Bushy Boys : The Mystery of the Bunyip Boy

By Colin Flaherty

Hoping to be the next Aunty Donna, The Bushy Boys bring us a lewd and crude Pantomime. It is the tale of two Bushrangers and their encounters with a mischievous bunyip.

Just like other Pantos, audience participation is a major part of the show so be ready to shout “He’s behind you!” We are repeatedly prompted to recite a catchphrase together and even get to choose the finale of the show. The boys regularly get in peoples’ faces (I hope they were friends/family!) and if Covid wasn’t a concern they’d definitely be all over every punter.

This is a very loose performance that beats you over the head with its self-awareness. They criticise the script, production values and constantly berate the audience as well as each other. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether they actually fluffed their lines and knocked over scenery or it’s just part of the show. Some comedic mileage is gained through this edgy approach but it gets repetative.

There’s lots of nonsensical shouting and ridiculous overacting. The patronising nature of children’s theatre is front and centre, and turned up to eleven. They manage some contrast using lines delivered with menace followed by cartoonish violence. Visual puns are given excessive build up and pointless explanation. Some lines are lifted directly from pop culture and classic texts. The thinly veiled “homages” to the greats of comedy leaves a sour taste in your mouth when you recall the perfection of the original versions.

Song and dance numbers are on par with Wiggles tunes but include much more swearing. The songs themselves aren’t particularly funny and don’t advance the plot, they instead rely on the nostalgia of children’s music and various foulmouthed asides for laughs. In these parts their talent really shines as they sure can belt out a tune and cut a rug when they’re not busy dry humping one another and shouting each other down.

It’s a fun enough show if you fancy transporting yourself to the audience of a children’s show with plenty of filth and abuse but don’t expect anything more substatial.

The Mystery of the Bunyip Boy is on at Club Voltaire until April 18

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/the-mystery-of-the-bunyip-boy

Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves

By Colin Flaherty

Two brothers, who are shovel salesmen, are on the run from the Russian Mob. They are hiding where they couldn’t possibly be found, in a MICF Show documenting their plight. So begins Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves, a slightly meta and rollicking tale of action, sibling rivalry and violence that created quite some buzz during their run at Adelaide Fringe.

They forgo the straight man plus wacky jokester formula usually associated with double acts. Both title characters are completely bonkers with plenty of misbehaving manchild thrown in. Each has a hand in nudging the plot forward as well as spouting off-kilter lines to amuse and confuse. The peripheral characters, played by the tech guy, a friend and random audience members, are larger than life and bring extra lunacy.

A lot has gone into the sound design. They use sound effects to react to (often poorly with hilarious results) as well as mood music and amusing parody commercials. Lighting cues set the scenes perfectly while a variety of costumes and zany props flesh out this crazy world (one puppet is worth the price of admission alone!). So many items are thrown about the stage and audience that clean up must be a nightmare (hence the late time slot).

Role swapping keeps you on your toes and there are more twists than a mountain road. They successfully manipulate the audience through both wonderful plotting and ideas that seem superfluous on the surface but pay off later. A few scenes only vaguely fit with the story but they’re silly and enjoyable enough, even if they seem shoehorned in or just exist for a few bad puns. Regular festival goers will enjoy the cheeky digs at MICF shows past and present and all will have fun when they burst into song. Corpsing is a regular occurrence and they manage to keep the performance quite loose in spite of the substantial plot to get through.

This is a crazy hour where you will laugh your head off at a couple of masters of comedic surrealism. After your have had more than your fill and stepped through the carnage to the exit, you can purchase a shovel or two.

Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves is on at Storyville until April 18

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/blake-everett-and-oliver-coleman-dig-their-own-graves

Alanta Colley : On the Origin of Faeces

By Colin Flaherty

Comedian and science communicator Alanta Colley is back at the festival with On the Origin of the Faeces, a show based on a beloved topic of playground humour: Poop! She explored the physiology of defecation and Gut Microbiome as well as the cultural, religious and historical aspects.

