Dairy Kweenz – Normal Human Responses

By Elyce Phillips DQ Normal Human

Dairy Kweenz (Colwyn Buckland, Taylor Griffiths, Jess Hagan, Filip Lescaut and Lena Moon) are an up-and-coming sketch group based in Melbourne, regularly performing improv at The Improv Conspiracy. Normal Human Responses is their second show, following on from their Fringe Festival debut last year. It’s an entertaining hour, filled with bold characters and plenty of laughs.

Each member of Dairy Kweenz is given their chance to shine in Normal Human Responses. They all prove to be adept at playing big, absurd characters and their foils. A sketch in which Moon played a character who was extremely excited to get a hot toddy was an absolute stand-out. Buckland was also wonderful as a deranged lawyer in a Serial parody sketch. Lescaut was at his best when he was given room to rant. A sketch in which he produced ever more absurd examples of what “most gay men are like” was particularly great. Hagan was more subtle in her performances, playing the straight characters beautifully.

There’s no one theme that ties all of the sketches together, but a thread that does continue through the show is a doctor character performed by Griffiths, who is conducting experiments into various “normal” emotions. The video segments worked well and added some variety to the show.

As with most sketch comedy, the material in Normal Human Responses has its peaks and valleys. The bulk of the show was wonderfully funny, however, some sections ran a little long and it was difficult to hear the quieter lines as the performers were not using mics. The overall pacing of the show was great, though, with higher energy sketches scattered right throughout to keep the audience excited.

Normal Human Responses is a fine second outing from Dairy Kweenz and shows they have staying power as a sketch group. If you’re a fan of sketch comedy, it’s well worth catching this show during its short run.

Dairy Kweenz – Normal Human Responses is on at Speakeasy HQ until April 22

Frehd the Clown AKA Clownie: Stripped Bare

By Lisa Clark Frehd aka Clownie pic

Frehd Starr comes from Adelaide to her Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut already a legend in Melbourne comedy circles. As “Clownie Queen of Bongs” she starred in some of Justin Hamilton’s funniest standup routines and we did not know if she was made up. So here she is large as life and larger than life, not only living up to the legend but joyfully exceeding it in her amazing, hilarious late night sojourn Stripped Bare.

Frehd validate’s Justin’s nickname by greeting us with a post children’s clown debriefing and the appearance of a bucketbong. The first glimpse into her opposing, colourful and fascinating lifestyles. If this makes you a bit unsettled, in the words of Frehd “Strap Yourselves In!” Frehd is not about the safe way of doing things, she is a child of the 70s when helicopter parenting was unheard of and her own parents were particularly progressive. Stripped Bare is as bold, bright and audacious as its performer and the few audience participation elements are not for the demure. Notably though, all is done in good humour with warmth, care and with consent. When a chap indicated he didn’t really want to come up on stage she moved on to someone who was more keen with no ill will. It’s important to Frehd that we all have a great time.

Frehd was not born with her name, it was a nickname created by her parents and is one of many identities she has assumed during her life. The main theme that runs through her stories is how she keeps all of her personae very separate, and how above all protecting her children’s clown’s innocence has always been very important to her. Having seen her entertain children at Adelaide Fringe, it was not at all surprising to discover she can entertain a packed room of adults. Frehd is a delightful storyteller and is full of fun and surprises while she gradually delves beneath the masks and reveals her self. Of course there are things she holds back, hints at subjects that she veers away from. We can’t help but suspect we are getting the tip of the iceberg of Frehd’s life. Stripped Bare is certainly a dazzling introduction.

Frehd the Clown aka Clownie Stripped Bare is on at The Imperial Hotel until April 23


Phill Jupitus – Juplicity

By Colin Flaherty
Phill Jupitus

Phill Jupitus’s first show to tour Australia starts off with a witty song lampooning a certain self important rock band: one that certainly placates the Never Mind The Buzzcocks fans! After some light banter about his first experience travelling to the antipodes, he dives into the meat and potatoes of the hour, a series of hilarious personal stories that may divide an audience depending on expectations.

Jupitus warns up top that this is not the nice TV Phill who chats with Stephen Fry on QI. I suspect there were many in the opening night audience who weren’t prepared for the topics covered which are rather confronting. If you feel the need to prepare yourself mentally for this show, check out this clip from Live At The Apollo. Even if you have a strong comedy constitution, watch it anyway as this routine is the stepping off point for the stories in this show.

We’ll wait for you…

Is everyone back?…Good.

