Set List : Stand-Up Without A Net

By Lisa Clark

In a short time (only a couple of years) Set List is becoming an exciting must see for comedy fans and a must do for Stand up artists. Created by Americans Troy Conrad and host Paul Provenza (famous for the Aristocrats film and TV show The Green Room with Paul Provenza), it’s a sort of Theatresports for stand up performers and has become a fixture at both the Edinburgh Fringe and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Last year it was on very late at night, this year it’s been brought forward a little, so it doesn’t clash with Festival Club and it’s easier to get to for those who’d prefer an early night.

A set list is more commonly known as a list of songs performed by a band, for a comedian it’s a list of words or phrases referring to practiced comedy routines that they plan to do for their set, something never usually seen by an audience (unless you glimpse the backs of their hands). At Set List the list is generated for them by the Set List Team and a random phrase pops up on a big screen where the comedians see it for the first time and has to make up a routine around it on the spot.

Like Theatresports or the circus watching it can be as thrilling and terrifying for the audience as it is for the performer. Audiences are encouraged to take part by adding ideas on small slips of paper to the suggestion box which the comedian can reach for during their routine if stuck for an idea. Paul also encourages the audience to join in by not being a Dick. In other words, we’re there to support the comedians and enjoy the fun, rather than heckle and jeer and make it more difficult for them. It encourages a great vibe and a good time can be had by all.

It’s pretty unfair almost pointless to review the performers themselves as there are going to be vast differences depending on the comedian’s experience at improvisation, experience at Set List and the topics they are given. For example a comedian had to cope with a word they clearly didn’t know the meaning of. Generally though, all the performers coped really well and the laughs were pretty much non-stop even if they were occasionally for the wrong reason. Some started strongly on an adrenaline high then gradually lost momentum, possibly from thinking too hard and others started slowly and warmed into it. The latter included Set List virgin Matt Okine who enjoyed explaining why Ski-ing = Racism and veritable veteran Wil Anderson who was gifted the topic Gay Time of the month and could barely be restrained from cracking out line after line about homosexuality and ice-creams.

To give you a taste of the ride we enjoyed that night, we were treated to Felicity Ward with her Heroin vs Crack Insights, Simon Munnery who effortlessly explained the ‘3 Types of Serial Killers I support’, a nervous Celia Pacquola tackled ‘Genocide Sensitivity’ in a surprising and clever way, and Ronny Chieng, as cool and smooth as ever, tried to get ‘8 people to join Scientology.’

This is a fantastic experience for comedy nerds as well as a broadly entertaining show for casual punters to take a group of friends to. There’s bound to be a laugh in this for anyone out to have a good time, only remember don’t be dicks!

Set List is on at The Victoria Hotel

Fan Fiction Comedy

By Lisa Clark

Wil Anderson was smart enough last year to spot a bunch of funny young comedians with the fabulous concept of performing fan fiction live and organised to get them over to Melbourne to share their passions with us. After a very successful run they are back this year and if you know what it’s like to be really into something so much you want to share that love with other people you’ll love this show. Each show is different, with different stories and different special guests, so there are no spoilers here.

Fanfiction comedy has some special one-topic nights such as their Harry Potter night which is great for Harry Potter fans, but generally it’s a bit of a Pot Luck with every performer bringing their own taste to the table. Luckily, even if you are not familiar with one performer’s passion, the stories are usually entertaining for everyone. There are two guest comedians in each show of five stories and we were lucky enough to have Justin Hamilton and Claire Hooper.

Justin, with absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows anything about him, brought us some Dark Knight fan fiction and dark it was too. The joy was barely contained as he made himself the hero in his tale of The Silent Knight. He had the music from the film playing gently underneath his reading at the perfect sound level, He seemed to rush a little, out of excitement perhaps or in that way a nerd rushes to tell you about what they love because they are a little worried they might be boring you and you’ll turn away. Perhaps he was worried that he was playing it straight rather than for laughs. But thankfully there are no rules at FanFiction. As long as it’s entertaining and that it certainly was.

