By Nick Bugeja
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is typically dominated by white 30-something comedians, performing sets about inner-city lifestyles, featuring jokes about avocado on toast, yoga, and gluten-free products. These shows grow tiresome very quickly, covering only narrow comedic terrain.
Emo, a Sudanese-Australian comic, represents a refreshing departure from the mundanity of some corners of Australian comedy. This is manifested both in his energised style and bold material. He isn’t afraid to dive into content about race, confronting stereotypes and spinning them into rich comedic moments. People sometimes ask him: ‘what’s the deal with African gangs?’ Emo – whose name is Emmanuel Majok – wonders why they’d think a man dressed in a cardigan would have any idea.
Black Santa is a freewheeling show. You get the sense that each show takes a different form and rhythm, depending on external factors such as crowd participation and time constraints. This hardly detracts from the show, as Emo seems to thrive on spontaneity and the natural energy of the room. His interactions, especially with older white audience members, were a highlight, demonstrating how comedy can bring together diverse communities over the shared joy of laughter.
Emo’s longer-form jokes were the strongest, allowing him to build up a story with several jokes before delivering a climactic moment that tied the narrative together. An incident at a local bottle shop, and another involving Star Wars (the less said the better), were enacted with particular comedic vigour.
There’s little doubt that Emo is an up-and-coming comedian, who brings something new and exciting to Australian comedy. As Emo continues to hone his craft, it’ll be interesting to see where his comedy takes him.
Black Santa is now showing at Fad Gallery until 17 April.
Tickets are available here:
By Lisa Clark
Kirsty Webeck performs like a friend regaling hilarious stories from her life in a pub or at a Barbeque. She is the life of the party and Chuck a Sickie is fantastic show to bring your mates to for a brilliant night at the Festival.
Many of her uproarious tales do involve medical emergencies of various kinds that from anyone else might make you worried for them but with Kirsty you are in the safe hands of a brilliant comedian. She can turn a slip up in the street into a rip roaring epic saga. I have heard some of her stories before, tried out at stand up spots, and it’s impressive how they have evolved and become fleshed out with many more jokes that land perfectly.
At the top of the show Kirsty says she’s not going to talk about Covid, but when you are telling stories about your life, and let’s face it that has been our life for the past year, they can’t help but have a whiff of Covid about them at times. She references all the walking we were suddenly doing and finding herself being the stay at home housewife to her essential worker partner, who is a nurse. Everything is kept light and fun, and there’s always a twinkle in her eye.
Kirsty’s standup can be delightfully surprising, going off into slightly surreal flights of fancy at times, like she is just having so much fun in the storytelling and the audience gets swept away with her. At the same time she is somehow down to earth and always relatable.
Not long ago I would’ve said that Kirsty was an up and coming comedian to watch, but she’s no longer up and coming. She’s there.
Chuck A Sickie is on at Comedy Republic until April 18
By Lisa Clark
Average, the Bear, welcomes us to the gorgeous intimate space and mingles with the audience making small talk. As lovely, gentle and convivial as she is, there is a tension in the audience of; “Will she talk to me? How will I answer her questions? I’d better have an answer ready!” It’s OK and she doesn’t chat to everyone and doesn’t make us too much part of the show, phew, she’s letting us know that we are at the Pre hibernation Drinkies for Bears and human guests, including our human entertainment, Michelle Brasier.
You may know Michelle Brasier from appearing as part of Mad As Hell, Aunty Donna or Double Denim, but you won’t know her until you see Average Bear. And you should see Average Bear. It is one of the Best cabaret shows I’ve seen. A shiver went up my spine, like the first time I saw Tim Minchin’s Rock and Roll Nerd and Michelle’s better at the comedy side of things.
From her first jaw dropping song, to the last and everything in between, the audience was hers. There is a big Broadway musical vibe to her talent and this performance that beautifully balances comedy and tragedy could travel anywhere. If you have listened to her chat with Wil Anderson on his Wilosophy podcast, you will have an idea as to what this autobiographical, origin story is about; innocence, grief, waiting, and learning to walk again after a horrific accident amongst other things. It’s actually very funny, but have a tissue handy. Really.
A lot has happened since Michelle Brasier was awarded the Moosehead to create Average Bear. Part way through the show, like a child who realises she’s outgrown her sleep-time friend, Michelle drops the whole bear thing. She doesn’t need it. She can sing, dance, do outlandish sketch comedy and standup with charm and charisma. The world is waiting for her.
Michelle Brasier performs Average Bear at Comedy Republic til April 18
By Erin Hill
My initial observation of Woke 2.0 was how deftly Aurelia St Clair demonstrates that quintessentially Australian quality of being able to take the piss out of herself. In truth, what Aurelia demonstrates time and time again throughout her show is that the idea of anything being “quintessentially” anywhere is outdated. Aurelia takes the piss out of herself and society with hilarious flair.
