Dane Simpson & His Dad – The King and I

By Bren Carruthers

For anyone who has followed Dane Simpson’s career, this concept is perhaps something of an inevitability – stories about his dad, Bow, have been a pretty consistent staple of his material for years, almost placing Bow on a semi-mythical pillar. Now Bow finally hits the Big Smoke and takes the stage alongside Dane at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in The King and I.

At its core, the show centres on the pair’s (ultimately brief) appearance on the celebrity version of The Amazing Race Australia, with a smattering of other anecdotes spinked into the set along the way. Bow, with a comfortable chair and prop crown, plays a role as part offsider, part heckler, part hijacker, throwing up tangents, curveballs and dad jokes as Dane alternates between performing and parent-wrangling. It makes for a charming, organic chemistry, spiked with a hint of danger – Bow’s anarchic approach and penchant for an off-colour joke or two has Dane on his toes throughout. It makes for a loose, silly and enjoyable show.

Bow’s ‘performance’ – perhaps not as a polished comedian, but certainly playing to the audience – is ultimately an emblem of classic Australian larrikinism: not the hypermasculine variant, with its cocksure bravado, but the kind of larrikinism that is deftly cheeky, wildly silly and in bold defiance of authority, a type of character that is relatable and appealing to both Indigenous and white/colonising Australians. Although many would identify the archetype as very characteristically Australian, it’s a rare phenomenon to see in a Melbourne Comedy Festival show in 2024, and by that token, certainly a refreshing and welcome one.

Perhaps the question now is what effect this show will have on Dane’s material into the future. With Bow now 70 and living in Lightning Ridge in remote New South Wales, and Dane with a newborn on the way, it’s more likely that performing as a pairing will be a novelty than a regular occurrence. It feels somewhat like it could be a watershed moment in Dane’s career: does he turn the page here and look to apply his storytelling style to fresh topics? Or perhaps the new addition to the family will inspire a whole different perspective on Dane and Bow’s relationship? With Dane’s natural, down-to-earth ease and charm, storytelling skill and eye for the ridiculous, there’s no doubt he’ll be a regular fixture of the national comedy scene for many years to come.

The King and I is on in the Acacia Room of the Victoria Hotel at 7:20pm (6:20pm Sundays, no Mondays) until the end of the festival.