch after the show as a memento of the fun times.

Rhys Nicholson – Bona Fide is on at Roxanne and Melbourne Town Hall until April 17


Rhys Nicholson : Forward

By Noel P KelsoForward

Rhys Nicholson has inadvertently created a new superhero as he sashays onto the stage and declares himself to be ‘supergay’.

His show ‘Forward’ has an apt title. This is comedy which is very bold in its presentation and unashamedly camp. It is also an indication of how far the comedy scene has come from the days of Rodney Rude and the only time when non-heteronormative lifestyles were mentioned was usually with a knowing wink, a bob of the wrist and the word ‘Poof’. Like other modern, openly gay comics Nicholson wears his sexuality with marvellous theatrical flair. His entire image is meticulously coiffed and besuited and with his razor cheekbones, slender body and pale white skin he has been referred to by others as ‘The Thin White Duke of comedy’ in reference to David Bowie’s former appellation. Others have physically likened him to actress to Tilda Swinton, so perhaps ‘Thin White Queen’ would be a more appropriate nickname.

Nicholson takes his cues from his own life and growing-up as Gen Y and gay in rural Australia, where his boss at the supermarket in which he worked as a teenager would pointedly have him stocking shelves with packs of fudge. This type of experience helped inform his decision that he never wanted to have to do ‘proper’ work again if he could avoid it. This means, though, that he says he has no appreciation of work and cannot just come on-stage and start asking people what they do for a living like other comics because he has no reference points from which to react.

His stage presence is well-practised and he clearly knows how to keep all eyes upon him as he prowls from one side to the other, issuing hilariously sarcastic and bitchy lines on each topic he touches upon. Central to his performance are his real confidence, which is impressive, and his image, which is a wonderful mixture of Vampire nerd and velour lounge-lizard.

The audience were kept laughing throughout with his stories of wooing his boyfriend; the differences between modern methods and those from his parent’s generation; suffering from anxiety; playing a gig in Ipswich, and being mugged by the politest muggers ever.

His use of facial expressions accentuate many of the funny points during his stories as he peers over the tops of his glasses knowingly, or lunges forward, one leg outstretched and languidly strokes his own thigh. At one point he manages to transform himself in a raptor for a particularly comical scene which had us all rolling around with laughter.

His writing is no less brilliant and his use of words is evocative and economical, never rambling or stumbling. This is a performer who in years to come will certainly keep much larger audiences rapt with his routines as he lunges from one side of the stage to the other, whilst firing barbed lines and dreadful puns into the night.

This was my first encounter with Rhys Nicholson and I shall be looking forward to many more. He is a very funny and witty young man with a bright future ahead of him. Forward!

Rhys Nicholson ‘Forward’ is at the Melbourne Town Hall at 8:15pm until the 19th of April.