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)

sammy-j-award-winner

 

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

 

Comedy for Christmas in Melbourne

By Lisa Clark

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

Brendy Ford  as Judy Free

https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/a-very-judy-christmas

4  Sun – Political Asylum – The Brunswick Green

Mathew Kenneally
Toby Halligan
Jess Moir
Tom Ballard
Ben Pobjie
Nicholas J Johnson
& more!

http://blog.politicalasylum.com.au/2016/11/first-show-of-new-trump-tatorship.html

7 Wed – The Wheeler Centre The Show of the Year 2016  – The Atheneum Theatre

Casey Bennetto  Geraldine Quinn , Deborah Conway, Tom Ballard, Geraldine Hickey, Cal Wilson, Danny McGinlay, Jennifer Byrne and more…

http://www.wheelercentre.com/events/the-show-of-the-year-2016

9 Fri –  Tripod Christmas Turkeys – Memo Music Hall in St Kilda

http://3pod.com.au/site/christmas-turkeys/

10 Sat –  Tripod Christmas Turkeys – Memo Music Hall in St Kilda

http://3pod.com.au/site/christmas-turkeys/

15 Thurs –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=SAMMRAND16&v=ATT

16 Fri –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=SAMMRAND16&v=ATT

17 Sat –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=SAMMRAND16&v=ATT

19 Mon – Local Laughs Christmas show – Local Taphouse StKilda

MC Andrew McClelland
The Bedroom Philosopher
David Quirk
Michael Williams
Geraldine Hickey
& More!

21 Wed – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Tim Rogers

https://www.bellaunion.com.au/event/1114/

22 Thur – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier

https://www.bellaunion.com.au/event/1114/

23 Fri – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Scott Edgar, Steven Gates & Eddie Perfect

https://www.bellaunion.com.au/event/1114/

24 Sat – Little Dum Dum Club Orphan Christmas – European Bier Café

Tommy Dassalo and Karl Chandler and their mates.

https://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=241442&hs=littledumdumclub.com

 

Tripod – 101 Hits

By Elyce Phillips Tripod pic

It’s hard to believe it, but Tripod (Scott Edgar, Steven Gates and Simon Hall) have been performing together for 20 years.  Why, it only feels like yesterday that Scod, Gatesy and Yon were in their matching skivvies or whipping up songs in an hour on Triple J. To celebrate this massive achievement, Tripod have released a songbook titled ‘101 Tripod Hits’ – a collection of their best work over the last two decades. In the show version of 101 Hits, the fates decide the playlist, drawing randomly from the book via a bingo cage and 101 numbered balls.

On the evening I attended, there was a good mix of older and more recent material. The bingo cage delivered songs from as far back as Tosswinkle (‘Building An Enid’) to 2013’s Men of Substance (The hilariously choreographed ‘DILF’). The performances got a little shaky on songs being plucked out for the first time in the run, but it’s incredibly impressive that they’re prepared to play whatever the balls decide. On the whole, the performances were fantastic showcasing not only the trio’s musical talent but also their comedic skill. These songs are still so very, very funny, some even becoming more topical with the passage of time.

In the ‘staff picks’ section of the show, Tripod were joined by a special guest, viollinist Xani Kolac, who played a gorgeous rendition of ‘Let’s Take A Walk’. She then stayed on to accompany a performance of ‘Astronaut’, her effects-laden strings turning the song into something hauntingly beautiful, yet still venting the frustrations of those fat gloves.

If you’re a long-time fan, the nostalgia factor will make this a really special show. I was bobbing up and down with excitement when I heard the opening chords of ‘IKEA’, as I was kind of obsessed with the song back in the day (I was a horrifically nerdy teen). But if you’ve somehow missed Tripod until now, it’s a wonderful way to get a feel for what they’re all about.

Although no two shows will be the same, Tripod have a back catalogue so brilliant, you can be sure you’ll have a great time. 101 Hits is a whole lot of fun and a must-see for fans.

Tripod – 101 Hits is on at The Famous Spiegeltent at the Art Centre until April 17

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/101-hits-tripod

Tripod and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – This Gaming Life

By Elyce Phillips Tripod

Tripod (Scott Edgar, Steven Gates and Simon Hall) have teamed up with legendary composer Austin Wintory and the MSO to produce a suite of songs about video games that sound as beautiful as they are hilarious. This Gaming Life spans the history of gaming, from the pixelated magic of early arcades to the expansive 3D universe of Skyrim, and explores the depth of Tripod’s relationship with the medium.