Claire Hooper was a revelation with her sexy Lord of the Rings fan fiction playfully milking a lot of the double entendres with wide-eyed feigned innocence and perfect timing. Claire put a character in the action that sounded remarkably like herself and when it got hot and heavy, it was cute to see Hammo blushing in the background. The story was a hilarious romp from start to finish and Claire had everyone, especially the Lord of the Rings fans, in fits.
The other three storytellers were from the New Zealand team and they were all bloody fabulous too. Joseph Moore did a Rom-com satire using Transformers. Optimus Prime as the hero in a love triangle with Megan Fox and Megatron. The story was littered with funny and clever asides about transformer behaviour and their social etiquette.

Heidi O’Loughlin took us by surprise with some cleverly crafted chronicles about the Nokia mobile phone game of Snake 2. Snake was given a winding backstory that led beautifully to his inevitable ending.
The final fiction was about Harry Potter as told by Tom Furniss who was not a fan of the Potter world. Although it failed in fawning to the dyed in the wool Potter fans, it succeeded as an anti-homophobia fable. It also proved that Fanfiction might often be about children’s fiction, but you probably shouldn’t bring children along.

The host of the hour was the charming Eli Matthewson and there were two judges Joseph Harper, and Steven Boyce on the sidelines giving their thoughts to proceedings, though they seemed fairly unnecessary because the audience were the ultimate judges and they pretty much enjoyed everything.

This has been a popular addition to The Melbourne Comedy Festival scene and the regulars have been making a lot of new fans. It’s also another way to see some of your favourite comedians having fun away from their own shows. Everybody puts their heart and best effort into it and it pays off for performers and audience alike. Best of all Hammo will be returning each Sunday with parts two and three of his Dark Knight Trilogy.

Fan Fiction Comedy is on at the Victoria Hotel

The Horne Section

By Lisa Clark.

Having enjoyed The Horne Section last year, I looked forward to this must see event of the festival with great anticipation. Alex Horn has gathered some great mates around him who happen to be very talented jazz musicians for a late night, big old fashioned, British musical comedy knees up. It is very much of the old music hall tradition and every performance is a bit of a surprise because it depends on the guests appearing and what games come up on the big spinning Wheel of Wonder.

This year Alex and his band have found a much better venue, the bright and sparkly Spiegeltent which is perfect for a musical variety hour, rather than the dark & sticky carpeted Hifi Bar that seemed to dampen the merry atmosphere in 2011. The audience is a middle aged crowd who are revved up and ready for fun, which is just as well, because they take a big part in the evening’s entertainment.

Popping in each night are the special guests who are usually headlining comedians from the festival and they are given the chance to do pretty much what they like with the band. This has seen some truly magical moments in the past as some comedians live out rock star fantasies or turn their comedy into musical jazz poetry. Tonight we had one of those magical experiences when Des Bishop asked for a back-up singer from the audience who happened to be very talented and then performed a searing satirical hip hop rap in the style of Eminem while the band kept up.

Unfortunately there are always those guest comedians who don’t (or can’t?) join in on the musical comedy fun and just manage to do their usual stand-up with a bit of musical accompaniment. Wil Anderson seemed a bit worse for wear when he wandered up the aisle and onto the stage. There was some excitement in the audience around me with the appearance of this superstar of comedy. His routine was excellent, but it was a pity that he was not up to working with the band, which he had to eventually ask to stop because it was taking him out of his rhythm comfort zone.

In between the guest acts, the entertainment is chosen by spinning the Wheel of Wonder. On our night we played Connect 4 using the audience, Alex performed some stunning mimed beatboxing, as well as a disappointing magic trick and the band performed an impressively funny tribute to Australian music.

All the while Alex is the consummate Ring Master, conducting the band, supervising the audience and maintaining the jazzy vibe. He and the band have been working closely for so long now that they bounce off each other effortlessly and have a working shorthand that belies their seeming dictator / minion relationship.

It’s such a pity that this is on so late in the evening because it is a show I would recommend to anyone. Still the late hour adds to the bohemian, anything can happen atmosphere. If you are not keen on audience participation you might want a seat up the back, but I recommend you go with a sense of fun and ready to join in with the party, and you will have a ball.

The Horne Section is on at The Famous Spiegeltent in front of The Arts Centre

Keep an eye on the website for upcoming guests