It was not just a show about excrement, she also covered shame, anxiety and being out of your comfort zone. A number of hilariously embarrassing scenarios from her life (all involving poop) were presented for our squirming pleasure.

Like most comedic lectures, there were a few stretches where facts overwhelmed the jokes but on the whole the balance was fine as she regularly followed up the data with zingers and groaners. Colley used every opportunity to use a poo pun, both as a punchline and in the segment titles displayed on screen. Humorous political analogies served double duty by clarifying points and satirising the political machine

The stage was a sparse affair with Colley standing stage right at the microphone and a monitor at the left. She used slides to illustrate the anatomy involved and provide visual aides to punchlines. The performance wasn’t particularly animated as she related her tales, instead relying on expressive voice and facial expressions to colour the stories. This didn’t hurt the impact of the material but it did make it feel more like a lecture than a comedy performance. It was entirely understandable as concentrating on the dense script of facts and figures was slightly more important than bouncing around the stage.

Not a show for the prudish, this was a fascinating and amusing performance that took a base topic of comedy and gave it a somewhat respectable air. Fear not connoisseurs of potty humour, you will still get your fill as you learn a thing or two.

On the Origin of Faeces is on at The Butterfly Club until April 4

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/on-the-origin-of-faeces

Geraldine Hickey : What a Surprise

By Erin Hill

It comes as absolutely no surprise that Geraldine Hickey is a very funny comedian. Astute observations delivered in Hickey’s gently wry tone kept the audience chuckling for the hour. But what did come as a very welcome surprise was how genuine and heart-warming What a Surprise was.

Hickey opens the show with the necessary 2020 disclaimer, acknowledging that the show was written B.C. (Before COVID). The show largely centres on Hickey’s experience of turning forty, and navigating the “surprise” birthday party she forced her partner to throw. Hickey’s recollections of previous years of hastily-thrown-together last-minute parties, fielding text message after text message of apologies and well-wishes struck a particular nerve; eliciting a guttural laugh of recognition.
It brought about an odd sense of nostalgia to recall all the social faux pas that come with birthdays you can spend around other people; like how do you mention it without coming across like a five-year-old, and how do you manage your expectations when it comes to the calibre of “surprise” event? Hickey’s observation that even at the age of forty, your idea of the highest level of excellence and prestige can still be ‘the presence of a bouncy castle’ was truly inspiring.

What a Surprise also speaks to what it means to be in a relationship and the things we do to please, delight and surprise the people we care about. Hickey’s tale of her determination to acquire a ring from the elusive “hairy finger man of Instagram’ is worth the price of admission alone. Brief glimpses into inside jokes between Hickey and her now fiancé, snapshots over years of a relationship highlight the trust Hickey places in her audience. In kind, that trust speaks to Hickey’s prowess; a seasoned performer who has faith in her own ability to get the audience on side.

What a Surprise was a joy to behold. Hickey makes sharp observations with finesse and apparent ease. The stories she shared remind us of a time when a thrill-seeking activity meant zip-lining and not drawing blood in Woolies over a packet of Kleenex Cottonelle. But the unexpected feeling walking out of the show is the overwhelming sense of warmth and sweetness Hickey manages to impart in just one hour. What a Surprise is a pleasant surprise in that.

What a Surprise at The Supper Room in Melbourne Town Hall until April 18

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/geraldine-hickey

Lano & Woodley in Lano & Woodley

By Nick Bugeja

It’ll serve as no surprise that the stars of Lano and Woodley are, indeed, Lano and Woodley, one of the most successful Australian comedy duos ever. After formally reuniting after 20 years in 2018 with the show Fly, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted their revived partnership for the best part of a year. But now they’re back (again), this time delivering a show, full of sketch and slapstick skits that will please their fanbase and newcomers alike.

