Sam Simmons- About the Weather

By Jayden Edwards

Ok, if you been even the least bit interested in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival over the past 7 or 8 years, you know Sam Simmons is always touted as one of the highlights. With 5 star reviews, a Piece of Wood award and an Edinburgh Best Comedy Show nomination under his belt, there’s no questioning Sam is a powerful comedy force, with a killer moustache to boot.

Sam’s latest theatrical masterpiece About the Weather tells the tale of a man trying to find the courage to talk to his “bus crush”, a task made harder by his fear of small talk. Sam uses this simple premise to drag the audience into his own world of personal struggle, anger, self-loathing, those lucky Chinese waving cat things and impossible IKEA flat pack tables.

Sam’s world is also one in which he is always exploring and questioning his surroundings, like the hidden subtexts in small talk, the stupid information the human brain retains, and the eternal struggle for happiness and purpose.

Powered along by his narrator and audio swiss army knife of tricks and bad 90s music, the audience is bombarded with the experience that is Sam Simmons, full-pelt.

Sam delivers his broad comedy with such whimsy, surrealist energy and expert timing;  his commitment to his art is glorious. Some great prop use and clever lighting also adds depth.

More laughs are extracted from a supporting cast of willing and unwilling audience members, audience members such as myself, who were subjected to a game of “Spin-ception”, which I’m sure would have been hilarious if it wasn’t me! Ok, it was still hilarious and serves me right for sitting in the front row, I guess.

The show is incredibly technical and structured, and it’s a pleasure to watch it all unfold, knowing the amount of commitment and effort that must go into making such a show look so seamless. Sure, there’s a few little tech hiccups, but with so much going on, it’s a minor blip on the radar.

Yes, we can analyse the comedy of Sam Simmons all we want, but to just sit back and take it all in is one of the best experiences you’ll have at the festival. You’ll be back for more year after year.

Sam Simmons- About the Weather in on at Melbourne Town Hall.
For Tickets and more Info, go here

Lisa-Skye – Ladyboner

By David Slattery

The strangely foreboding presence of a small green metronome on the stage was enough evidence for me to know that this Lisa-Skye was going to be good fun to watch. I was not disappointed.

With a rather theatrical start, moving up through the audience, waxing poetic, she proceeded to tell us of her perplexity and struggle with what became a starting theme to the show; turning 30. Getting married, fun things that are no longer available and the pursuit of women (or the inability thereof) stem from here. Interspersed amongst the spoken sections are some fantastic little poems (accompanied by the above mentioned metronome) which she quite rightly resisted the temptation to drag out or overdo. There are some quirky little animation and cartoons to enhance and emphasise some of the dialogue, but again, not so much as to detract from the star of the show, as has been done by lesser comics. There really is a good balance of her different styles of material throughout.

It must be said that the content of this show is not exactly light. Sexuality, some very black humour, and other topics (while hilarious) that are not particularly well-suited for the faint of heart.

Without giving anything away, there is a short piece of film towards the end of the show that shows just exactly how genuine she is. While obviously it is common for comedians to exaggerate their personalities for comedic purposes, or to create a particular persona, Lisa appears, if anything, to hold back just a little. If I had just one criticism (and I do) it would be that despite some great moments of comedic timing (and of course, that ever-present metronome) there were also some awkward pauses in between sections. Pauses that did tend to suck some of the energy from the room. Fortunately these were few and far between, and the vast majority of the show was tight and well done.

A fantastic, genuine performance from someone I really hope to see perform again soon.

Lisa-Skye’s Ladyboner is on at The John Curtain Hotel, (opposite Trades Hall in Lygon St.)

Tim FitzHigham – Gambler

By Colin Flaherty

Tim Fitzhigham trades in an anthropological form of humour, in this case a study of the weird and wonderful wagers made by English gentleman in years past. Not content to present a mere list of these endeavours and make jokes about them, Tim set out to replicate these efforts with as much accuracy as possible.

He throws himself into these challenges with a passion, enduring injuries and regularly putting his body on the line. It’s easy to assume that some facts have been stretched to tell an amusing story but you also get the impression that the truth is immensely more entertaining than any fiction. Almost everything is documented in detail and shown on a screen to the audience. These videos are available to view on his website; there are no spoilers online though, the results are reserved for the show.

A number of celebrity guests were employed in either background material or as active participants in the tasks. This added some weight to the challenge and painted Tim as the underdog. It conveyed an understated English quality which was necessary to maintain his status without getting too confident and spoiling the anticipation. The audience were engaged throughout the performance with regular polling as to whether or not Tim was successful in each task. This kind of group call and response was effective in uniting the crowd in their cheering on of Tim.

Tim milks humour out of every aspect of the challenges. From the strange antiquated background of the original bets to his experiences during the execution to the results and his thought processes, he has many hilarious lines to keep the audience laughing.

The obsessions that drive performers to present shows such as this is fascinating, adding almost as much pleasure to the scripted lines. The overall story comprised of a chronological sequence of bets together with some related side bets to tell a rollicking tale of adventure and endeavour. The consequences of each bet and the ramifications of the outcomes made for an intriguing case study into the mindset of gamblers, a somewhat dark undercurrent to the jovial celebration of achievement. That the show’s course is navigated via some manipulation emphasised the perils of gambling while simultaneously ensuring that the plot came full circle.

Much like the work of Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace, Tim gave us a hilarious and fun ride in which we were guided by a rather eccentric man. You don’t need to be a betting person to get immense enjoyment from this show but it’s worth taking a gamble on.

