A BIG YEAR’S ROUND UP AND 5 VERY GOOD SHOWS OF 2017

By Lisa Clark

In 2017 I decided to set a challenge for myself to write up every show that I saw in my Lisa’s Live Comedy Big Year Blog. Well. As you can see, it became harder to keep up with in the second half of the year, even though it seems that is when things are usually quieter, I was wrong and life stayed pretty busy and when it was not it was because I was ill. I still kept other records of my gigs and so was able to list them all, but not reviews sadly, so I don’t have reviews of a lot of my comedy experiences for the last part of the year. I also wanted to keep a pictorial record of gigs, but it’s not always possible to take photos and even in the regular comedy rooms, I was not good at taking subtle photos and got caught out and commented upon/told off. Then my flash went off by mistake. Arrrggghhh! So I gave up on my own photos and got some much better ones from room runners or friends with more experience.

Of course I spent a lot of time at my regular comedy haunt Local Laughs, but managed to visit several other rooms as well. I have had a lot of wonderful comedy experiences this year, especially during the trip to the UK which included seeing Daniel Kitson’s Something Other Than Everything at the Roundhouse in London and two weeks at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where highlights included seeing The Doug Anthony Allstars still making jaws drop in their home away from home, new discovery Jayde Adams just blowing the room away at The Pleasance media showcase with her surprising vocal talent and the hilarious story that goes with it, seeing Yianni do his best work in some time because it came from his life and his heart, Adam Vincent slaying packed rooms with deep dark tales of suburbia and playing interactive Wifi Wars at midnight.

Other highlights of the year include the final shows of the debauched boutique comedy legend that was The Shelf and in particular the performance of Fringe Wives Club who brought the house down and made everyone rush out to see their show.  Andy Zaltzman did the searing political comedy, Plan Z, that everyone had expected from  Ex Bugler John Oliver when he last toured and finally I adored Sammy J’s Magnum Opus – Hero Compex for a 2nd time, to find it had evolved, as the story had in real life and it was joyful to watch everyone’s jaw dropping and howling with laughter as the story unfolded, knowing where it was going. Under the radar: Not enough people were talking about UK comedian Kieran Hodgson at MICF but my goodness Maestro was a gorgeous show and the joyful weirdness of Aussie duo The Lioness who’s show  Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock had a much too short run in an out of the way venue.

Its always hard sorting out a shortlist of the best comedy shows. I have picked out 5 outstanding experiences and they are set down in the order that I saw them.

 

5 VERY GOOD SHOWS OF 2017

Wil Anderson Fire at Wil at The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. January 22

Lineup: Wil Anderson, Supported by Justin Hamilton

Wil Anderson

January’s highlight was definitely seeing Wil Anderson and Justin Hamilton in a theatre full of excited fans. Both consummate comedians at the top of their game.  Am determined to see Wil’s solo show this year and looking forward to it. I’ve been missing seeing Justin around the traps since he moved to Sydney but am hoping to see more of Wil Anderson, now he’s taken a job in Melbourne breakfast radio.

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette April 6 

Hannah Gadsby

Hannah’s final festival show was indeed a showstopper. It was a show about the Zeitgeist, about equal rights, about truth – in life and in comedy, about standing up and being listened to. It was powerful, moving and of course funny. A masterpiece of Standup. During her interview on Comedian’s Comedian at MICF, Stuart Goldsmith shrewdly asked what would happen if this amazing show won all the awards, like The Barry and even the Edinburgh Fringe Best Comedy award?

Would she still quit comedy? Well all of those predictions have come to pass (including a Helpmann Award along the way) and Hannah is still going strong. Having sold out many shows at the Victorian Arts Centre and The Sydney Opera House she is adding further shows this month to the Opera House, followed by Perth and then a month from February in London at the Soho Theatre. They are selling out.

All comedians should go out on this sort of high. The world is her oyster and she’s certainly making the most of it all. Whatever she chooses to do next, I wish her all the happiness.

