Sam Simmons – Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985

By Will Erskine

Sam Simmons’ comedy is like your favourite vineyard, most vintages the wine is good, some vintages the wine is exceptional and some it is a little bit different to what you normally expect. 2018’s Sam Simmons’ vintage – Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985 is a combination of the first and last variation, it is good and a little different.

Simmons’ show this year was a lot more sedate than prior. Although sedate does not mean conventional and certainly it doesn’t mean dull, gone are the wild costumes, far fewer prop gags and a reduced reliance on physical humour. Although a set piece of slapstick physical comedy delivered the biggest laugh and gasp at the same time in tonight’s show. This show is largely indescribable in content, being loosely structured around a voiceover describing a series of impressions that are performed weaving together relatively straight observational comedy and stories with songs and moments of complete absurdity. The sketches often leave the audience unsure of the expected reaction. You’re watching a master at work, and the master has decided he’s not going to make it easy for you.

Simmons’ has always played with tension; the audience isn’t meant to laugh at the whole show. Plenty of the material seems to be designed primarily for Sam’s own amusement and secondly to provoke a half laugh or half applause from the audience to fuel a tirade of abuse at the audience, both as a single general entity and individual attendees. The point is the interplay between tension and hilarity and that is where Sam thrives. If people are laughing all the time, then they don’t appreciate the laughs as much. When the laughs come in a tense atmosphere they are worth so much more.

The audience reacted generally very well to this performance, with the appropriate mix of gasps, laughs and baffled looks that you may expect at a Sam Simmons performance. As I left the theatre one couple commented on him not being as good as prior years – I suspect because of the reduction in the prop and physical comedy. While it feels condescending to talk about a “maturing” performance for a 41-year-old comedian with years of experience, this was definitely a slight change in direction or perhaps more accurately a reversion to the core that makes Simmons’ so entertaining with less reliance on perpetually pushing the boundaries of physical comedy.

Radical Women of Latin American Art, 1960-1985 is on at the Arts Centre- Fairfax Studio
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/sam-simmons-radical-women-of-latin-american-art-1960-1985

Squirrel writers’ 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Round up

So that was the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival. Once again the weather was changeable, with reports that it was the wettest summer in Scotland for 80 years. We arrived in the rain, but the frequent showers were never enough to dampen our enthusiasm. There were four Squirrels in Edinburgh this year and all of us have written below about shows we’ve loved, or not loved, or not had the chance to write about previously.

Hannah GadsbyThe Big news to come out of this special anniversary festival is that Australia’s own multi award winning (The Barry, The Helpmann, Adelaide Best Comedy) comedy champion Hannah Gadsby has won the Best Comedy Show Award at Edinburgh. It was a joint win with John Robins and my impression is that their shows are a sort of yin and yang, with John’s show The Darkness of Robins being an anguished cry of help from the depths of a breakup with his more famous girlfriend Sara Pascoe (who was doing her own take on the breakup in an equally well reviewed but not nominated Fringe show Lads, Lads, Lads) and Hannah’s being a powerful, rallying rant of revelation against the apocalypse, Nanette. Previous Australian winners of Best Comedy at Edinburgh Fringe are Los Trios Ringbarkus, Lano & Woodley, Brendon Burns and Sam Simmons.

Other nominees for the 2017 Edinburgh Best Comedy Award were Ahir Shah, Elf Lyons, Jordan Brookes, Mae Martin, Mat Ewins, Sophie Wilan and Spencer Jones.

Best Newcomer Winner at Edinburgh Fringe was Natalie Palamides for Laid. The Nominees for Best Newcomer were; Chris Washington, Darren Harriott, Ed Night, Kwame Asante, Lauren Pattison, Lucy Pearman and Rob Kemp.

Rob Kemp did win Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Performer and Mat Ewins Presents Adventureman 7: The Return of Adventureman won best Comedians’ Choice Award Best Show.

Hannah will bring Nanette for its premiere season at the Sydney Opera House from  September 27 – October 8, before a string of encore performances at the Arts Centre Melbourne from Nov 18 culminating in Hamer Hall on Dec 1. I shouldn’t have to urge you to see it, if you’ve missed out on it so far.

Squirrel writers’ Edinburgh Fringe Round up

Colin Flaherty

My highlights at Fringe happen to be ones that I have reviewed, in particular Big Howard Little Howard

Big Howard, Little Howard (Howard Read) – Man and Boy

Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick Fun Hour

Simon Munnery – Renegade Plumber

I also enjoyed Stuart Goldsmith – Like I Mean It, a hilarious hour that follows on from his previous show Compared to What where he continues to explore life with his new wife and son. He presents plenty of brilliant observations and plays around with the bird with clipped wings husband angle perfectly.

