Pajama Party

By Lisa Clark 

Sarah Jones and Nicholas Johnson are having a Pajama Party and none of their guests show up but it still manages to be a fun party. How could it not be with a magician and a ventriloquist running things?

Pajama Party has all the elements you might expect from a good party, including, party games, party food, entertainment, a DVD to watch and stories to tell. Fairly dark stories. Darkness plays a big part in this show. Whether it is the perfectly, comically timed blackouts or the content of a lot of the material that often turns corners into wrongtown. Sarah and Nicholas manage to balance a precarious relationship of bickering best friends who occasionally cross the line and come back to winning us and each other over.

Although the show is a series of sketches, it never feels sketchy. The performance flows as seamlessly as the events of a well organised party. The voice of a radio DJ is used cleverly throughout to connect scenes and pull it all together. There is a lot of prop comedy and the audience is coerced into pulling their weight.

Sarah Jones and Nicholas Johnson are both proven performers in their own right. Although perhaps better known for their ventriloquist and magic skills, they can hold their own on any standup bill as they have worked hard at building their comedy skills and here their brilliant magic and vent skills are the icing on the cake rather than the other way around as is often the case. In Pajama Party Nicholas performs one of the most famously impressive card tricks there is but he subverts the showstopper so that the laughs have priority and it is one of the most impressive comedy/magic bits I’ve seen in a long time.

There is a lot of subverting going on in Pajama Party, every element has been given an unexpected twist and it’s not surprising it was nominated for a Golden Gibbo Award at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For a seemingly ramshackle low-fi Fringe show, it’s actually a pretty polished affair and the experience of Sarah and Nicholas shines. They also make a really enjoyable team and I can highly recommend you accept their party invitation.

Pajama Party is on at The Imperial Hotel until Sept 29

5 good reasons to see Pajama Party

1. It’s just like a party! But with more sitting in the dark, facing forward and laughing.

2. During our Adelaide run, a dog ran across the stage in the middle of the show. Can you believe it? A dog! It probably won’t happen again but you really can’t afford to take that chance.

3. You can show up in your sleepwear and no will look at you funny. Unless you sleep in the nude.

4. Two Words: Fairy Bread. Did you know Australia is the only country in the world with fairy bread? Look it up. It’s true. Not like that thing we made up about the dog running across the stage in Adelaide

5. If our show was a baked good it would be one of those Pork Floss buns from Breadtop. Equal parts sweet and terrifying.

Sarah Jones and Nicholas Johnson perform Pajama Party at The Downstairs Lounge @ The Swanston Hotel for the first two weeks of the festival. 

Shows at 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival that have previously been reviewed by Squirrel Comedy.

By Lisa Clark

Waiting for reviews to come in to make a decision about what shows you are seeing this year? Well we’ve already reviewed quite a lot of shows that are on at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Of course some of the shows reviewed here may have been reworked, improved or changed in some way. Hang the DJ has a new DJ, Eddie Pepitonne’s show isn’t called Bloodbath and some of these shows will be different at every performance. Hopefully the past reviews that you will find linked here in alphabetical order will give you an idea of what to expect and help you work out what you are going to see this year. Look out for our new reviews from this years comedy festival, coming soon to Squirrel Comedy!



Aunty Donna’s first show Aunty Donna in Pants Suits got them nominated for a Golden Gibbo Award, this new show, originally performed at Melbourne Fringe 2012 made them winners of the People’s Choice Award. Aunty Donna are a sketch troupe of four guys performing very adult humour. Cathy enjoyed it and thought it was ‘a very slick production. It’s tightly scripted and well-performed.’

Aunty Donna will be late at The Portland Hotel



Ben’s show is a collaboration with the audience to explore the nature of putting on a comedy show. Elyce thought the show was fun and that’ the more the audience puts into this show, the more you will get back’.

Ben Pobjie will be on at Gertrude’s Brown Couch



I adored Eddie when I first saw him in Edinburgh at the recording of Stuart Goldsmiths’  Comedian’s Comedian podcast. I knew I had to see his solo show Blood Bath and was not disappointed. I described him as ‘arse-achingly funny’.