The songs in this oratorio are stunning. Yes, there are plenty of gaming references for the nerds in the audience – I did a little inward squeal when they mentioned the Nesingwary quest line from WoW – but more than anything, this is an ode to the social aspects of gaming. How they can cement friendships, help us traverse the distance between ourselves and a loved one, and create lasting memories in impossible landscapes.

This Gaming Life is also incredibly funny. Tripod’s lyrics deftly skewer the industry, gamers and their concerned loved ones. A song targeting the absurd designs of many female characters was my personal favourite. As a special added treat, we also got to experience a beautiful performance of Wintory’s Journey score, complete with some choreography and highly suspect costumes from Tripod.

Partnering with the MSO for this show was absolutely inspired. The impact of the orchestra emphasised the scope of Tripod’s history with gaming. Scod, Yon and Gatesy have the kind of on-stage chemistry that can only come from years and years of working together, and it’s an absolute joy to see them in Hamer Hall in a performance of this magnitude.

As it was only a short run, Tripod’s This Gaming Life has already finished up, but you can check out one of the songs from the show at this beautifully ‘90s website: http://content.mso.com.au/driveking/

Perfect Tripod : Australian Songs

By Alanta Colley

Tripod and Eddie Perfect are a match made in heaven. Perfect’s jazz tones and soulful bass complement the already dynamic and elastic voices of the infamous comedy trio. Performing in the 900 seater Play House in the Arts Centre the quartet display the full range of their musical prowess. Though despite the fancy venue and the formal suits they’ve not discarded the playful irreverence for which we know and love them for; using VB bottles for tuning; and being ready to mock each other at any given opportunity.

This show is a celebration of the richness of Australia’s musical heritage. It’s hard not to swim in sentimentality as we encounter the familiar sounds from the halls of musical fame. John Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ gets a reworking that is not a little cheeky. Gotye’s celebrated ‘Heart’s a Mess’ takes on a new dimension; the four part male harmony fully embodying its sweet soulfulness. The more modern greats in the shape of Lanie Lane and Clare Bowditch are also included in the line-up. The Bee Gees; those sometime Australians also made an appearance. As well as a few delightful features from Tripod and Perfect’s own body of works.

The show is an emotional rollercoaster; full of laughs, reminiscence and spinal chills at moments of absolute pitch perfection. There are no low points in the performance. Flexing their musical mastery every song inhabits a different genre and a new interpretation from the original. The four exercise egalitarianism in divvying the spotlight; taking turns to lead. The result is an ever moving, entirely entertaining hour of vocal magic.

This is the second time round this show has been part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival and it is no less enjoyable the second time round. New songs have made it to the set list. An ecstatic evening of A cappella brilliance from Australia’s deeply loved comic muses.

Australian Songs was on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/australian-songs-perfect-tripod

The Dragon

By Elyce Phillips

 

A knight in shining armour, a damsel in distress and a terrifying three-headed dragon – all the elements may be there, but this is no run-of-the-mill fairy tale. Based on the play by Russian writer Evgeny Shwarz, ‘The Dragon’ is a sharp-witted exploration of power and courage. Lancelot (Jimi Bani), sets out for Dufresne, hearing it is beset by a dragon. Once there, he decides to rescue the lovely Elsa (Nikki Shiels), however, she has no desire to be saved.

The original play may have been written in the 1940s, but its satirical lancing of totalitarianism remains painfully relevant today. Toby Schmitz’s adaptation is accomplished and hilarious, from the Aussified knight Lancelot’s quest for beer and chicks, to the strangely poetic doubletalk of the dragon. The story has a timeless quality. The small town of Dufresne could stand in for any number of stifling political regimes – the leaders taking away the rights of their constituents under the guise of protecting them from enemies abroad.

The performances are fantastic throughout. Kim Gyngell is gloriously unhinged as the town’s mayor and John Leary is a stand-out as his snivelling sidekick. However, Tripod (Scott Edgar, Steven Gates and Simon Hall) steal the show, appearing both as Lancelot’s animal guides and as the three heads of the titular dragon. The trio also created original music for the production.

The Dragon is a visually striking production. The use of a rotating set is effective and a clever use of the space. The drab Cold War aesthetics of the set and the costumes play well against the absurdities of the character and the story and are a nice nod to the original.

The Dragon is uproariously funny, thought-provoking and full of heart. It is the perfect play to lift your spirits from the mire of pre-election rhetoric.

The Dragon is showing at the Malthouse Theatre until July 26.

For bookings and more info:
http://www.malthousetheatre.com.au/show-listing/the-dragon/