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

 

Zoe Coombs Marr – Trigger Warning

By Elyce Phillips
Zoe as Dave

You might have seen Zoe Coombs Marr’s Dave before. His self-titled stand-up show has been touring for the last couple of years, in which he’s been doing good ol’ blokey jokes about the battle between the sexes. Unfortunately, his style of humour has come under fire from some of the more “feminist” among us, so this year Dave’s responding to criticism from the PC police and is trying his hand at some Gaulier-style clowning.

Coombs Marr’s Dave is every hacky stand-up you’ve seen at an open mic night. His jokes are awful and he displays a stunning lack of self-awareness. But there is a vulnerability to Dave. Coombs Marr has done an excellent job of humanising her character, showing us that he’s not such a bad guy – he just finds change a little hard to take. Watching Dave have a go at silent clowning is excruciating and hilarious. He mugs at the audience while a twee soundtrack plays, never managing anything more than a hollow caricature of the style.

As good as Coombs Marr has been at portraying Dave in the past, she takes it up a notch in Trigger Warning. The show is cleverly layered, providing its own commentary on Coombs Marr’s choices in playing Dave and the place of queer politics and feminist politics in comedy. The relationship between Coombs Marr and Dave is played intelligently, the lines of reality blurred and shifted into an increasingly bizarre maelstrom of confusion. It’s fascinating and funny at the same time. For all its meta-ness, Trigger Warning never feels overwrought or inaccessible. The chaos and gore and silliness balances it out perfectly.

Trigger Warning is an incredible piece of comedy and Coombs Marr’s Barry and Gibbo wins are very well-deserved. It’s very much sold out now, so keep an eye out for whatever Coombs Marr does next.

Trigger Warning is on at the Victoria Hotel Acacia Room until April 17

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/shows/trigger-warning-zoe-coombs-marr

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Winners for 2016

by Lisa Clark

It has been an amazing year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In a first for the Festival – The Winner of the Barry Award, Zoe Coombs-Marr, is also the Winner of the Golden Gibbo. So it’s a Barry Winner who is brave and independent and we couldn’t be happier for Zoe. Presented via Skype (also a first) by last year’s winner Sam Simmons, the award was for Zoe’s show Trigger Warning starring her gender bending alter ego called Dave. There was Big Buzz around all the Winners this year, with none being a huge surprise and all being lauded and promoted by word of mouth and on social media for weeks. All of the nominees were favourites with everyone and those of us who got out to see them are very happy about them all being held up for celebration. It’s also a rare year where all the winners are Australian, and rightly so. So congratulations to Everyone!!

If Anne Edmonds and Damien Power are a bit sad about missing out on a Barry, they can be cheered by their Directors Awards win as True Australian Patriots and know that their own shows were loved too. True Aussie Patriots – Live was some of the best political and social satire seen on an Australian stage performed by some our best comedians (2 of them having been nominated for Barrys – the other Greg, didn’t do a solo show this year to be nominated, but won the Golden Gibbo as part of Fancy Boys two years ago.) Rhys Nicholson, can take heart in the fact that his new wife Zoe won the Barry and that their big fat gay wedding at the Festival Club last night will go down in Festival history and Legend.

I think I saw co winners of The Directors Award, Zanzoop – Feeble Minds, before a lot of ‘official’ people managed to and have been singing it’s praises to everyone ever since. A truly insane, intelligent, incredible, late night chat show hosted by the wise cracking green alien Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) that surprises you by having sweetness at its heart, performed by some sincerely talented, charismatic people. It also contains Best Newcomer Tom Walker who shines in both Feeble Minds and his own gentle and delightful immersive clowning show Beep Boop.

The Pinder Prize (Named after the late John Pinder who was an original co-founder of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and opened some of the first comedy rooms in Melbourne in the 1970s – The Flying Trapese and The Last Laugh Theatre Restaurant) is a brand new award at the festival which sends recipient – Tom Ballard – to Edinburgh Fringe to perform as part of the Assembly Theatre Program.

Remember that there is still another day of Festival shows tomorrow and some shows cancelled due to illness will hopefully be rescheduled in Melbourne Soon.