This young woman of German and Cameroon descent shares stories spanning her life. The stereotypes of being German, and of being black are contrasted, often at almost exact odds with each other. St Clair skewers the gentrification of dumpster diving as “free-ganism” in the magazines she loved as a teen; much to the horror of her Jehovah’s Witness mother. Her take on the metaphors employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to laud the preservation of virginity was an applause break earning highlight of the show.
Aurelia delivers her material with a sardonic drawl and a winning smile, gleefully aware of the delicate sensibilities of her predominantly Caucasian crowd. Drawing on her unique upbringing this German and Cameroonian Melburnian raised a Jehovah’s Witness almost certainly has a perspective you haven’t considered. And isn’t that what being “woke” is all about.
You can see Aurelia St Clair perform Woke 2.0 at The Victoria Hotel until April 18th
By Erin Hill
Full disclosure, I have been a long-time fan of Adam Hills. Back in the day, I’d watch Spicks and Specks with my mum, not knowing much about the music but every now and then Hamish Blake would be on it, and I always thought that was pretty rad.
My interest spilled out into watching recordings of his stand up, and avidly watching his joyous coverage of the Paralympics. But until this show I had never seen Adam Hills perform live. Of one thing I am sure, Shoes Half Full won’t be the last.
Something that struck me was the masterstroke of keeping the lights dimly up throughout the show. That accompanied with the audience interaction made the whole show feel like less of a performance and more of a story told by the campfire by a family friend with a particular way with words. Hills drew upon, with well-honed precision all those tiny shared experiences of last year; comparing those who went through Melbourne’s lockdown to shell-shocked veterans; “You weren’t there, man! You weren’t there!”
Shoes Half Full was written for the festival in 2019, and Hills largely sticks to the show he intended to perform then, with slight but fitting alterations taking into account the year that was. As is a staple of Hills’ stand up, the audience informs the performance each night, ensuring that every show is different. Another comforting motif of Hills’ performing style is the unapologetic optimism of the show. Hills delivers hopeful, earnest content about family, travel (remember travel?), disability and life in general.
Shoes Half Full explores how to navigate restraint when you are a self-confessed child, and knowing when is the right time to say No. The show also examines the merit of listening to expand your understanding of issues facing those with different life experiences. Hills advises that there is no need to shout; but I’d call this an exception. Shout it from the rooftops, Shoes Half Full is a wonderful, warm and hilarious show.
You can see Shoes Half Full at the Athenaeum Theatre until April 18th.
By Lisa Clark
Chris Ryan has been performing and running rooms in Canberra for seven or so years and won Best Newcomer at the Sydney Comedy festival in 2019. Her first solo Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show feels a bit like she has thrown all her favourite material at a wall hoping it will stick. Quite a bit of it did, she has some very funny ideas, but she lost the audience at one point and the show wasn’t strong enough to fully win us all back.
There are several threads running through Big Hair Big Dreams, much of them lacking context and making a lot of her topics feel a bit shallow and all over the place. The main one seems to be about dreams, though we never quite find out what they are or were, for Chris. She seems unsure, yet feels she’s somehow failed to achieve them. I should’ve realised from her Festival Guide blurb, which she repeats in the show “If any of them had worked out, she would not be doing this show”.
So. Why are we all here?
For a laugh I guess and tonight she gained a lot of laughs from an audience of tipsy, rowdy, middle aged ladies who were sooo up for it. Nudging each other with barely whispered outbursts “It’s so True!” and “That happened to ME!!” etc. A lot of my enjoyment was about how excited and giggly they got about hoarding condiments!
Then about half way through she broke our faith. When we all sympathised with her for being slighted as a teen with a big “AWWW”, instead of rolling with it, she stopped and actually chided us “Oh you BELIEVED that? I just made that up!” The audience was a bit quieter after that. How could we believe or relax and enjoy anything else she told us in her set? She’d had the audience in the palm of her hand and then she threw it away.
She mentions one of her Mum’s dreams at the end of her show but it would’ve been nice to explore the differences between her and her Mum’s dreams earlier, like when she was pitching her funny reality show idea Mum Swap. Some of her darlings should’ve been cut and kept for another time. She has a really dramatic tale to tell towards the end but it sadly felt a bit under written and somewhat tacked on. Maybe it needs more time for reflection. The ending was also a huge letdown after a big lead up. It was like she couldn’t be bothered to commit to it. But maybe that was the point of the show?
Chris Ryan performs Big Hair Big Dreams downstairs at Comedy Republic until April 18