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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/zoe-coombs-marr

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:

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/dilruk-jayasinha

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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/lizzy-hoo#

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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/on-the-origin-of-faeces

Geraldine Hickey : What a Surprise

By Erin Hill

It comes as absolutely no surprise that Geraldine Hickey is a very funny comedian. Astute observations delivered in Hickey’s gently wry tone kept the audience chuckling for the hour. But what did come as a very welcome surprise was how genuine and heart-warming What a Surprise was.

Hickey opens the show with the necessary 2020 disclaimer, acknowledging that the show was written B.C. (Before COVID). The show largely centres on Hickey’s experience of turning forty, and navigating the “surprise” birthday party she forced her partner to throw. Hickey’s recollections of previous years of hastily-thrown-together last-minute parties, fielding text message after text message of apologies and well-wishes struck a particular nerve; eliciting a guttural laugh of recognition.
It brought about an odd sense of nostalgia to recall all the social faux pas that come with birthdays you can spend around other people; like how do you mention it without coming across like a five-year-old, and how do you manage your expectations when it comes to the calibre of “surprise” event? Hickey’s observation that even at the age of forty, your idea of the highest level of excellence and prestige can still be ‘the presence of a bouncy castle’ was truly inspiring.

What a Surprise also speaks to what it means to be in a relationship and the things we do to please, delight and surprise the people we care about. Hickey’s tale of her determination to acquire a ring from the elusive “hairy finger man of Instagram’ is worth the price of admission alone. Brief glimpses into inside jokes between Hickey and her now fiancé, snapshots over years of a relationship highlight the trust Hickey places in her audience. In kind, that trust speaks to Hickey’s prowess; a seasoned performer who has faith in her own ability to get the audience on side.

What a Surprise was a joy to behold. Hickey makes sharp observations with finesse and apparent ease. The stories she shared remind us of a time when a thrill-seeking activity meant zip-lining and not drawing blood in Woolies over a packet of Kleenex Cottonelle. But the unexpected feeling walking out of the show is the overwhelming sense of warmth and sweetness Hickey manages to impart in just one hour. What a Surprise is a pleasant surprise in that.

What a Surprise at The Supper Room in Melbourne Town Hall until April 18

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/geraldine-hickey

Lano & Woodley in Lano & Woodley

By Nick Bugeja

It’ll serve as no surprise that the stars of Lano and Woodley are, indeed, Lano and Woodley, one of the most successful Australian comedy duos ever. After formally reuniting after 20 years in 2018 with the show Fly, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted their revived partnership for the best part of a year. But now they’re back (again), this time delivering a show, full of sketch and slapstick skits that will please their fanbase and newcomers alike.

Lano and Woodley isn’t easily describable, but anyone with the faintest familiarity with them would immediately recognise their chaotic, frenzied comedic style. Yet, there is also a meaningful design to the proceedings; it’s amply clear that much planning has gone into the choreography and rhythm of individual scenes and the show as a whole. The songs – of which there are many – demonstrate this quality, especially when Lano and Woodley sing together in unwitting, conflictual duets. Of course, both of them are equally capable improvisors, with Lane playfully berating some front-row latecomers over the entire show, while Woodley humorously riffed off an audience member’s unexpected profession. Even when one of them misspoke stuttered over a line, that sometimes spawned new comedic openings. Lesser performers would have let this temporarily derail their show.

Although both excellent comedians in their own right, Lano and Woodley go up a notch together. The essence of their partnership is the oppositional styles they adopt. Lano is irritable and supercilious, Woodley credulous and blinkered, comedically embodying the ancient Yin and Yang principle. The set-up is often similar, but always rewarding: Woodley persists in his idiocy – like believing ‘Artica’ is a real place – to the point where Lano cannot help but unleash his frustration.

Woodley has the better of the two roles, and more comic freedom to generate the biggest laughs. He is Australia’s best ‘wacky’ comedian by some distance. Though Lano is hardly left the scraps, and makes the most of the spotlight on several occasions over the course of the show. His rendition of the ‘moving’ song, ‘100 green bottles on the wall’, just about matches Woodley’s ludicrousness.

At one stage, Lano remarked to no one in particular ‘I’m not sure if this qualifies as entertainment’ in the aftermath of an especially risible episode. The crowd, cheering, clapping, and laughing throughout, most certainly thought so. Of all the shows veering outside the parameters of traditional stand-up, Lano and Woodley is probably the most memorable of them.

Lano and Woodley is showing at the Arts Centre (Playhouse) until 4 April.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/lano-woodley