Horses That Shoot Lasers From Their Eyes : Subject To Change

By Colin Flaherty

The pre-festival publicity for this show was intriguing, an elaborate and vague title, and the only description being “Content and themes may vary”. They even went to the effort of flyering wearing a horse’s mask to add further mystery. The anonymity was lifted as it was revealed that this is a stand up show featuring three comics who had made the trek down from Brisbane (Hannes Monaghan, Jacob Lingard and David Scullion).

This is solid pub stand up by three comics whose delivery is different enough to provide variety to its no-frills staging. It’s interesting to note that some themes carry through the entire show. All shared the experience of flying down together so all feel the need to cover it. Most of the observations about the process are on the generic side but each give it their own spin to prevent it from being too samey. The other topic that gets a flogging is their inability to understand women which is par for the course for young, straight guys. Thankfully there are enough creative and amusing lines through these routines to add freshness.

Hannes is first to hit the stage and has some entertaining routines about his German mother, relationship break ups and poker machines. A very measured, almost lackadaisical delivery gives us a gentle start to the show but he has plenty of witty lines to keep us laughing.

Jacob is next and gets some humorous mileage out of various medical conditions that he has been afflicted with. Including these ailments gives his treatment of the hackneyed topics in his set some greater depth and a point of difference from others. Self-deprecation fills the bulk of his set which is nicely paired with a touch of jokey dismissiveness.

Rounding out the show was David who has billed himself as “The Irish Stallion”. His is a high energy performance and a logical progression from the other two to end things on a bang rather than a whimper. It is nice that he uses the common topics as segues into related material, often leading us into unexpected areas. His use of off-colour remarks as punch lines provides plenty of guilty giggles.

This being their debut MICF show, it is a good calling card for a trio of emerging stand ups from up north whose future endeavours are worth keeping an eye open for.

Subject To Change is on at Highlander Bar.

Fabian Lapham & The Actual Musicians : God Fights the Dinosaurs & 9 Other Stories That Will Awesome You in the Face

By Colin Flaherty

Part rock gig, part performance art piece, this elaborately titled show sees Fabian Lapham and band (Asha on guitar, Andy on bass, Cynthia on uke and vocals, and Shane on drums) deliver almost what it says on the tin (Fabian explains that the degree of awesoming to the face may vary). Through a set of clever, amusing songs they tell a series of stories about love, heartbreak, philosophy and the trials of life. As a sort of between song banter, Fabian offers up some very silly pieces of stand up, hilariously lame impersonations and Russell Crowe poetry.

Most of the songs have spoken monologues for verses which, even with Fabian’s speedy delivery, helps with clarity compared to if these lines were sung. It certainly removes the need for every line to scan properly and is a perfect fit for these narrative heavy tunes. Before you call laziness on this ploy, he can hold a tune when singing the choruses that need a male voice while Cynthia provides sweet vocals elsewhere.

The majority of the humour is in the form of the absurdist lines that pepper the monologues. It does so in a way that gets laughs at their silliness while propelling the story forward. The songs don’t have to build to a punchline as you would normally expect from musical comedy, these tunes instead wrap up the narrative neatly and musically which isn’t a bad thing when the content is so entertaining.

It’s interesting to see how they have made the music an integral part of the show, even when we appear to be between songs. All segments get some appropriate musical backing to create mood and often add humour in the process. The celebration of the third wanking joke of the show gets its own theme tune while a collection of left over one liners races a musical clock.

There is some very clever songwriting going on here. We get call-backs to earlier stories or offhand comments either through the storytelling or musical motifs. One song even outlines the life of another song with the chorus comprising the angelic performance of this anthem during the story. Not all of this musical magic is funny and themes of the some songs are downright serious, but it sure does create wonderful atmosphere for Fabian’s witty lines to shine like beacons.

The interaction between Fabian and the band is brilliant. All are mute (save for singing) and straight faced as Fabian spouts his often self-deprecating lines, regularly rolling their eyes at him as if they’d rather be elsewhere. The only display of emotion we get from the band is at the finale with some hilarious, carefully controlled mayhem while rocking out.

A brilliant fusion of comedy, music and theatre it’s a wonderful experience. Featuring beautiful song-writing and expert musicianship you will be tapping your toes as well as laughing heartily.

God Fights the Dinosaurs… is on at Northcote Town Hall

Barry Morgan – Organ is not a dirty word

By Elyce Phillips

‘Organ is not a dirty word’ takes us to Barry Morgan’s World of Organs – a kitschy music shop located in Sunnyside Mall. Here we learn of Morgan’s rivalry with a childhood acquaintance who has opened up a store next door selling electronic pianos.

Barry Morgan is a great character and watching him at the organ is a joy. The constant grinning, the safari suit, the fabulous hair – for all his over-the-topness, Morgan feels like a fully realized character. Getting to hear about his relationship with his deceased Mum Nancy was a nice addition. Her words of wisdom dotted throughout the evening were always funny and at times, oddly touching.

The show did feel a little long in parts, though this is perhaps because the humor got a bit ‘Are You Being Served?’ for my tastes. Despite the title, ‘organ’ can indeed by a dirty word, and this was a concept that was made very clear repeatedly. ‘Organ is not a dirty word’ has a pantomime feel to it. There are quite a few sections of audience participation, both as group yelling out of things and singling out individuals. However, while I found it a little overdone at times, the audience really seemed to get a kick out of it.

Morgan’s comedic style certainly fits with the nostalgic vibe of the show. References to dial phones, Bex and ‘Pot of Gold’ would probably be lost on a younger audience, but they are still very present in Barry Morgan’s world. Entering his shop is a step back in time.