One off event WiFi Wars was a hoot, even though many of the games refused to play correctly on my underpowered tablet (I was only expecting to word process and web surf on it after all!). This late night, tech heavy show had punters competing individually as well as in teams. We laughed, we cheered and we got our geek on!

I had high hopes for Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, an ambitious show featuring complicated puppetry, a crazy blurb and some wacky characters but I found it overlong and not enough laughs to hold my attention. Apart from the wonderful voicing of the characters, the expressionless puppets failed to connect with me.

Lisa Clark

I loved all the shows I reviewed with Jayde Adams (Is Jayded) being the exciting new discovery of the Fringe for me. The following are shows I loved but did not get a Squirrel write up.

Craig Ferguson ShowCraig Ferguson – The Craig Ferguson Show. All the Squirrels saw Craig’s recording of his live radio show and we all enjoyed it. Starting at 11.30pm to go live for drive time in the USA as well as Canada and Mexico, it went for 2 hours and consisted of two very entertaining in-depth chats with performers who were old friends of Craig. In our case an old close friend impressionist/comedian Jan Ravens and Scottish writer Iain Rankin.

Chris Coltrane – Make Love & Smash Fascism – a rather lovely, warm and approachable political comedian who taught me about the evils of Neo Liberalism which is extreme capitalism & pro privatisation of everything which basically seems to be the road to anarchy.

Dave Johns – I, Fillum Star. Dave Johns has been a jobbing comedian all his life and just as he was planning his retirement (he was going to give kids donkey rides at the seaside), he got a part in a film. On the 1st day director Ken Loach said, oh by the way the film is named after your character because you are the lead. I, Daniel Blake won a swag of awards taking Dave to Cannes and the BAFTAs and giving him a cracking tale to tell, and being a great comedian means Dave knows how to tell it for maximum laughs. This was a joy to experience with the message that it’s never too late.

Yianni Agisilaou – Pockets of Equality. As the title suggests, it’s about sexual politics and pockets. More importantly it was a very personal heartwarming show about love and family and one of the best shows I’ve ever seen Yianni do.

Disappointing shows were; Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, a puppet show where three puppeteers per puppet failed to give the faceless repulsive puppets any personality, or make an interesting show. Then there was The Great Comedy Cooking Challenge which in no way described the show at all. The two guys had not planned their Festival show at all leaving the audience more bemused than amused and the main one telling the story of how he fell in love with cooking kept saying “I think that might’ve gotten a better laugh”. Nup.

Back to other highlights for me which were the inimitable and indefatigable Doug Anthony Allstars – Near Death Experience, Wifi Wars live online gaming which was a completely different kind of Festival show and finally, Simon Munnery doing a gorgeously crafted show about fixing things, bookended by two great songs. I was lucky to see Simon when Renegade Plumber had been bedded in and found it to be the tightest show I’ve seen of his in years, it was a beautiful blend of the personal and political, with the title perfectly describing the show.

Phoebe O’Brien

Fringe Shows that were highlights not formally reviewed

2 Become 1

The Swipe Right Theatre Company have created a fun and fabulous night that will capture your heart with its upbeat mix of 90’s music. It will also hit you right in the funny bone with A grade performances from a heavenly cast.

The cast of four stunning vocalists sing the hits; from Destiny’s Child to Des’ree to the Spice Girls and so many more! The 90’s bangers are intertwined within a story of friendship and heartbreak, as one of character’s, Jess breaks up with her boyfriend. After the news, her best gal pals do the only thing that would obviously ‘help’ Jess from a breakdown due to the breakup…speed dating.
At its core ‘2 Become 1’ is heartfelt and funny. You can even have a little boogie and sing-a-long of your own while you’re there. Now tell me, what more could you want? Could you really, really want?

David Quirk – Cowboy MouthDavid Quirk Cowboy mouth

After missing David Quirk during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there was no better option than to catch his show ‘Cowboy Mouth’ at the Fringe. Quirk is the king when it comes to long form narrative story-telling, his tales from his childhood and the awkward meeting with his neighbour were tops.

Amongst the anecdotes, the show was knitted together with audio clips of the recollections of dreams people have had about him.
ps. Quirk performed on a bus and had an excellent jacket. Very cool.

Britney – John
A hidden treasure amongst the thousands of incredible Fringe shows was the sketch duo behind John. Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson are two 20 something year old mates from the UK, who make up ‘Britney’.

In their show ‘John’, the pair reminisce about the time they were just out of high school, exploring America and working on a documentary about president of Congress; John Hancock. For the documentary, they filmed interviews around America with other men with the same name. Their trip abroad became the centre for the show, with critique of the footage and their interviewing technique strong points of the show. Their ability to create stand-alone vignettes and natural storytelling was a highlight, revealing the effort both Clive and Robertson put into their follow up to their previous show ‘Britney’…which is also now the name of their duo, not confusing at all. I strongly believe we will be hearing big things from these two talented performers.

