Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves

By Colin Flaherty

Two brothers, who are shovel salesmen, are on the run from the Russian Mob. They are hiding where they couldn’t possibly be found, in a MICF Show documenting their plight. So begins Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves, a slightly meta and rollicking tale of action, sibling rivalry and violence that created quite some buzz during their run at Adelaide Fringe.

They forgo the straight man plus wacky jokester formula usually associated with double acts. Both title characters are completely bonkers with plenty of misbehaving manchild thrown in. Each has a hand in nudging the plot forward as well as spouting off-kilter lines to amuse and confuse. The peripheral characters, played by the tech guy, a friend and random audience members, are larger than life and bring extra lunacy.

A lot has gone into the sound design. They use sound effects to react to (often poorly with hilarious results) as well as mood music and amusing parody commercials. Lighting cues set the scenes perfectly while a variety of costumes and zany props flesh out this crazy world (one puppet is worth the price of admission alone!). So many items are thrown about the stage and audience that clean up must be a nightmare (hence the late time slot).

Role swapping keeps you on your toes and there are more twists than a mountain road. They successfully manipulate the audience through both wonderful plotting and ideas that seem superfluous on the surface but pay off later. A few scenes only vaguely fit with the story but they’re silly and enjoyable enough, even if they seem shoehorned in or just exist for a few bad puns. Regular festival goers will enjoy the cheeky digs at MICF shows past and present and all will have fun when they burst into song. Corpsing is a regular occurrence and they manage to keep the performance quite loose in spite of the substantial plot to get through.

This is a crazy hour where you will laugh your head off at a couple of masters of comedic surrealism. After your have had more than your fill and stepped through the carnage to the exit, you can purchase a shovel or two.

Blake Everett & Oliver Coleman Dig Their Own Graves is on at Storyville until April 18

Zoë Coombes Marr Agony! Misery!

By Lisa Clark 

Warning! This is a Silly Show. Zoë makes this clear up front. So anyone looking for an hour of dark, edgy, political gear, should change their expectations, relax and enjoy the ride. Zoë’s having fun with a biographical story telling show.

The audience is primed by the house music as we wait, including Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” then “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (I think I sense a theme here….) So I recommend you come early to hear the great tracks. The closing outro song is a corker too and is referenced in the show so I’ll leave it for you to discover.

The world is dark, so Zoë is evoking happier tales from her teen years, in particular, the one of the happiest days of her life. There are references to typical painful teen experiences such as being embarrassed by her changing body, her hippy parents and being clueless about life, but generally, her stories are from “simpler times” and mostly  very silly. The audience are laughing delightedly and she has a great knack of  taking it up a notch by throwing in some hilarious asides and zingers. Apparently this show harkens back somewhat to her first solo Festival show, which I did not see, but did recognise some motifs from previous shows; the banana, reality Vs illusion, the ironic significance of Puppetry of the Penis popping up way too often and she slams down a political quip that had the room exploding with delight.

Previous shows by Zoë, that I’ve seen, have been fairly extreme, with bizarre surprises and basically destroying the joint. Her alternate persona Dave is gone, but Zoë retains his unshakable confidence and has learned to play the audience like an instrument. She had the room laughing, groaning and even cheering throughout. Surprises are still up her sleeve, but there is more of the playful Zoë, enjoying the hell out of her time on stage with her audience.

In Agony! Misery! The Festival award winning Zoë Coombs Marr proves (again) that she is one of Australia’s leading standup comedians and that her shows will continue to dazzle our expectations. You have been warned.

Zoe Coombes Marr Agony! Misery! is on at The Melbourne Town Hall til April 18

Dilruk Jayasinha: Victorious Lion

By Nick Bugeja 

If Dilruk Jayasinha was a cricketer or footballer, you’d be saying that he has hit some pretty good form recently. In 2018, he received a Logie for Most Popular New Talent, has starred on Utopia, and did a stand-up special for Amazon Prime during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. After months out of the game, Jayasinha – like Steve Smith in the 2019 Ashes Series – returned to the playing field in style with Victorious Lion, delivering an engrossing, amusing, and consistently excellent performance.

Despite a slow start to the show, Jayasinha grew quickly into his set. Immediately, it is clear that he has his own unique approach to the art of comedy that is especially upbeat. Jayasinha is grateful for the mere fact that the show could go ahead, in a ‘comedy festival that wasn’t supposed to happen’. He also refuses to berate people that come in late, and his exchanges with the crowd are entirely good-natured. Not once does he pressure anyone to reveal personal information for the benefit of a few laughs. This is something of a rarity among comedians, and Jayasinha can be proud of the respect he shows his fans.

