Dave Callan – A Little Less Conversation 2: A Little More Less Conversation

By Lisa Clark Dave Callan less Conversation 2

Anyone who saw Dave Callan’s A Little Less Conversation or has laughed at his astounding version of “All the Single Ladies” dance routine will understand the sort of work Dave will put into making dance funny for his audience. This is his most polished show yet and it is Awesome.

No longer hampered by a small stage or inadequate audiovisual equipment Dave is free to put on the spectacular he envisioned for the last show with four gorgeous, talented, professional dancers to have fun with. It is obvious they are all having a ball. Last year’s show was a History of Dance with the emphasis on decades of the 20th Century up. A Little Less Conversation 2: A Little More Less Conversation demonstrates  dance styles by alphabet going backwards from Zumba to Aerobics (they are not all fitness related but gosh they are making Dave fit).

A highlight from the first production is Dave having a go at pole dancing with his viking-style lack of grace being part of the comedy but my goodness he has worked on it for this production and the laughs turn to jaw dropping awe. He was also sweating and becoming quite exhausted during the last production, there is a lot less of that this time round. This is partly because he has paced it all well with breaks of standup between the blocks of dance showcases and some short stunning video interludes, which allow for costume changes that are part of the fun and plenty of surprises. Mainly though it is obvious that Dave has been working hard on his dance moves and gained in fitness.

Dave radiates joy in this production because music and dance are clearly major passions in his life. There’s a bit of 1920s Blackbottom in there but this is mostly about modern dance from the 80s on. If it wasn’t for one slightly jarring willy joke I’d say this would be one to bring kids and young teens to but if you don’t mind a bit of fake wang waved around, don’t worry too much, it’s pretty silly and harmless and they will learn about ven diagrams.

According to Dave this is part 2 of his A Little Less Conversation trilogy, I can’t wait for part 3. One thing is for sure Callan is going to be extremely fit.

Dave Callan – A Little Less Conversation  2: A Little More Less Conversation is on at Trades Hall until April 19th


Claire Hooper – School Camp

By Elyce PhillipsClaire Hooper - School Camp

We all remember things differently. Some of us might like to think we have near photographic memories, but we can never be certain we’re recalling things exactly as they happened. We have a tendency to twist our personal histories into something that’s more palatable. In School Camp, Claire Hooper digs deep into her memories of those trips away, sharing stories of sexual awakening and teenage awkwardness, and teasing out the fact from the fiction.

After the birth of her daughter, Hooper realized that she needed to start being more open and honest about the uncomfortable things in life. In order to do this, she began to dig back into her memories of the most defining moments of her childhood, and now presents them to an audience in all their gawky, excruciating glory. Hooper does a magnificent job of capturing the awkwardness of youth. Many of her stories have that weird, dark underbelly that we tend to forget is part of childhood – kids can do some pretty messed up stuff. Her tales are stark and honest, full of the imperfections and voids that come with remembering. They are stories that we can all relate to. During a part about Hooper’s school camp experience on a high ropes course, I was transported back to my own embarrassing camp experience of being slowly winched down, too scared to step onto the tightrope. It’s this relatability that makes School Camp so hilarious. We can all look back on our crap, awkward times as a kid and laugh.

School Camp opens with a scary story and ends with a scary story of a different kind.  The show has serious undertones and at the heart of it lies a difficult message about the importance of remembering things. The shift in tone is a little jarring, but Hooper handles the material well. The show is cleverly composed, striking a unique tone that perfectly encapsulates those early teenage years. Much like being at a school camp, Hooper will  have you giggling away in the darkness.

Claire Hooper – School Camp is on at Melbourne Town Hall until April 19


Clem Bastow – Escape From L.A.

By Elyce Phillips Escape from LA pic

After a run at Bar Open during the Melbourne Fringe, Clem Bastow has brought a new and improved version of Escape From L.A. to the Comedy Festival. For those who missed it the first time around, Bastow tells her story of fleeing to East Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming a screenwriter. After two years spent scripting in coffee shops, Bastow returned to Australia with a newly-diagnosed mental illness and a wealth of comedy material.

This version of the show is more polished, but still chaotic. You walk in to see Bastow dressed as Dorothy, sitting in her own Oz of L.A., reading Robert McKee and surrounded by scatterings of Starbucks trash. An opening burst of sound effects and snippets of film dialogue from DJ Slig, Bastow’s brother, is as loud and disorienting as the most hectic action sequence of a Hollywood blockbuster. The new set and props add to the mess and distress of Escape From L.A. They’re a wonderfully trashy complement to tales from a trashy city. The antagonistic relationship between Bastow and Slig remains, the latter repeatedly interrupting Bastow with sound effects and unasked-for opinions. Bastow’s stories are well-crafted, relatable and had the audience laughing the whole way through.

The biggest improvement to this iteration of the show is the addition of some new sound pieces, produced by Slig. An extended mental crisis/fantasy acceptance speech sequence during a Kundalini yoga session perfectly straddled the line between discomfort and humour. The pieces pair really well with Bastow’s storytelling and work to simultaneously give the show structure and set it on edge.

Escape From L.A. is even better in its Comedy Festival form.  It’s a show about things not going to plan where things don’t always go to plan. If you’re up for a little mayhem, this is the show for you.

Clem Bastow – Escape From L.A. is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 19


Madeleine Culp – Madeleine Schmadeleine

By Lisa Clark madeleine culp

Well it’s pretty obvious what Madeleine Culp is trying to achieve with Madeleine Schmadeleine; deluded TV star on a desperate downward spiral, it’s not a particularly new concept and unfortunately Madeleine Culp isn’t able to bring anything fresh to it or make it work for her as a framework for her comedy festival show.

