Hayward and Hadid’s debut show This Is An Excuse made me think about a lot of things, but perhaps most of all it made me appreciate the beauty of Melbourne’s Comedy Festival. Here is a form of democracy worthy of close study by our politicians, a place where you can see the bona fide A-listers of comedy, as well as its weirdest emerging voices. If it’s the indie, beautiful-work-in-progress side of MICF that you appreciate most, look no further than Lauren Hayward and Francis Hadid. They’re a couple of platonic lovebirds who met through improv and have created their first scripted show. There’s glimmers of Saturday Night Live in This Is An Excuse, with an hour-long sketch format held together by a central story of Cupid Francis versus Psyche Lauren in a battle for a young couple’s future. Cupid and Psyche’s real-life counterparts even open the show in true SNL style, with a wise-cracking monologue that immediately introduces the audience to the endearing chemistry that shines throughout the hour.
This Is An Excuse is even more reminiscent of Inside Amy Schumer, as it has a similar unabashed fascination with modern-day coupling, the differences in men and women’s approaches to romance, and white people doing annoying things. Many moments had the audience in stitches. Others didn’t but were obviously fashioned as thought-provoking interludes. Like Schumer, the sketches that made bolder comments on our culture had bigger pay-offs than some of the more shallow ones. While it’s pretty wonderfully written and has benefited from some post-test audience fat-trimming, this is still a debut show, so there are moments of nervousness and sketches with thin premises. But it’s this rawness, manifest in the limited props and homemade zines, that render This Is An Excuse even more intimate and exciting, and their intelligent observations all the more affecting. Because they also deal with topics like feminism, race and “crazy girls”, Hayward and Hadid frolic through the pop cultural landscape of 2016 amongst pithy Jezebel articles and Lena Dunham essays, but they’re not camouflaged amongst it. They deliver a unique enough comedic manifesto to make you believe that theirs will be careers worth watching.
During the show, Cupid Francis and Psyche Lauren get equal opportunity to make their cases, and it’s this balance of the sarcastic and the romantic that perfectly captures the spirit of This Is An Excuse. There are plenty of acerbic observations made about fuck-boys and white assholes, but, like the cosy pyjama party feel of the room when you walk in it, This Is An Excuse is a warm-hearted reflection on love’s infinite possibility, even if it no longer manifests itself exclusively in one guy and one little lady going to the chapel. To those too wrought by misplaced nostalgia for that ‘simpler’ time, Hayward and Hadid make a convincing case that love’s evolution is a good thing. Maybe the love story of your modern life is with your best friend, or your dry cleaner’s aunt (how should I know?), or maybe, like Lauren and Francis, your comedy partner.
Hayward and Hadid’s debut show This Is An Excuse is on at The Improv Conspiracy