Gambler is on at Vic’s Bar at the Victoria Hotel

Asher Treleaven Troubadour

By Elyce Phillips

Is my life interesting enough to talk about for an hour? This is the question at the center of Asher Treleaven’s Troubadour, the fifth in his continuing series of door-named shows. Luckily for the audience, the answer is a resounding yes. Treleaven delights with stories of growing up with a chaotic assortment of father figures and spending his formative years working as a carnie. His comedy is a seamless blend of the cerebral and the physical, as he waxed lyrical about the nature of masculinity while flouncing about the stage, limbs flailing.

The show opens with a simple explanation of the show’s premise, and it is made clear that Treleaven’s question is not rhetorical. The decision is yours to make. At the end of the show, the audience must pass judgment on the interestingness of Treleaven’s life. But there’s no need to worry! Treleaven helps you answer this question by working through Edward De Bono’s six thinking hats – a problem solving system many of us are all too familiar with from tedious hat-colouring sessions at work or school. The six hats are a constant guiding presence at the back of the stage, including a truly spectacular replica of Princess Beatrice’s pink monstrosity standing in as the red hat – a brilliant investment on Treleaven’s part.

The audience loved every moment of the show, and Treleaven fed off this. One gentleman in the front row was particularly tickled by the image of a person marrying a horse, which led to some great ad-libbing about Bob Katter in the Harry Potter universe. Treleaven’s performing arts background really shines through. He expertly held the attention of every person in the tiny sauna that is the Town Hall Cloak Room, not to mention that his circus training has provided him with a spectacular university graduation piece.

Despite Treleaven’s (entirely accurate) statements about comedians being cynical at heart, Troubadour is an incredibly uplifting show. It tells a story of self-acceptance without being preachy and feels remarkably positive without being saccharine. And it is hilarious. If you’ve yet to see one of  Treleaven’s shows, get yourself to this one.

Asher Treleaven – Troubadour is on at the Melbourne Town Hall in the Cloak Room.

Tessa Waters – A Little Bit of Standing Up and A Little Bit of Falling Down

By Colin Flaherty

With a theme of happiness, Tessa Water’s new show exuded it in abundance. From the high energy opening utilising party poppers and lots of glitter, this was a show full of joy and enthusiasm.

Exploring the quest for happiness throughout her life, Tessa explained the things that provided contentment to her and showed us the often embarrassing things she had done to achieve them. The use of pre-recorded audio with which she could interact was a wonderful device to transport the audience to scenes in her youth. This was especially true of the scenes set in her childhood where we could get the full impact of the awkward younger Tessa fumbling her way through life in her pursuit of happiness.

Tessa was wonderfully expressive in the theatrical pieces, portraying the naivety of a child with the fearlessness of looking silly to get a laugh. Her delivery in the stand up portions of the show was complimentary with her daggy and bubbly personality getting the audience enthused about the minutae of life while simultaneously laughing at Tessa and her silliness; a vital task as this was the crux of the show.

Dancing became a reoccurring motif throughout the show which provided many opportunities for Tessa to strut her stuff, providing lots more colour and movement to an already flamboyant performance. A highlight was the recreation of a rehearsal at Miss Kate’s Dance Academy. This brilliant piece was equal parts heart-breaking pathos and hilariously daggy triumph.

Some quieter moments were used in the closing segments to contrast the high energy performance. One was a cigarette break which included a monologue about her move into the arts. It was a playful mocking of the expectation for her to become a serious adult and disregard all frivolity. This was beautifully complimented by a “Challenging piece of theatre” set to the overture of The Barber of Seville which was wonderfully stupid and deliberately over long; a great parody of overly serious art.

The closing story about her Grandfather was a moving tale that brings home the essence of the show without being too heavy handed. At the conclusion of this lovely performance, the audience left the venue with a smile on their faces and a warm inner glow. It was a perfect show to remind people of the happiness that everyone can achieve.

A Little Bit of Standing Up and A Little Bit of Falling Down is on at The Tuxedo Cat

Dave Thornton – The Some of All The Parts

By Jayden Edwards

The incredibly down to earth Dave Thornton returns to the comedy festival fresh from killer runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and all over the place. His head’s increasingly on the telly, on the radio, man, he must be doing something right.

Dave’s new show “The Some of All The Parts” is just another big fat slice of that “something”. The show is structured around an impending gig for a group of 12 year old private school kids, a terrifying thought, even for a seasoned professional public speaker like Dave. It’s the lead up to that faithful day that Dave draws his material, fleshing out hair-brained schemes to spark inspiration on how to inspire, like a well timed dream opportunity to interview a personal hero and an awkward sit-in on his mums sex ed class.

Dave squeezes every conceivable laugh from the story aspect of the show, while managing to tie in some general observational told with expert comic timing and larrikinism. Dave riffs off the audience with the best of them, the show flows effortlessly, there’s heart and soul behind the jokes, he’s charming, quick, witty…. I could go on and on! I guess what i’m trying to say is, Dave just doesn’t put a foot wrong. The ending is a classic underdog tale of conquering fear and kicking 12 year old school kid butt! Well, if they kids weren’t inspired, I was.

The simple fact is, stand-up just doesn’t get much better that this. Just straight, witty, accessible stand-up. A Dave Thornton gig is guaranteed gold. (Trust me, I saw him perform twice that night.)

Dave Thornton is on at Swiss House.