Readers from other states:  You can look forward to seeing some of these shows or performers in your town soon.

Here are the Award Winners for 2016Zoe as Dave

BARRY AWARD

Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger Warning

Nominees:
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 FideTom Walker

BEST NEWCOMER

Winner: Tom Walker – Beep Boop

Nominees:
Demi Lardner – Life Mechanic
Guy Montgomery (NZ) – Guy Montcomedy
Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Finally Dead

GOLDEN GIBBO AWARD (Independant & Creative show)

Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger WarningTom Ballard pic

Nominees:
Asher Treleaven & Gypsy Wood – Peter & Bambi Heaven – The Magic Inside
Luis Brown – Lessons With Luis
Tommy Dassallo – Little Golden Dassallo

THE PINDER PRIZE (including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival):

Winner: Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening

PIECE OF WOOD (Peer Voted – Comedian’s Choice):

Winner: Chris Wainhouse – The AntichrisTrue Australian Patriots

DIRECTOR’S CHOICE :

Winners: (Anne Edmonds, Damian Power and Greg Larsen) True Australian Patriots – Live

and

Winners: (Sam Campbell, Cam Campbell, Tom Walker and Aaron Chen) Zanzoop – Feeble Minds

Peoples choice: Carl Barron Drinking with a Fork

Funny Tonne (Audience Member seeing the most [over 100] shows): Jeremy McPherson

PREVIOUSLY WON MICF AWARDS Zanzoop pic

Deadly Funny National Champion – Jalen Sutcliffe

Class Clowns National Champion – Lauren Duong from the ACT

RAW Comedy Award (Including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival)- Danielle Walker from Victoria

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

 

Squirrel Comedy’s Recommended and Previously Reviewed Shows at Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2015

By Lisa Clark

Well the Squirrels are getting ruffled up and ready for autumn nut collecting. And comedy reviewing. There are soooo many shows on offer at the 2015 Melbourne International comedy Festival and it can be very difficult for us to see everything we want to see, let alone review everything we want to review. For those readers who are planning their Festival schedules and are in need of help, we have some good news: Squirrel Comedy has previously reviewed thirty of this year’s shows and we have laid out links to all those reviews below.

 

First Up here are some brilliant shows I previously saw & loved but Squirrel Comedy hasn’t reviewed.

I recommend you see:Claire Hooper School Camp

Claire Hooper’s School Camp

Claire takes us back to school days in a raw & truthful way where nostalgia takes some surprising and dark turns that make this show very special.

 

Celia Pacquola – Let Me Know How It All Works Out.

Celia’s show about fortune telling and her international lifestyle was another of Celia’s crowd-pleasing corkers.
Celia Pac Let me Know

Barry Nominated last year as word got around it was selling out like hotcakes, so if you weren’t lucky enough to see this gorgeous show better book now.

 

Denise Scott – Mother Bare

Denise deservedly won the Barry Award last year for her droll and often riotous reflections on motherhood and other aspects of her comedic life.Denise Scott Mother Bare pic

She’s only doing four shows this year at the fan friendly time of 4.30 Sundays, so get your tickets early.

 

 

And now for shows that we have previously reviewed.

Particular highlights this year that I can also recommend include:

Are You Afraid of the Dark by Watson Watson Afraid of the Dark

Watson’s funny and occasionally genuinely scary show is not for those with a nervous disposition or heart condition but my goodness it is a monstrous load of fun. It can only fit smallish audiences into the space at the Old Melbourne Gaol so book early, I hear the first week is booking out fast. Not surprising as this show won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and considering it is site specific it is one you will have to come to Melbourne to see.

 

Bart Freebairn Ultra Power LordBart Freebairn pic

Bart is a comedian at the top of his game just waiting to be discovered by the mainstream. I get the joyful shivers when I see a stand up comedian reach a point where they can host a room and own it keeping everyone rolling with laughter non stop. Bart is there and I hope everyone loves Ultra Power Lord as much as I did at Fringe last year.