That is a sanitised version of what to expect from this performance. He goes into a lot of detail about his experiences with sexual education as a child, a journey through adolescence that is both hilarious and cringe worthy. With the stories set in his childhood there is a wonderful sense of naivety to the jokes that makes the taboo subject matter and graphic language a lot more palatable.

Jupitus is a brilliant story teller with a slightly rambling delivery that gives things spontaneity but the tight script is word perfect. He’s often very animated on stage with plenty of exaggerated facial expressions to emote his state of mind. He transports us to the situations brilliantly, playing all the characters with many silly accents. He is playful with the audience as he assesses our reactions and gently teases us. He is smart enough to leave us with an unrelated silly story so we don’t walk out too traumatised.

Phill Jupitus is very much the consummate stand up and we look forward to many more visits in the future.

Juplicity is on at The Melbourne Arts Centre (The Pavilion) until April 23

Raw Comedy Grand Final

By Elyce Phillips

Raw Comedy is the biggest open mic competition in the country. Over 1,000 acts competed over the last few months in heats in every state, and here it’s down to the final 12. Each comic performs a five minute set and at the end of the show, the judges confer to find a winner. This year’s judges were Susan Provan, Chortle’s Steve Bennett, Neal Downward from SBS, Sarah Dodd and UK comedian Steve Bugeja.

Susie Youssef hosted the two-hour show, keeping the crowd warm with material about performing at a buck’s night and caring for her nephew. Youssef seemed a little on-edge at first, but soon settled into her role and kept the proceedings running smoothly.

The first of the contestants was Andrew Bensley from the ACT, who started the show on a strong note with some solid observational stand-up. His take on Thai massages was fun, but not particularly unique and didn’t stack up against later contenders.

Next up was Hobart’s Isabella Roldan who burst onto the stage brimming with confidence. The latter half of her set where she focused on her Spanish language background was entertaining, however, her entire set was punctuated with little asides and catch phrases that felt very forced. It was a performance that was full of energy, but an energy that was mismatched with Roldan’s stand-up on the day.

Jason Williams then took to the stage, all the way from Darwin. Williams provided some more observational thoughts, with jokes about relatable things like system updates on recently-purchased technology and whitegoods. It was a fine set, performed well, although it felt like material that we’ve heard before.

Perth contestant Shaquille Blackley was the first stand-out of the show, and he walks away with second runner up. A gangly, pale, hipster-looking man, Blackley is just about the opposite of what you would expect from his name, and he uses this to full advantage at the start of his set. His later material about various idioms is clever and the audience clearly loves it.

The second bracket continues with Bonnie Tangey, who presents the first and only deviation from straight stand-up with a prop joke up top. It’s absolutely hilarious, and so it’s a shame when she moves on from this absurd line of humour on to more well-trodden territory about being awkward and single. The set as a whole is great and Tangey comes in as first runner up.

Oliver Twist, a relatively recent immigrant from Brisbane, is up next. Twist’s delivery is a little shaky, but his material is wonderful. His tale of a racist magpie is hilarious and he talks about the police attention he gets in a unique way. Twist may not have walked away with a prize, but with a few more years of performing under his belt, I suspect he’ll do well.

The third group started with Billy D’Arcy from Sydney. His material was well received, though I was personally put off by his tale of getting into a fight at a club over a girl. The main joke of his set seemed to be that he’s not particularly “manly”, which feels pretty outdated in this day and age.

Adelaide’s Carla Wills then took to the stage, boldly stating that she has been inspired to become a pervert. Wills turns public transport harassment on its head, with a story that begins with approaching a man on the bus and telling him he should smile. It’s a terrific set with a clear point of view, but it doesn’t draw a huge response from the crowd – more dry chuckles than uproarious outbursts.

The first of three Melbourne-based contenders is up next – Josh Webb. Webb’s opening gambit starts with a little twist, turning a routine that’s seemingly about gyms into an extensive rant about Jim’s Mowing etc. It dips a little in the middle, but picks up steam the longer and weirder it drags on. Ending the set with an old rap from his school days is an admirable attempt to get the energy of the the crowd up, however, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

The show heads into the final quarter with Brad Hollis from Adelaide whose stiff, nervous delivery sat somewhere in between very real awkwardness and anti-comedic performance. The character wasn’t quite pushed hard enough to land. There was something really endearing about Hollis’ set, though, and it definitely resonated with pockets of the audience. It was entertaining, but divisive.

Sharon Andrews from Torquay was the penultimate act and she presented herself as one of the more polished acts in the show. Andrews was self-assured and completely owned her stage persona. Her jokes about country lesbians and jockey mix-ups were received well.