Madeleine just isn’t convincing as the difficult fame whore she is trying to portray, she is way too gentle and timid. She comes across as totally subservient to her TV show manager (a male voiceover) and her sense of desperation seems all too real as she fails to get the audience laughing. She also doesn’t seem to have the talent to convince us that she has ever been a successful variety TV host in the past, being bad at everything she demonstrates, such as singing, tapping, audience interaction (well it wouldn’t be a 2015 MICF show without that) and storytelling.

Madeleine was surprisingly competent on the recorder though and this could’ve been funny if she’d used it as a more credible background for her character – a recorder player who shot to fame, but she just throws it in to become part of her on camera breakdown which sadly does not work as well as it might if the rest of the show were better. The side plot of her sidekick dog taking over her place in show business doesn’t work because she has paced it badly, without a decent set up of her relationship with the dog and by putting a poster of his show out from the beginning, which robs her of the opportunity to get the surprise laugh.

As a performer who has been around for many years (originally in Cloud Girls with Jen Carnovale nearly ten years ago) with a lot of festival experience, it is surprising to find that her timing is not brilliant and I don’t hear her comedy voice. There seems to be very little attempt at creating strong memorable characters which are all pretty weak. There were obviously some set routines slotted in; some observational material from her job in a Library, a travel tales montage and an enjoyable story about a horrendous whale watching tourism experience done in the manner of an old sea captain telling tales of the sea. There were titters of recognition but few strong laughs. The highlight of the show was the remote control helicopter which again she proved crap at operating but it was at least fun to watch.

It’s a bit of a cop out to do a show with a character who is bad at stuff so that you don’t have to be good at anything on stage. But there is one thing that you do have to be good at in a comedy festival and that is comedy, unfortunately there was little evidence of this in Madeleine Schmadeleine.

Madeleine Schmadeleine is on at Trades Hall til April 19


Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen – In Conversation With Lionel Corn

By Elyce Phillips Chris Taylor and Andrew Hansen

When you walk into the Forum Theatre for In Conversation With Lionel Corn, you could easily be walking into any Wheeler Centre event of the year. Tonight’s guest is Lionel Corn (Andrew Hansen) in discussion with a Radio National host (Chris Taylor).

Taylor does a great job of playing the poncy interviewer. Hansen’s author is bizarre, but consistently so – it’s a nice contrast to Taylor’s straight-laced performance. After some wonderfully silly introductions, we get to the conversation at hand. The opening salvo is perfectly long-winded and wanky. A collection of pre-recorded questions from the audience were a beautiful touch. Some were so subtle that they could have passed for genuine festival questions, clichéd to the point of self-parody.

However, despite a strong start, In Conversation… loses its charm as the show wears on, largely because the show loses focus. The faux event we’re attending is an amalgamation of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and an episode of Q and A. Lionel Corn himself is part Salman Rushdie, part George RR Martin, part Billy Connolly’s accent. The whole thing is too nebulous to provide any really biting satire. It feels like Taylor and Hansen have tried to cram too much into their characters, and they lose their shape. Tension between Corn and his interviewer that is introduced at the start doesn’t really go anywhere and you don’t get a sense that their relationship develops over the hour.

The jokes strayed into easy stereotypes – fantasy readers are fat, activists whinge about panel diversity. A puerile bit of physical comedy towards the end ran too long and felt disconnected with the tone of the rest of the show. Perhaps this was an attempt to broaden the appeal of the show beyond an audience of lit geeks and #qanda twitter fiends, but it was out of place next to the subtler material.

In Conversation With Lionel Corn is entertaining, but it never quite reaches the heights you hope for. As a long-time fan of the Chaser guys and a big old book nerd, this show should have been right up my alley.


Hunter Smith – I Feel Bad About My Tattoo

By Sofia Monkiewicz Hunter Smith

Tattoos are a permanent fashion choice: one which can either be worn proudly every day for the rest of your life or, if you are like Hunter Smith, be a sad and endless stamp of regret.

Smith really hates his tattoo, and who can blame him? It is hilariously tragic, and a forever reminder of his poor teenage decision-making abilities. Despite this, his shame doesn’t override the comedic potential of his ink embarrassment, and he has created a delightfully self-deprecating, tattoo-focused hour of stand-up.

I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is a very personal show, in which Smith talks about his family, his teenage years, and of course his infamous tattoo, along with many other observations about the ways that people choose to permanently imprint designs on their skin. He details the top three worst types of tattoos that a person can get, and makes some hysterical comments about the moments in time that these artworks represent, and what they have come to signify as the years have passed and fashions have severely changed.

Smith has a wonderful energy that fuels his honest, relatable comedy. He combines his self-esteem issues with some good-natured, light-hearted fun, and has ended up with a show that is both sincere and wildly entertaining. His anecdotes about living on campus while at university and scaring a certain group of students with his ink is very funny, while his short but succinct list of things he dislikes is classic side-splitting observational comedy. Quips about old people and technology, cultural appropriation and his cousin’s appearance on Australia’s Funniest Home Videos are eagerly lapped up by his audience, but the highlight is definitely the big tattoo reveal, which is kept a secret for as long as Smith can manage to hide his shame.

It is difficult to decide whether Smith should be laughed at or pitied for the unfortunate ‘artwork’ etched in his skin, but he has managed to transform his sorrow into enthusiastic entertainment in his 2015 festival show. As soon as he walks on stage, he exclaims that he is going to be presenting a whole bunch of ‘truth bombs’, and he certainly delivers on this promise. I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is brilliantly raw, consistently funny and will probably stop you from going out and getting that Southern Cross tattoo that you thought you truly wanted.

So what exactly is his embarrassing tattoo you ask? You will just have to watch the show to find out…

Hunter Smith’s I Feel Bad About My Tattoo is on at the Owl and the Pussycat until April 19.