 

Bucket’s List by Sarah Collins starring Justin Kennedybuckets list

Buckets List is a whimsical, beautiful and of course very funny tale with a star turn by the amazing Justin Kennedy (who we just don’t see enough of on the circuit any more – I miss him, but if this is the sort of work he’s producing then I’ll forgive his absence). Justin is blessed with the ability to make an audience laugh without saying a word and when I see independent theatre this good I think our major theatre companies should have a good hard look at themselves.

 

Damian Callinan – The Lost WW1 Diary of Private Paddy CallinanPaddy Callinan

A perfect show for this anniversary of ANZAC it’s another comedy character tour de force by Damian where truth and tall tales blur with loads of laughs and a streak of darkness. The true spirit of the ANZAC is thoroughly celebrated.

 

We can’t wait to discover new exciting comedy at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival  but meanwhile

Here’s the full list with links of those we reviewed earlier:

The 13–Storey Treehouse

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6692

Anthony Jeannot is Unaccept-a-bubble

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7985

Bart Freebairn: Ultra Power Lord

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7643

Clem Bastow – Escape From LA

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7956

Damian Callinan – The Lost WW1 Diary of Private Paddy Callinan

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6010

Dr Brown – Befrdfgth

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=1244

Dylan Cole – The Moon in Me

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7760

Fancy Boy Variety Show

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6647

Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=1633

Geraldine Hickey – Listen Out For The Castanets

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7669

I Love Green Guide Letters Live

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=5892

Justin Kennedy – Bucket’s List

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7723

Late Night Letters and Numbers

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=3846

Lee Naimo – Finding Lee

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7970

Lisa-Skye’s Lovely Tea Party

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=5880

The Little Dum Dum Club Live

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=5938

Luke McGregor – I Worry That I Worry Too Much

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6045

Mark Butler – Grammar don’t matter on a first date

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7885

Political Asylum – Late Night Riot

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=3785

Sam Rankin – Wake Up, Sheeple! (2.0)

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7639

The Sexy Detectives – Mono Logs

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7952

The Sound of Nazis

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7712

The Umbilical Brothers – KiDSHoW – Not Suitable for Children

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6870

Stuart Daulman is an Absolute Credit

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7706

Stew Walker – A Hard Day’s Night of Beatles Parodies

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7920

Gary Portenza: Apologies in Advance

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7915

Set List

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6695

Watson – Who’s Afraid of the Dark

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=7786

World Record Show with Andy Matthews, Adam Knox and Dave Warneke

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=5973

Zoe Coombs Marr – Dave

http://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6963

 

Zoe Coombs Marr : Dave

By Alanta Colley

Dave is the antidote to the flogged-to-death clichés of blokey comedy. Coombs Marr has penned the perfect parody of a genre we are unfortunately all too well acquainted with. If you’ve ever stepped foot into a pub comedy night, an open mic night, or comedy dungeon, or watched an episode of the Footy Show you’ll be familiar with the sexist, homophobic and blokey tropes Coombs’ character Dave throws at us. This is a space to laugh at how unfunny some attempts to be funny are.

This show tumbles downward into an inescapable hole of tragi-comedy, as Dave runs out of material, panics, turns on the audience, and commits about every major gaff you can think of for a performer to undertake. He grows increasingly disillusioned with his heroes. He accidentally reveals facts about himself which start chipping away at his projected masculine persona. You’re watching a train crash in slow motion. Never has catastrophe been more delightful to encounter. This is a show you watch between fingers covering your eyes while squawking loudly with laughter.

Coombs is an excellent actor. Dave has depth, timing, a full gamut of expressions, and excellent physicality. Every thought Dave has is projected to the back of the room through Coombs Marr’s facial expressions. Coombs Marr plays with irony, cliché, assumptions and the delicate sensibilities of the audience to great effect.

Coombs Marr sets up expectations then knocks them down again. This show is packed from start to finish with surprises. Coombs Marr goes far beyond presenting ironic parody and supports the concept with a well developed character we end up empathising with. She’s also created a plot packed full of twists and turns. This is a bloody masterpiece. Comedy needed this. This is a packed hour of insightful, hilarious, absurd and uplifting comedy. Don’t miss it.

Dave is on at the Tuxedo Cat until April 20
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/dave-zoe-coombs-marr