My review: http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=11198

Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson – The Craig Ferguson Show, Gilded Balloon @ Rose Theatre, Edinburgh. August 7 

Craig Ferguson’s quirky tonight show was a staple in our house and I’m missing his Peabody Award winning interviewing style on late night TV. I’ve been hoping he might at least tour his standup comedy here in Australia, as he has happy memories of performing here in the 80s (as do I), but sadly there is no sign of this, especially as he is now busily hosting a successful drive time radio show. Craig decided to record some of his radio shows live from Edinburgh, taking advantage of all of the gathered performers from around the world to appear as guests, and all of the Squirrels were lucky enough to attend in the wee hours of the Festival. The Rose is a lovely old theatre in the New Town with a great atmosphere and the packed audience had an awesome time.  The live radio broadcast lasted for 2 hours and consisted of two very entertaining in-depth chats with performers who were often old friends of Craig. In our case an old close friend impressionist/comedian Jan Ravens and Scottish writer Iain Rankin. Ron later saw the show with guests Daniel Sloss and Tommy Tiernan and Craig had Aunty Donna on the show towards the end of the run. Its a pity there is no podcasts of these recordings and that the radio show is not broadcast outside of the Americas.

Childproof the Podcast Recording at The Bella Union Bar, Carlton. September 20-22 

Tony Martin, Cristina Laria, Damian Cowel, Roz Hammond, Gerraldine Quinn

Episodes 1 to 6 over three nights – written by Tony Martin & Serina Rowell

Performed by Tony Martin, Geraldine Quinn, Roz Hammond, Andrew McClelland, Damian Cowell, Lachy Hulme, Djovan Caro, Simon Rogers, Casey Bennetto, Serina Rowell, Cristina Laria, Sam Petersen and Jay Mueller as the Narrator.

A brilliant sitcom in 6 episodes about a couple who chooses to be childless while they navigate the changing, diminishing, modern workplace in radio and book publishing and their changing, diminishing friendships as their friends succumb to parenthood and all that entails. The episodes are easily as entertaining & funny as other recent Australian ABC comedies, so it’s surprising that they were knocked back for Television broadcast. The talented performers were all having a ball playing the various characters and Jay Mueller made a brilliant honey tongued Narrator. This was a unique and special experience this year.

These shows were recorded for podcasting and so you can listen to them all here.

Tessa Waters and Laura Davis

Frocking Hilarious at The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. November 17th 

Denise Scott, Cal Wilson, Fiona O’Loughlin, Anne Edmonds, Celia Pacquoa, Demi Ladner, Tessa Waters, Laura Davis, Kelly Fastuca, Geraldine Quinn, Double Denim.

A fundraiser for Action Aid curated by the inimitable comedy goddess Janet A Mcleod. All of the performers brought their A Game and there was not a weak spot on the night. It really felt like a Comedy Gala and we were all pretty privileged to be there laughing our arses off. Great to have a majority of women in the audience too. It wasn’t just some of the best Australian women in comedy it was some of the best Australian comedy on stage.

 

LISA’S LIVE COMEDY BIG YEAR 2017 – http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?page_id=10666

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

 

Wil Anderson: Fire at Wil

By Phoebe O’Brien Wil Anderson

Wil Anderson’s Fire at Wil hits the ground running, it’s fast paced and filled with satisfying satire. Wil’s demeanor is manic, with a hint of nervous energy despite his impressive 21 years in stand up. It was a captivating display.

Packed with insightful quips, Wil interweaves social and political themes creating a firm-balancing act. His ability to draw the audience in, rather than causing isolation is due to his strong delivery of topical events and relatable views. Racism, gun laws and Adelaide are just a few in the firing range. Although, upon applause he reminds the audience the show ‘is not a Ted Talk’ and quickly moves on before getting too stuck into one idea.

While Anderson is a comedian who is up for a bit of audience banter, this particular night didn’t have it. More than likely due to how high material driven the show was. It appeared Wil had more gear than time would allow, so he didn’t skip a beat in squeezing in more ideas leading to further insight and laughs.

Fire at Wil highlights a compelling Australiana commentary that will amuse even the broadest of audiences. Come for Wil’s razor sharp wit and rapid punch lines, stay for his likeability and the memorable anecdote, which reveals the reason for the show name.

Get fired up and ready to go to Fire at Wil, as it clearly maintains the fact that Wil Anderson is the master of comedy.

Wil Anderson Fire at Wil is on at the Comedy Theatre

See www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/fire-at-wil-wil-anderson for more details.

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)

Wil Anderson : Wiluminati

By Jayden Edwards

Wil Anderson’s been around comedy for a while. Almost 20 years in fact. He’s won countless awards, constantly sells out runs and he’s been beamed into millions of homes on the telly every week. “My shoes are older than you” he tells one of his younger fans just after taking to the stage. With so much experience and success, one wonders if he really needs this review to be written. I mean, if positive reviews get bums in seats, this may just help contribute to another sell out run, creating far too many bums for seats.