Lano and Woodley isn’t easily describable, but anyone with the faintest familiarity with them would immediately recognise their chaotic, frenzied comedic style. Yet, there is also a meaningful design to the proceedings; it’s amply clear that much planning has gone into the choreography and rhythm of individual scenes and the show as a whole. The songs – of which there are many – demonstrate this quality, especially when Lano and Woodley sing together in unwitting, conflictual duets. Of course, both of them are equally capable improvisors, with Lane playfully berating some front-row latecomers over the entire show, while Woodley humorously riffed off an audience member’s unexpected profession. Even when one of them misspoke stuttered over a line, that sometimes spawned new comedic openings. Lesser performers would have let this temporarily derail their show.

Although both excellent comedians in their own right, Lano and Woodley go up a notch together. The essence of their partnership is the oppositional styles they adopt. Lano is irritable and supercilious, Woodley credulous and blinkered, comedically embodying the ancient Yin and Yang principle. The set-up is often similar, but always rewarding: Woodley persists in his idiocy – like believing ‘Artica’ is a real place – to the point where Lano cannot help but unleash his frustration.

Woodley has the better of the two roles, and more comic freedom to generate the biggest laughs. He is Australia’s best ‘wacky’ comedian by some distance. Though Lano is hardly left the scraps, and makes the most of the spotlight on several occasions over the course of the show. His rendition of the ‘moving’ song, ‘100 green bottles on the wall’, just about matches Woodley’s ludicrousness.

At one stage, Lano remarked to no one in particular ‘I’m not sure if this qualifies as entertainment’ in the aftermath of an especially risible episode. The crowd, cheering, clapping, and laughing throughout, most certainly thought so. Of all the shows veering outside the parameters of traditional stand-up, Lano and Woodley is probably the most memorable of them.

Lano and Woodley is showing at the Arts Centre (Playhouse) until 4 April.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/lano-woodley

Claire Sullivan : Toast Rat

By Will Erskine

A show of ideas. Some of them were excellent.

My overarching response to this show is that it is scheduled at the wrong time of day. I’m unsure if this is a wilful choice or a logistical challenge, but Toast Rat would benefit from a later slot, some more alcohol and energy in the audience. 4:15 is a show time I can get behind, but maybe not ideal for Claire Sullivan’s mad-cap, erratic selection of ideas, gags and character comedy.

The performance feels like a lucky-dip selection of characters, thoughts, stories and gags that Sullivan has experienced or thought up over the past year (or two). They range from joyously silly character pieces about a middle-aged yummy mummy trying to charm a police officer to detailed descriptions of a threesome and a scattering of Claire dealing with the death of her father. The range of emotions was enormous and it’s incredibly brave of Claire to include her father’s passing amongst the silliness as it is a visibly raw topic for her. Her stories of back-pack steak boy and living in a shed are wonderful and the “angler fish” line about her friend’s butt-hole will stick with me for a long time.

The pleasure in this type of show for an audience member is that if the current segment isn’t landing for you, the next one might and there is bound to be something in this show to make anyone laugh at least a few times. The less positive is that none of the ideas gets enough airtime, the titular Toast Rat appears a few times throughout the show, and is funny, but doesn’t add anything to the structure and doesn’t really develop from the first appearance. It almost felt like Claire was holding some of the chaos, energy and madness back… the joy of running screaming “I want my toast” into the audience is making people a bit uncomfortable, when toast rat reappeared, I was expecting and hoping the boundaries to be pushed further, to watch audience members squirm and hope that they aren’t going to have to get involved. This may again be a result or a reflection of the early timeslot. I can’t help but feel this show would play out differently at 10:30pm.

Overall Toast Rat is an enjoyable hour, it’s very fringe-y, very Comedy Festival-y. I would hesitate to recommend it to people who like their comedy to be a person telling jokes for 50 minutes, but if you’re game for a bit of a random wild ride, it is a fun one. The self-comparisons to The Mighty Boosh and Fleabag are fair, but there is a lot of polish and refinement needed to come close to either. One or two fewer ideas would give the rest of them space to breathe.

Toast Rat plays at Storyville until April 4th

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/claire-sullivan