Though, that doesn’t mean Jayasinha’s comedy is ‘clean’ in the Seinfeldian sense. In fact, it’s not clean or family-friendly at all, even if his personality is. Much of the show – including its best parts of it – deals with Jayasinha’s longstanding status as a single man, and with that comes a multitude of jokes of a personal nature. Every couple of minutes one of his stories, lines or jokes would provoke uproarious laughter – a strike-rate most comedians would be incredibly happy with. Interweaved with these jokes is a narrative about Jayasinha’s life: what it’s like to live overseas from one’s family, his drive to become a comedian, and how he coped with the months-long lockdowns of 2020.

Jayasinha has already cultivated a core of fans through his television appearances, and, most certainly, by delivering high-quality stand-up performances. Victorious Lion fits that latter category, and might just well be one of the best shows in the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. If he continues to churn out such hilarious and entertaining sets, then Jayasinha will find himself in the upper echelons of Australian comedy. It may only be a matter of time.

Victorious Lion is showing at the Melbourne Town Hall until 18 April. Tickets are available here:

Lizzy Hoo : Hoo Dis?

By Lisa Clark

The most amazing thing to find out about Lizzy is how new she is to the Australian comedy scene. Originally from Brisbane and now living in Sydney, I’d suspected she’d been honing her craft there for many years but she’s only been doing standup since 2017! She is so relaxed on stage and yet has the commanding and confident presence of someone with ten years’ experience on the boards.

As the title suggests Lizzy is letting us get to know who she is. We begin in the present where she demonstrates her ability to get great laughs out of current politics and the horrible year that some comedians are avoiding like the plague. Her crowd work proves that she’s quick on her feet and has a finely tuned wit. She takes us back to her childhood where she finds a lot of amusing nostalgic anecdotes. Fans of the 90s will find lots to laugh about. There are also tales of her misspent youth under her wild-child non de plume (am hoping she delves deeper into this potentially colourful character in the future).

Things get a bit dark about 2/3s of the way in when Lizzy takes us even further back sharing hardships of previous generations, the wars experienced by her parents and grandparents, and she has the best Y2K gag I’ve ever heard. It’s a belter and made the audience gasp somewhat. But Lizzy isn’t a dark comic, she soon brings us back out into the light even when talking about serious fundamental life choices.

It’s always fantastic to discover a great new comedian. Her confidence is slightly less surprising when you find out she began doing standup in her mid-30s but her comedy voice is strong and her instincts spot on. Lizzy keeps the energy up throughout with joke after joke for the full hour and it was an absolute joy to make her acquaintance.

Hoo Dis? is on at The Melbourne Town Hall (Cloak Room) and Mantra On Russell until April 18

5 Good Reasons To See Cousin Tara: Wukkas

1. Cousin Tara is an award-winning comedian and songwriter with killer pipes and mad-witch energy. She’s that relative who looks like they’d volunteer to build a well in Africa.

2. WUKKAS is an original musical comedy-cabaret with a whole lotta heart and infectious punk rock energy. It was nominated BEST CABARET at Hobart Fringe at the Edge 2020.

3. Buying a ticket to WUKKAS gives you access to the only show in town with koala death metal, soy sauce ballads and educational rap about the importance of friendship.

4. WUKKAS made its Melbourne debut online in June 2020 with support from the City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grants. It was praised for its innovation and excellence. As the year 2020 has now been redacted, however, this presentation now never actually occurred.

5. WUKKAS, as in NO WUKKAS, as in YES, WUKKAS.

Cousin Tara performs Wukkas at The Butterfly Club Apr 12 – 18

Alanta Colley : On the Origin of Faeces

By Colin Flaherty

Comedian and science communicator Alanta Colley is back at the festival with On the Origin of the Faeces, a show based on a beloved topic of playground humour: Poop! She explored the physiology of defecation and Gut Microbiome as well as the cultural, religious and historical aspects.

It was not just a show about excrement, she also covered shame, anxiety and being out of your comfort zone. A number of hilariously embarrassing scenarios from her life (all involving poop) were presented for our squirming pleasure.

Like most comedic lectures, there were a few stretches where facts overwhelmed the jokes but on the whole the balance was fine as she regularly followed up the data with zingers and groaners. Colley used every opportunity to use a poo pun, both as a punchline and in the segment titles displayed on screen. Humorous political analogies served double duty by clarifying points and satirising the political machine

The stage was a sparse affair with Colley standing stage right at the microphone and a monitor at the left. She used slides to illustrate the anatomy involved and provide visual aides to punchlines. The performance wasn’t particularly animated as she related her tales, instead relying on expressive voice and facial expressions to colour the stories. This didn’t hurt the impact of the material but it did make it feel more like a lecture than a comedy performance. It was entirely understandable as concentrating on the dense script of facts and figures was slightly more important than bouncing around the stage.

Not a show for the prudish, this was a fascinating and amusing performance that took a base topic of comedy and gave it a somewhat respectable air. Fear not connoisseurs of potty humour, you will still get your fill as you learn a thing or two.

On the Origin of Faeces is on at The Butterfly Club until April 4