Eddie’s solo show is on at 11pm on April 5th at Victoria Hotel – Banquet Room

He’ll be doing seven shows as part of Headliners

and there will be a showing of his documentary Bitter Buddha is on at the Hifi Bar 4pm on April 6th



Felicity’s only appearance at this year’s comedy festival will be a reprise of her stunning, hilarious and moving show The Hedgehog Dilema. She’s filming it for prosperity and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was one of the first shows I saw last year and her story stayed with me for a long time. ‘Her ability to keep the audience in stitches throughout all of this is a testament to her stunning talent.’

The Hedgehog Dilemma will be on at the Atheneum Theatre on April 15



Cathy thought that it was criminal that Louise Joy McCrae and Nicolette Minster don’t have higher comedy profiles on the Australian Comedy Scene in her review from Melbourne Fringe 2012

They’re performing at Portland Hotel in the Portland Room



This now has a different DJ to the one reviewed at Melbourne Fringe 2012. But Andy is still there in a show where he gets to share his passion for music and hilarious tales of being a DJ. Colin said ‘This fusion of comedy, music and dancing was a brilliant way to end an evening.’

Hang the DJ is on late at Trades Hall in the Quilt Room<



Originally directed by Julia Zemiro for the 2012 Melbourne Fringe, I thought this one woman play was ‘a  pretty light and fluffy soufflé of a show that would suit a girls’ night out or hen’s night’

Aleisha will be performing at Trades Hall – The Meeting Room til April 7th



When I first saw Live on Air it was really a work in progress but I still found it very entertaining and Telia was ‘able to consistently create new ways to make her audience laugh with her clever poetry and personas.’ She’s apparently put a lot of work in it since so it should be a pretty fabulous show.

Live on Air will be on at The Northcote Town Hall



Based on his own true experience appearing on Today Tonight and Cathy thought it was ‘a cracker’

Today Tonight, Tomorrrow the World will be at Comedy on Collins at The Scots Church Assembly Hall



In the tradition of Alan Partridge and Dame Edna amongst other purveyors of Theatre of Cruelty, Rob Hunter’s interview show satirises chat shows while being pretty mean to the guests, who are mostly in on the joke. Our reviewer wasn’t when he saw it at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival and did not have a very good time as he explained ‘ The MICF blurb about this show being “uncomfortably tense” and “not for the squeamish” was a freaking understatement for me personally’ Well if Rob Hunter is hoping to provoke strong reactions, it certainly worked with Andrew who gifted Rob with the poster quote ‘I fucking hated this show’ . We’ll be giving another reviewer a go at it this year.

Late O’Clock with Rob Hunter is on at Melb Town Hall  in the Cloak Room



Simon Munnery has been around a long time is always up to something creative, original and silly. We think Simon is a comedy genius and this was the highlight of Colin’s 2012 Edinburgh Fringe. He describes it thusly; ‘Broadcast via video link from the middle of the room, he performs sketches, monologues, puppetry and songs to camera using all sorts of video trickery to create a unique and hilarious show.’

Simon is performing at The Victoria Hotel in the Vic’s Bar



This was a show that blew the minds of everyone who saw it at last year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. You came out wondering ‘What the hell was that?’ and ‘Why am I still still laughing hours later?’ Beautifully designed, sharply written with clever catchy songs, surprises and lots of rude bits. Colin said ‘It’s a sick, twisted and perverted play that’s gutbustingly hilarious.’

Slutmonster will be Strutting her stuff at the Northcote Town Hall



Alasdair gives us two shows for the price of one in what Cathy describes as ‘some entertaining and delightfully original comedy’

Trying Hard is on at the Forum Theatre – Carpet Room



Victoria Healy is not very comfortable with her body but manages to spend an hour exploring it for laughs. Elyce described Healy as ‘a quick-witted and talented comedic performer, who is only getting better and better at her craft.’

