Michael Chamberlin – Joy and Despair

By Annette Slattery. 

Michael Chamberlin’s new show “Joy and Despair” is, quite frankly, light on the joy and heavy on the despair. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very funny show. Chamberlin’s ‘set ‘em up and knock ‘em down is as sharp as ever, if not sharper. But if you’re feeling a bit down going in, don’t expect to come out feeling upbeat.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. Comedy and tragedy make natural bedfellows, and some of the great comedians have demonstrated the sublime heights of bellowing, depressed comedy. Chamberlin, whether he likes it or not, is heading down that path in this show.   This is a darker Chamberlin, reflecting shades of the great Bill Hicks, albeit Hicks as a ‘nine year old girl with a lisp’ (to paraphrase Chamberlin himself).  Chamberlin talks about his mind moving from one extreme to another. He takes every positive thought and deconstructs it down to its worst possible outcomes.

It is Chamberlin’s move last year to Sydney which fuels the bulk of the story. He finds himself suddenly alone, being bullied by a seven year old girl, discovering new debaucheries in the act of self-love, yelling at the beautiful people in the supermarket, indulging in irrational hatred of neck tattoos, taking a chance on a girl, only to be stood up on the third date and becoming involved in a sexually charged dogacide. There is a decline in society and it has left Chamberlin numb to the world around him, he can only be touched by a children’s story about a boy and penguin.

The one irritating aspect of the show was Chamberlin’s continued live deconstruction of the show as it went along. I found it hard to reconcile my knowledge of his experience with what seems like such an amateurish mistake. The only resolution in my mind is that it could be construed as yet another symptom of Chamberlin’s insecurity.

This show is bitingly funny and appears to mark a new chapter in Chamberlin’s progression. If you’re interested in comedy that’s a bit on the dark side then the slight and deceptively pretty Michael Chamberlin is the go. Very funny but not recommended for suicide risks.

Michael Chamberlin – Joy and Despair is on at the Acacia Room at The Victoria Hotel. 


Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris – Plus One

By Elyce Phillips.

When you hear that the incredibly talented Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris are teaming up for a show, you have high expectations. Plus One not only meets those expectations, but surpasses them. The show manages to sum up decades of friendship, in a single hour, in a way that is funny, moving and thoroughly entertaining.

Plus One follows the relationships of three men and three women, all played by McLeish and Harris, who have been friends since uni. The show begins on New Year’s Eve in 1996, where the band The Nervous Wrecks is playing at a party. Band members Joe, Rick, Seamus are joined by their partners and hangers-on Nikki, Veronica and Delta as they ring in the New Year. After spending a little time with these characters and seeing how their friendships work, we then fast forward several years to find things have changed, and not all for the better.

McLeish and Harris have put together a really special show here. Plus One is hilarious, yes, but it is also poignant. They capture the nature of change in relationships with amazing precision. Over the course of the hour, you really come to care for many of the characters, even though their desires are often conflicting. There’s a lot of skill in the production, too. McLeish and Harris deftly switch between their characters without missing a beat. The characters are so well-rounded that you are never left wondering who it is on stage. Their use of music to indicate the change of era is a really neat touch. Nothing transports you back to 1996 like hearing a bit of Shaggy. And the original music is fantastic. McLeish’s closing number is an absolute showstopper – worth the price of the ticket alone.

Plus One is a brilliantly funny production with a lot of heart. If you like your comedy to be a little tear-jerking as well, you really can’t miss this one.

Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris – Plus One is on at Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers until April 22


Dave Warneke – Fact!

By Colin Flaherty.

You may have seen a young fella spruking his show around the Town Hall using a life-sized cardboard cut-out of himself. If you liked his sales pitch and wandered down to The Tuxedo Cat, you would have experienced a high energy performance by Dave Warneke, a brilliant comedic performer with three MICF shows under his belt and a bright future ahead.

In keeping with the theme, general knowledge facts were presented in the expected manner of presenting a tid bit of information and making a hilariously snarky comment about it. An example was the “Fact or Not So Fact?” quiz, a non threatening piece of audience participation where the audience answer en mass.

In other parts of the show the facts were used as a launching point for more interesting material. A general exploration of the manipulation of facts to suit a particular ideology or deception provided many fascinating and amusing examples. A routine about “Dave’s Body Facts” led to some wonderful self deprecating humour as well as an example of his endurance challenges that he regular posts as videos on the ‘net.

Dave had a wonderfully quirky delivery style. Jokes would get a added zing by following them up with cocky comments. He would regularly conjure zany lines from out of left field that were bizarre yet strangely relevant to the topic at hand.

Being a multi-instrumentalist, Dave used music as both accompaniment and an integral part of the jokes. A series of clever bass riff responses to hypothetical situations were delightful and some silly Synth-Pop tunes had plenty amusing ideas to keep all you laughing throughout. He wasn’t the strongest singer but he sure had a way with lyrics. A cool-jazz bass line providing the atmosphere to a film-noirish flirtation with a woman was an idea that has been done plenty of times before but he pulled it off flawlessly.

The use of PowerPoint was an effective use of the technology with the slides being used to emphasise his jokes with out too much reading for the audience. It also included some wonderfully wonky illustrations (apparently his course didn’t cover animation) for his silly children’s series featuring George the Keyboard Zebra. The only complaint was the need to project the images on the side due to space constraints which meant neck craning for some punters.

Dave explained that main reason for this show was to justify his Three Year Media and Drama degree so he seemed to have thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at this project. The results of his HECS Debt were certainly put to good use in producing this well rounded and hilarious show.