Last up was Melbourne’s Zach Dyer, the winner of this year’s grand final. Dyer’s material about Melbourne played well to the home audience, and his take on Pauline Hanson had enough of an idiosyncratic spark to make it interesting. He had an onstage swagger that will no doubt serve him well in his career going forward.

While the judges deliberated, we were treated to a set from the very talented Mae Martin. At this point the show had run overtime, so there were a few walkouts, but it was by no means due to the caliber of comedy on the stage. Martin killed it with stories of her early days in comedy, inspired by the acts that she had just seen.

All in all, it was a grand final with bucketloads of talent, but not a lot of diversity in genre. Of all the entrants in Raw Comedy this year, the pool was whittled down to 12 stand-up acts. Yes, they were all strong stand-up acts, but it’s disappointing to see such homogeneity in style in a competition for fresh faces when the broader festival embraces such a vast range of acts. Having said that, the contenders put on a thoroughly entertaining show and some of them are sure to become big on the local comedy in the years to come.



By Angela East Lady Sings it better

Take pop songs by male artists. Have them performed by four women cabaret singers. Listen carefully to the lyrics and you will find that some of them are more than a little bit dubious.

That’s the concept behind Lady Sings it Better , a cabaret group from Sydney featuring singers Maeve Marsden, Libby Wood, Annaliese Szota and Fiona Pearson, accompanied by Hayden Barltrop on piano and Lauren Allison on percussion.

This hour focuses on songs about relationships, starting with the song that show takes it name from. Story Time by Ne-Yo is the tale of a guy trying to convince his girlfriend to have a threesome. But only if it’s another lady involved, of course, not another man, setting the theme for the show of sexism in relationships.

By being performed by women, the show highlights just how ridiculous and disturbing the lyrics of the chosen playlist are. The women of Lady Sings it Better are all fantastic cabaret performers and vocalists, and while most of the comedy comes from the subtle ways they react to the lyrics they sing, there’s also some exposition in between songs, and a little flirting with the audience to get extra giggles. The whole ensemble is clearly having a great time performing.

A boy-band medley featuring such lads as Backstreet Boys through to One Direction gets the younger audiences members very excited and bopping along. But it’s not just modern pop music that is full of homophobia and misogyny: there are plenty of musical choices from all eras that feature dating and seduction techniques that vary from a little worrying to downright creepy. The set list includes a variety of tunes from 60s rock n roll, 90s college rock, and classic love song dedications that all get the Lady Sings it Better feminist cabaret makeover.

It’s a show that keeps everyone thoroughly entertained, and leaves us all keen to listen more carefully and analyse the lyrics of the next pop song we hear.

Lady Sings it Better Story Time is on at the Butterfly Club until April 23rd


Nic Sampson – Has Fallen Down A Well

By Elyce Phillips Nic Sampson photo

Nic Sampson is a New Zealand-based comedian. He’s worked in TV, performed with improv group Snort, and this MICF, he has fallen down a well for our amusement. Has Fallen Down A Well  combines concept comedy with traditional stand-up in an ambitious 50 minutes that provides plenty of laughs.

The first part of the show is fairly traditional. Sampson walks onto the stage, adorned with a minimalist set that gives the idea of a well. There’s some stones, and a bucket attached to a rope which goes up to the ceiling. Upon finding a microphone in the bucket, Sampson launches into a stand-up set.

Sampson’s stand-up persona is jovial and fun to watch. The topics covered are fairly familiar – relationships, neighbours, growing-up – but Sampson is a skilled comic and his takes are fresh and very funny. His material about a holiday in York is particularly great, going into detail about the wonders of a 5-D cinema.

Through the first two-thirds of the show there are nods to the well conceit – little echoing sound cues of punchlines as they bounce around the tall stone walls – but it really comes to the fore in the final minutes, where the concept is returned to with more vigor. This section is hilarious, but it feels quite separate to the earlier stand-up. The idea is wonderfully weird, but it could have been integrated through the stand-up section more fluidly.

There’s an issue with sound pollution the whole way through the show, which is unfortunate. Whatever’s on upstairs is loud and in the quieter moments of Sampson’s show, the music leaking through is distracting. Sampson does his best with the situation, addressing it at the top of the show and then not allowing it to detract from his performance for the remainder.

Nic Sampson has produced an interesting show in Has Fallen Down A Well. It’s confident stand-up with a little something extra, and it’s terrific to see someone playing around with the format in this way.

Nic Sampson – Has Fallen Down A Well is on at the Tuxedo Cat until April 22