Victoria is on at the Imperial Hotel

The Art of the YouTube Promo

by Colin Flaherty

Comedians have been using YouTube as a promotional tool for their Festival shows for several years now. One of the most notable was by Australian expatriate Yanni for his 2012 Edinburgh show “Numb and Number” (It’s still online on his YouTube Channel ). In the lead up to this years’ Melbourne Comedy Festival, it seems as though every comedian and their tech savvy dog has filmed a video to lure punters to their show.

Some videos simply have the performer addressing the camera to tell you what to expect from their show, usually with a wacky angle to prevent it from becoming too dry. Others present an excerpt from the show to literally give the potential audiences a taste of the actual performance.

The road of YouTube trailers is rife with dangerous pitfalls. A rough, quick shoot with a handycam may paint the whole production as amateurish (unless this is exactly what you are aiming for!). A lengthy running time may be too much for the short attention spans of some folk unless it has a rewarding punchline.

Amongst the deluge of promotional material are some wonderful examples of promo videos that rise above the mere show reel and really make a lasting impression…

For his show Can you do this? No you can’t, Ronny Chieng runs literally with the title and presents a montage of mundane tasks to prove that he can do anything better than a mere mortal. It gives you a clear idea of what to expect from Ronny and his hyper confident stage persona.

Utilising various colourful online characters for a nominal fee, Nicholas J Johnson has created a series of videos (the above puppet example is my personal favourite) to sell his show Today Tonight, Tomorrow The World. It has a very shyster air that is appropriate for this show about the dirty tabloid world of “Current Affairs” television and his work in general as swindler extraordinaire.

Ross Daniels has gone the music video route (there is also a full length version of this song here) to promote his character piece about 80s Synth Pop musician Graham Clone for the show The Future is Incorrect. It is so well done that it could easily pass as an actual music video of the period in spite of the numerous silly touches.

For their new show Once Were Planets, Watson employ spiffy animation. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy styled infographics format fits in perfectly with the subject matter and includes many of the pop cultural references that are littered throughout a Watson show.

Lawrence Leung takes a leaf out of Yanni’s book by editing some existing television footage and inserting himself into the action. Rather than re-edit all the dialogue to suit his plot, he cleverly works around the existing lines of Benedict Cumberbatch to create a wonderful humourous exchange. A clever and entertaining invite to his Part Time Detective Agency.

Ronny Chieng’s Can you do this? No you can’t is on at Melbourne Town Hall – Council Chambers

Nicholas J Johnson’s Today Tonight, Tomorrow The World is on at Comedy On Collins

Ross Daniels’ Graham Clone: The Future is Incorrect – is on at Three Degrees

Watson’s Once Were Planets is on at Trades Hall – Old Council Chambers

Lawrence Leung’s Part Time Detective Agency is on at Swiss Club

Nicholas J Johnson – Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World

By Cathy Culliver

Nicholas J Johnson’s new show begins with the sentiment that “critics are jerks”. Well I never. In that case, Mr Johnson … No, I can’t do it. As much as I’d like to get him back, it just wouldn’t be fair. Some critics are jerks. And Today Tonight, Tomorrrow the World is too good a show to give it a bad review.

Based on his experiences appearing on everyone’s favourite “current affairs” show (and I use those quotation marks very ironically), Johnson takes the audience through the background and the reasoning that lead to him selling his soul to appear on Today Tonight.

Johnson is better known around the country as “Australia’s Honest Con Man”, and spends his time educating folks on how to avoid being tricked into parting with their hard-earned cash.

Which is, according to Johnson, why Today Tonight hired him; they wanted a con man to trick unsuspecting members of the public out of their money so they
could swoop in with their cameras and prove that everyone is a gullible idiot, presumably.

Johnson’s re-telling of his experience is not only entertaining and very funny, but also a fascinating look behind the scenes of how these television types operate.

I wouldn’t call it an expose, because really, who wasn’t already aware that Today Tonight was dodgy as all hell? But Johnson’s experiences certainly reiterate why the show is perceived as such a scourge on Australian television.

Aside from his con artistry skills, Johnson proves he’s also a damn good comedian. He’s warm and engaging, but at same time delightfully unpredictable. The moments in the show when he pulls the rug out from beneath you make for some of the funniest and most memorable.