Alice Marshall – Blood
In her show solo show Blood, Alice Marshall captivates her audience with wonderfully executed character sketch comedy. Marshall has great comedic timing, while delivering a punchy hour of pure joy. I can’t wait to see more of her work further down the track.

Ron Bingham

My Squirrel fest started with a couple of excellent Aussie acts which turned out to be highlights Laura Davis (Cake in the Rain) and the Doug Anthony All Stars (Near Death Experience).

The three other shows that made me laugh out loud the most were:

Lucy Pearman – Maid of Cabbage Look What Youu Made Me Do

Demi Lardner – Look What You Made Me Do

Mark Steel – Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.

Lucy and Demi for their props and general air of controlled chaos, and Mark for his political insights and honesty about his recent marital troubles. I also enjoyed Muriel -(Bad Master) for their use of multimedia and fun sketches and The Canon -(A Literary Sketch Show) for their literary humour

I saw some fabulous new talent (two were deservedly nominated for best newcomer – Lauren Pattison and Lucy Pearman) and caught up with some excellent established acts. Saw some early shows and some late ones, drank a little too much of the free alcohol early on, nearly got blown off the top of Arthurs Seat after seeing a show up there called This Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Richie, and missed a lot of acts (ones I regret most not managing to fit into my schedule include Sarah Kendall, Ingrid Oliver and Hannah Gadsby). Importantly I only saw two shows which didn’t achieve the high standard I expect. Met a lot of lovely people, as always, and have already pre-booked for next year.

Sam Simmons : A-K

By Angela East
Sam Simmons

Sam Simmons is known for his wacky, nonsensical comedy, and he certainly doesn’t fail to deliver with that again in A-K. The premise is that a reviewer in the UK said Simmons could read the phone book and still be funny, so A-K is ostensibly based on that to see if that’s true, but it is also, he says, a show about badminton, and future technology.

Simmons moves through subjects quickly combining visual gags and non-sequiturs. At times he toes the line of being offensive and he jokingly berates the audience if they don’t seem to get it. It’s something for later, he assures us, and if we walk out we will miss that. And throughout the hour we do see the reason behind the madness.

There’s interrogation of the audience members when they leave to use bathrooms, which seemed to happen quite often during this particular performance. This gives Simmons a chance to do some small bits of impro, though at times these interruptions seem to be a distraction and he quips, “this is why I’m not on Whose Line is it Anyway”.

Suburban shopping centres provide an anchor for stories; generic food court Asian food, grannies on a day out, and how he met his wife in a shopping centre car park, which leads to now: seven years on they have just had a daughter. Like many new parent comedians his show addresses his new parenthood status. The musings and antics turn to nipples, other Dads’ advice, midwives and a fantasy giant slip and side adventure.

Simmons is thinking about his legacy now he’s a father, but he has not abandoned the silly stage antics the idiosyncratic performance style featuring voice-over gags, random acts of silliness and unflattering costume changes that his fans love.

Simmons opened the show warbling an aria, dressed like a cross between a clown and choirboy, and that perhaps sums up the pertinent theme in the show: what if you’re an idiot man child just trying to do something good? It may at times feel little confusing and may not all be successful, but there will still be big laughs.

A-K is on at the Forum Theatre until April 23rd
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/sam-simmons-a-k

Sam Simmons – Not A People Person

By Elyce Phillips sam simmons People person

As the lights came up at the end of Not A People Person, I could hear a man in the row behind me say, “Well, that was different,” in the sort of polite, inhaling-while-talking tone that suggested he wasn’t totally on board with what had happened for the past hour. It’s a lot to take in. Sam Simmons fills your head with so many bizarre images that you do leave feeling a bit dazed. But you also leave with your face in pain from laughing and your spirits uplifted.

Simmons is an expert in crafting perfectly-formed little nuggets of silliness. They’re packed with nostalgia and the familiar, but then beautifully contrasted with complete absurdity. There’s weird moments in suburban food courts, bird ethics and a healthy fascination with the Dulux Colour Wall. Simmons’ collection of props bring another layer of absurdity to the proceedings, a pair of kangaroo paws being used to particularly great effect. The sound production in Not A People Person is excellent, Simmons’ interactions with various voiceovers providing some of the funniest moments of the night.

From the second you enter to take your seat, Simmons challenges the audience and breaks through their comfort zone. It’s a theme that continues throughout the show, Simmons often pausing to yell at the audience for not being creative enough to enjoy themselves. Not A People Person feels designed to sort those who are willing to go with it and have some fun from those who are not. You’re never quite sure if Simmons is genuine in his anger or if it’s all part of the act, but really, what does it matter? It’s hilarious.