Never the less, he gave me reviewer tickets, so i’d best review it.

After a rockstar welcome and some quick audience banter, Wil starts the show with a brilliantly told tale of his first ever New York gig, a lifelong ambition. “I love telling this story” he proclaims, and leaves no doubt, telling it with truckloads of his trademark enthusiasm and confidence. He notes how he loves to show off at dinner parties with the story, adding a lot of “sugar”, and i’m sure we got more than a few spoonful as well; it’s just makes Wil’s comedy so much sweeter. The story has a great twist that i won’t give away, but it’s a genius stroke, and a testament to Wil’s finely tuned comic timing and the effort he puts into his structuring. With this tale, he has the audience transfixed and eating out of his hands.

His first yarn sets up themes of chance taking, life experience and growing older. They’re loose themes that leave room to move, and they tie up the show nicely towards the end with some help from some Eminem lyrics. He goes on to talk about moving to America, including a great rant about their racist “Outback” restaurants, some embarrassing issues with his “dodgy hips” and another great yarn about a gig in Alaska. There’s a little bit of political stuff too, which in the past is where Wil thrives with his hilarious point driven, angry rants, but in Wiluminati it takes a bit of a back seat, his storytelling the beneficiary.

I’m not sure if it’s the countless hours of experience on stage, or just his life experience and ‘adventure seeking’ that makes Wil’s storytelling so fixating. I suspect it’s a combination of the two. Whatever it is, it’s only getting better with age. Entertaining tales and big punchlines with a point, you can’t ask for anything else really. Wil As good as Aussie stand-up gets.

Wiluminati is on at The Comedy Theatre until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/wiluminati-wil-anderson

Set List : Stand-Up Without A Net

By Lisa Clark

In a short time (only a couple of years) Set List is becoming an exciting must see for comedy fans and a must do for Stand up artists. Created by Americans Troy Conrad and host Paul Provenza (famous for the Aristocrats film and TV show The Green Room with Paul Provenza), it’s a sort of Theatresports for stand up performers and has become a fixture at both the Edinburgh Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Last year it was on very late at night, this year it’s been brought forward a little, so it doesn’t clash with Festival Club and it’s easier to get to for those who’d prefer an early night.

A set list is more commonly known as a list of songs performed by a band, for a comedian it’s a list of words or phrases referring to practiced comedy routines that they plan to do for their set, something never usually seen by an audience (unless you glimpse the backs of their hands). At Set List the list is generated for them by the Set List Team and a random phrase pops up on a big screen where the comedians see it for the first time and has to make up a routine around it on the spot.

Like Theatresports or the circus watching it can be as thrilling and terrifying for the audience as it is for the performer. Audiences are encouraged to take part by adding ideas on small slips of paper to the suggestion box which the comedian can reach for during their routine if stuck for an idea. Paul also encourages the audience to join in by not being a Dick. In other words, we’re there to support the comedians and enjoy the fun, rather than heckle and jeer and make it more difficult for them. It encourages a great vibe and a good time can be had by all.

It’s pretty unfair almost pointless to review the performers themselves as there are going to be vast differences depending on the comedian’s experience at improvisation, experience at Set List and the topics they are given. For example a comedian had to cope with a word they clearly didn’t know the meaning of. Generally though, all the performers coped really well and the laughs were pretty much non-stop even if they were occasionally for the wrong reason. Some started strongly on an adrenaline high then gradually lost momentum, possibly from thinking too hard and others started slowly and warmed into it. The latter included Set List virgin Matt Okine who enjoyed explaining why Ski-ing = Racism and veritable veteran Wil Anderson who was gifted the topic Gay Time of the month and could barely be restrained from cracking out line after line about homosexuality and ice-creams.

To give you a taste of the ride we enjoyed that night, we were treated to Felicity Ward with her Heroin vs Crack Insights, Simon Munnery who effortlessly explained the ‘3 Types of Serial Killers I support’, a nervous Celia Pacquola tackled ‘Genocide Sensitivity’ in a surprising and clever way, and Ronny Chieng, as cool and smooth as ever, tried to get ‘8 people to join Scientology.’

This is a fantastic experience for comedy nerds as well as a broadly entertaining show for casual punters to take a group of friends to. There’s bound to be a laugh in this for anyone out to have a good time, only remember don’t be dicks!

Set List is on at The Victoria Hotel
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2013/season/shows/set-list-stand-up-without-a-net