You have to wonder whether this is a cathartic experience for Johnson; a way to finally be at peace with what those bad TV men made him do.

But since just after calling me a jerk he also made us all promise not to give away the ending, I won’t tell you how he eventually finds a way to sleep at night. But I will say it’s a cracker.

Today Tonight, Tomorrow the World is showing at Club Voltaite, North Melbourne until Saturday 6th October.

More information can be found in the Fringe Guide

The Peer Revue

By Lisa Clark

If the success of Big Bang Theory and the IT Crowd are anything to go by geek comedy is the New Black and there is a lot of it about during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. Peer Revue is a comedy show by a group of science boffins who are out to convince comedy audiences that science is fun and funny. In fact they are backed by a CSIRO program called re- science

The Venue is appropriately the elegant Kelvin Club, named for great physicist Lord Kelvin who has units of measurement named after him. There’s a lovely big painting of him in the performance space. The performers pay tribute to him at the beginning of the night in appropriately formal tones. They soon toss off their smoking jackets to don their ‘Hey kids! Science is really rad!’ personas. They are daggy and endearing and after all the silly intros each performer takes the stage in turn to share their particular scientific passion with us.

First up is one of the most famous faces in Melbourne Geek Comedy Ben McKenzie. Ben is involved in giving informative comedy tours of the Melbourne Museum and in the comedy Role Playing show The Dungeon Crawl amongst other things. For his portion of the show he has hit upon the intriguing idea of explaining the famously intimidating tome A Brief History of Time by physicist Stephen Hawkings. He begins by finding out how many people in the audience own the book (in our case one ) and how many people have actually read it (again one, but a different person). Ben then takes us through eleven chapters in the book and sums them up one by one using the briefest of amusing anecdotes. I can’t verify his accuracy but it was fun to watch what I assume were actual physicists who were nodding and laughing, even clapping enthusiastically, as he nailed each of Hawking’s theories. Everyone else had a good laugh and definitely ended up feeling a little bit
smarter after Ben’s section. I learned that Black Holes are ninjas & cool.

Simon Pampena was a big contrast in personality… to probably everyone in the room. He reminded me of Garden Guru Costa Georgiadis but his geek passion is maths with an enthusiasm that borders on the psychotic. He is quite shouty, which is a bit confronting in the genteel Kelvin Club, and I got the impression that his act was designed for performing in a pub or some such rowdy comedy venue. He had two major maths theories to explain to us and for the first one he used the Olympics medal tally. I could see that a pub crowd would be excited about sports statistics but the people around me were not that excited. He went on to explain Pythagoras’ Theorem involving triangles and his style went from aggressive to something a bit like Sam Simmons and I enjoyed it a lot more. He also had a fun PowerPoint presentation and had the audience rocking with laughter.

After a brief interval and sojourn to the bar it was time to learn about cephalopods from Trent McCarthy. It was described as ecology science but it was mostly silly stuff about octopi. His opening bit dressed as an octopus was cute but a bit of a let down to anyone who wasn’t in the front row, because we couldn’t see him. He either needs a higher stool or they should film him and show it on the screen. I also wanted to know more about his aunt’s historic survival of a box jellyfish sting and more fabulous wacky facts about cephalopods, but after a brief introduction to the mimic octopus he just went on to take some cheap shots at politicians. It did end well with a very successful and harmless bit of audience participation demonstrating cephalopod coitus that was a lot of fun.

Nicholas J Johnson was unsurprisingly the most charismatic of the performers of the night. As a former scammer, being inviting & charming is his stock in trade in the same way that in a geek it is generally not. His science was about psychology, human behaviour and hormones. His set relied heavily on audience participation and a camera was trained on his hands so everyone could see his close up magic. He did the old balls under cups routine and showed us how easy it is to trick the eye and mind with simple movements. It reminded me a little of Lawrence Leung, delightfully astonishing and a great crowd pleaser.

Although opening night was a little patchy, it is a fun night and would suit a group of friends with scientific tendencies who want lots of laughs with some learning. Considering the range of topics and the pizzazz of the performers I’m sure there would be something to enjoy for everyone.