In Not A People Person, Simmons is presenting comedy in a pure, joyful form. There’s no serious underlying message. There’s no social agenda. You go in, you laugh until you hurt, and you forget about everything else. You can’t get better than that.

Sam Simmons – Not A People Person is on at The Forum, Upstairs until April 3 – An extra show has been added at The Arts Centre Playhouse on April 2

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/not-a-people-person-sam-simmons

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards 2015

Well what an amazing Festival it’s been this year. So many shows were on offer (over 500) that it took longer for the Award Committee to get their Nominations ready for announcement. So many we could only touch the surface in our reviews. We try to cover a broad range with a focus on smaller local acts. We’ve all seen a lot of shows and every one of us has put in a lot of voluntary work. We do it for love. Because we are fans of comedy and we want to share our love.

Thanks to the Squirrel Team, to the Melbourne International Festival team for giving Melbourne one of the best Festivals in the world and to the performers who give their hearts and souls to entertain people and bring us joy in many varied and amazing ways.

Awards are difficult. If the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has taught us anything it’s that there are Many different ways to make us laugh; from improvised silent clowning to Musical Comedy supported by a symphony orchestra at Hamer Hall to a solo wordsmith in a spotlight with nothing but their words. How can you say one performer is better than another? Yet it feels good to celebrate excellence and give performers something to aim for.

Honestly any comedian who performed all of their shows and feels good about them and the majority of their audiences is a success. Bravo!

Just a note to let you know that The People’s Choice Award this year was not a vote, as such. It went to the comedian who sold the most tickets.

Our Warmest Congratulations to:

Barry Award (Best Comedy Performer) Winner: Sam Simmons – Spaghetti For BreakfastLaura Davis Ghost

Golden Gibbo Award (Independant & Creative show) Winner: Laura Davis – Ghost machine

Piece of Wood (Peer Voted – Comedian’s Choice): Anne Edmonds You Know What I’m Like!

Director’s Choice Award winner: Matt Okine  – The Other Guy

Peoples choice: Wil Anderson – Free Wil

Funny Tonne (Audience Member seeing the most [over 100] shows): Sarah Trevarthen

And previously announced:

Class Clowns (Teen competition) Winner:  Will Mckenna (14) from Eltham College (VIC)

RAW Comedy (Newcomer competition) Winner: Angus Gordon (QLD), Runner Up: Rohan Ganju (Vic) Special Mentions: Sam Taunton (Vic) & Jess Perkins (Vic)

Deadly Funny National Final Winner: Nina Kirby  (VIC)

The Deadly Mentorship Award Winner: Karen Edwards (QLD)

Sam Simmons and Dr Brown – Ceremony

By Elyce Phillips Ceremony

Two men named David get very weird in this late-night offering from Sam Simmons and Dr Brown (Phil Burgers). It’s a show that feels impossibly packed full of nonsense, like a Mary Poppins bag crammed with silly. There’s violence and nudity, shouting and destruction, but there is also love and some truly novel uses for food. Ceremony is messy, anarchic and quite possibly the most fun you can have at the festival.

The show breaks down common rituals and exposes our odd behaviours within them by taking a variety of ceremonies to the extreme, from the euphoric highs of an awards night to the emotional lows of a funeral. These events become absurd in the hands of Simmons and Burgers. It is complete mayhem. Audience members are hauled from their seats and manhandled into participation. Even when you think you’re safe, Dr Brown could appear out of nowhere and empty an entire box of cereal over your head. I had so many Coco Pops lodged in my clothing that I left a Hansel and Gretel-esque trail through the city on the way home. Every moment of Ceremony is surprising and hilarious. The audience got so into the final moments that Sam and Dr Brown eventually had to yell at us all to leave the venue.

Simmons and Burgers are two of the most inventive comedians working today and seeing them play together is incredible. Ceremony takes the most out-there aspects of both performers’ repertoires and pushes them even further. There are moments where you feel genuine fear and concern that someone is going to sustain an injury or choke on too much bread. I spent equal amounts of time laughing and clutching at my partner’s arm in awe. There are scenes in this show that will be forever etched into my memory. It’s this dangerous territory that makes Ceremony so incredibly funny. As the show progresses, you rapidly realise that there is no physical limit to what these men are willing to do, and it makes for a live comedy experience that is like no other.

Ceremony is an amazing piece of comedy from two ridiculously talented people. It’s on for one more night, so catch it if you can.

Sam Simmons and Dr Brown – Ceremony is on at Melbourne town Hall until April 5
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2015/season/shows/ceremony-dr-brown-sam-simmons