The one place where the present day occasionally creeps through is the music. In amongst the classics, Morgan chucks in a little ‘Black Eyed Peas’ and other more contemporary acts for the kids. The clash between the melodies of these tracks that you’d usually hear blasting over the PA in a store and the gorgeous sound of Morgan’s Aurora organ was fantastic. The camera Morgan set up to look over the keyboard was a wonderful touch.  It’s amazing to watch Morgan at work on the keys and see just how complicated the organ operation is. Not particularly funny, sure, but fascinating.

‘Organ is not a dirty word’ is a great peek into the world of Barry Morgan and a delightful snapshot into the past. It’s worth checking out if you’d like a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Barry Morgan – Organ is not a dirty word is showing at the New Ballroom at Trades Hall until April 21.

Danny McGinlay Hypertonic

By Lisa Clark

Danny McGinlay’s show this year is a bit like bumping into a friend in a pub you haven’t seen for a year who’s been having a whale of a time and wants to tell you about it all. Danny is a fine story teller and proficient at keeping an audience entertained, though the show feels a bit like it was thrown together in a rush. Well he’s been very busy!

If you saw his show last year you’ll know that he married into a Ukranian family and this show covers a little of that, a bit about house moving and a lot about their extravagant round the world honeymoon. There was a nice feeling of catching up on what happened next. From accidentally visiting Chernobyl to spending time with his vice squad cousin in Hong Kong to the wonders of the Japanese toilet in his Hawaiian hotel. All the stories were crackers and one of the final stories about a haunted house was actually quite terrifying and had the audience gasping.

Danny has an easy rapport with the audience and handles some audience participation effortlessly. It felt a bit disjointed however, with some of it seeming to be in the wrong order and some side comments that suggest they are about to become another story but are thrown away and not explored or gone back to. It gets a bit adult at times and he’s clearly enjoying ‘being a married man’, but having been introduced to his wife and new in-laws in his show last year, the more graphic material felt a bit weird. It certainly adds to the overheard pub conversation feel and also might help to explain why the show isn’t more polished (nudge nudge).

The title Hypertonic, though never explained, certainly describes the sort of year Danny has had and why, perhaps, he may have not had time to make this show live up to his last few exceptional Festival outings. Still, Danny is a talented comedian, who has put together a very entertaining way for fans to catch up with him and you can rest assured that you will have a fun night out.

Danny McGinlay is upstairs at Hairy Little Sister

Patrick Miller’s Chaos

By Luke Simmons

The evening commenced with Patrick’s first character coming onto the stage providing a definition of chaos theory. From there, everyone at the Tuxedo Cat knew that they were going to be in for a crazy and unique one-man show.

Miller used a multitude of characters throughout the hour with each appearing on the stage in rapid succession. In terms of the key themes and storyline, it wasn’t made crystal clear to the audience with Miller keeping the audience guessing about what would happen next.

A central element of the plotline revolved around Miller’s body being taken over by a Spanish speaking spirit after becoming infected by a cactus. This was followed by a series of short skits which included Miller appearing on the stage as an overly friendly butterfly, an alien wizard and as an ocker Australian – and almost everything in between. Some of the characters and character play were clearly over the top and he employed shock value and absurdity to earn laughs.

No matter how strange things got, none of Miller’s punchlines resulted in silence throughout the room. In fact, he had the small room to full capacity and everyone seemed to have their favourite moments. The loudest laughs were reserved for a skit involving a character which resembled the YouTube sensation “Trent from Punchy” who mistook directions from his Father about how he was going to make his fortune in Western Australia. Miners love performance art don’t they?

The characters were performed brilliantly by Miller throughout the course of the show but the narrative seemed hard to follow for the uninitiated. Miller did finish strongly by re-introducing the alien wizard character who provided some thought provoking context to the story. In fact, he made his point crystal clear.

Patrick Miller’s Chaos is on at the Tuxedo Cat


By James Shackell

It’s always a risk to include in the name of your comedy show words that a potential reviewer could use as an apt description of that show, a risk Peter Helliar ran this year with Whatevs (…forevs). But far from generating apathy (or feeling interminable), Helliar’s crazy eyes, comedy nous and brash bravado combine for a satisfying, if not groundbreaking, night of laughs.

On the other hand, ‘whatevs’ is a pretty good word to sum up the scattershot nature of the gig. Helliar happily lurches from the awesomeness of Costco, to Catholicism, to the humdrum ironies of married life, to toilet-related anecdotes, clearing ungainly segues in a single leap while laughing at the disconnects along the way. His impression of the Dalai Lama (think Michael Jackson on Valium), was a particular – and unwittingly disturbing – surprise, growing as it somehow did from musings on the judgement we get for using plastic bags at the supermarket checkout.

It has to be said Helliar’s timing is superb, as you’d expect from someone who’s been around the traps since working with Rove (remember Rove?) back in 1998. He knows instinctively how far to push a joke, when to mould his rubber face into cherubic glee or appalled horror, when to let subtle mannerisms do the work for him. And while the material treads well worn paths of comedy (bewildered deconstruction of youth culture, observations on marriage and kids etc) the destination is always refreshing.

Helliar also works the crowd well, bouncing jokes off a couple of audience members (whom he thanked personally after the show – a nice touch). But for those in the front row, don’t worry, there’s not much crowd participation. As Helliar says, “It’s my show, I’ll do the work.”

The funny thing is I’d always been someone for whom ‘whatevs’ pretty much summed up my view of Peter Helliar. I could take him or leave him. How wrong, and happily wrong, I turned out to be.

Peter Helliar is performing at the Victoria Hotel – Banquet Room