Dave Warneke – Fact! is on at The Tuxedo Cat


Grand Final RAW Winners

And the Winner of RAW is Lesson’s with Louis (and his family) in Luis Presents Kidney Kingdom

In case you missed its now finished, short run, Luis Presents Kidney Kingdom can be likened to a play put on for you by your strange cousins when you visit them in their suburban home. The execution is superb, the characters perfectly defined and delightfully daggy. The three characters are; the star Luis, his ever supportive dad Len and his quietly suffering little brother Luelin. The family took us to the moon, through the jungle and under the sea in search of a new kidney for Len.

They also brought down the house when they performed at The Shelf during the Festival.
Here is their website where you can find videos of their work


Runners Up at the RAW Grand Final were

Cameron James (NSW)

Amos Gill (SA)

RAW Comedy is Australia’s biggest and most prestigious open mic comedy competition and previous winners and finalists include Michael Workman, Neil Sinclair, Nick Sun, Nelly Thomas,  Josh Thomas, Hannah Gadsby, Peter Helliar, and Claire Hooper.

It is a pity that the RAW (or MICF) website provides no information about heat winners, which makes it hard to follow how things are going during the heats. One would think that providing easily accessible, up to date information online would be fairly simple in this day and age.
You shouldn’t have to subscribe and give over private information to find out.

Two days later there is still no news up on either The  Raw Comedy 2012 or MICF websites of the Grand Final winners.



Hannah Gadsby – Hannah Wants a Wife

By Cathy Culliver. 

If anyone ever tries to tell you that female comedians aren’t funny, just point them in the direction of Hannah Gadsby and then see what they have to say for themselves.

One of Australia’s brightest comedy stars, Gadsby is the kind of comedian who makes it all look so easy, like anyone could base a show around a 15th century painting and make it utterly hilarious. For the record, they couldn’t – but Gadbsy can.

In her new show, Hannah Wants a Wife, Gadsby talks about her two great loves: art and women. As you might guess from the title, the subject of gay marriage comes up, but as Gadsby says, she only wants to get married so as to make it “harder for someone to leave me”.

The focal point of the show is Gadsby’s favourite painting, Jan van Eyck’s famous Arnolfini Portrait. Gadsby clearly knows her stuff as she takes the audience through the symbols and meanings hidden within the painting, but this is no drab art history lesson. Gadsby’s enthusiasm is infectious, and her own personal interpretations of what the painting means are

Gadsby’s show has plenty to say on marriage, time-travelling lesbians, gender roles and why fat people aren’t built to survive the apocalypse. It’s a clever, thought-provoking show that has the audience frequently in fits of laughter. Just don’t expect a big finish, that’s not her style – Gadsby prefers lot of little peaks throughout the show. Wink wink.

Regularly seen on TV’s In Gordon Street Tonight with Adam Hills, Gadsby has been doing quite well for herself and it’s clear to see why. She’s warm, funny and sharp as a whip, and infinitely likeable. Hannah Wants a Wife is a great offering that’s definitely taking the time to see this festival.

Hannah Wants A Wife is on at the Banquet Room at the Victoria Hotel



By Lisa Clark.

We begin with a journey of sight and (mostly) sound led by Trygve (pronounced Trig-vee) Wakenshaw as he weaves and manoeuvres around his partner in mime and silliness, Barney Duncan, who sits on a couch and reads the paper. It’s a soundscape of clips of words, music and effects that have been edited together and make little sense, apart from the constant clip cloppy footsteps as Trygve stomps about the stage, suggesting that he is on a journey. Unfortunately it was too long, loud, disjointed, and unfunny, such that I was led to despair that this was going to be one of those weird arty Fringe pieces more interested in showing off the performers’ miming skills than keeping audiences engaged.

Finally Barney rises and in the guise of the Emperor Constantine himself begins introducing us to the wonders of Constantinople which does something to start winning me over. Soon we are transported to the Hippodrome and perhaps the funniest skits of the show with Barney playing a horse while Trygve gives him a slightly suggestive massage.

The Festival Guide says this is a historically inaccurate look at an amazing city, obviously they are using the city’s history as a jumping point for their comedic skits, but I am impressed with how many historical accuracies were thrown into the mix to keep history fans on their toes. Their amusing use of pepper as a cocaine like drug does actually reflect the expense of and greed for the black spice at the time. I also enjoy the conversion of Christianity portrayed as a rave party with the 90s dance music morphing into the Hallelujah Chorus. If only the lame dancing about the room didn’t go on just a tad too long without anything much happening.

Apart from the sound being too loud for the small space the technical work on the show was excellent with perfect timing of lighting and sound that was crucial to much of the humour in the show. This is a great show for fans of They Might be Giant’s version of Istanbul Not Constantinople. You get to hear it 3 times, one of them live by Trygve and Barnie accompanied by ukulele. I also love the more subtle use of Rod Stewart’s Young Turks; another of my favourite songs.

There are some beautiful quirky moments throughout Contantinople and the performers are both highly skilled and entertaining physical performers who have about as much fun on stage as two men in togas can. Their inspiration from silent film comedy and Monty Python is clear though the execution is patchy, but then so was Monty Python at time, proving just how difficult it can be to pull off absurd sketch comedy. A fun show for those looking for something a bit different and even more fun if you hang on to your grapes ’til the end of the show.

Constantinople is on in the Old Council Chambers at Trades Hall