Squirrel Comedy Writers list our Top Five Favourite Shows at the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

It’s impossible to get out to see every show at the festival. Especially for the Squirrel writers, as most of us have full time jobs in the real world. In the past when we were The Groggy Squirrel we gave an award for our favourite Australian show but it was always difficult for all of us to see the shows on our shortlist.
This year we’ve decided that each reviewer can list their Five Favourite  Shows of the Festival instead. It’s still a really difficult thing to do and some of us have seen more shows than others. We may even see a show that changes our list in the next few days, but this is what we have so far.

Hopefully these insights might help you plan your final few days of the festival.

LISA CLARK
1 Justin Hamilton – The Goodbye Guy
What a way to go. A stunning show about tying up his career, putting his effects in order and stepping out into the future. So Long & Thanks for all the Funny, Hammo.
2. Sam Simmons- About the weather
This was definitely better than last year’s award winning show. It had everything he’s famous for, plus a delicate structure and sweet romance.
3. Daniel Kitson – Where Once There Was Wonder
He makes shows for audiences who like to use their brains though he makes us do it at nearly midnight. A show about self growth and doing & thinking things you never thought would be possible. The reason I’ve not ranked it higher, is that, as much as I adore being in His presence, I felt it could have been edited down a little. (OMG did I criticise Daniel’s gorgeous work? EEK)
4.Felicity Ward – The Hedgehog Dilema
She just seems to get better and better every time I see her and she’s only been doing this for a few years. Seeing her break down on stage talking about her mum this year was achingly lovely. More importantly she’s the kind of comedian that can really make me nearly fall off my chair laughing and that’s happening every time I see her lately.
5.Hannah Gadsby – Hannah Wants a Wife
Hannah used one of my favourite paintings The Portrait of the Arnolfini (& other great art) as the basis for her show about gender throughout history. Great to see her tying her passions together to create an inspiring show. Her stage presence gets more relaxed and playful and better for it.

Runners up: Lessons with Luis, Plus One, Sarah Kendall & Tie her to the Tracks

Shows that I loved that were not Festival shows as such: The Shelf, Somebody To Love – The annual musical benefit for the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre at Trades (this year it was the music of Queen) and Puppet Slam at St Ali

CATHY CULLIVER
1. Dr Brown – Befrdfgth
Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before but so, so funny. The man’s a genius.
2. Simon Amstell – Numb
He’s so clever, so hilarious. I would marry him in a heartbeat if only he liked women. I must find out how he feels about sham marriage …
3. Paul Foot – Still Life
Absurd, silly humour but a very fun show.
4. Slow Clap – Truth
A great production from some very talented Melbournians. Totally original.
5.Hannah Gadsby – Hannah Wants a Wife
A funny but also very interesting show. Hannah is really likeable and has that natural comic timing that makes it all look so easy.

JAYDEN EDWARDS
1. Tom Ballard – Doing Stuff
Tom is the future of comedy in this country, and tearing the present to shreds.
2. Dave Thornton – The Some of All the Parts
Stand-up just doesn’t get much better that this. Just straight, witty, accessible stand-up.
3. Sam Simmons- About the weather
Sam just keeps getting better and better. One of the best experiences of the festival, year after year.
4. Tommy Dassalo- Pipsqueak
The little buddy that could! Tommy is quick, witty and so damn likable! Comedy with big soul.
5. Triple J’s Good Az Friday
Quickly becoming a major highlight of the festival! And great value… FREE!

COLIN FLAHERTY
1. Lessons with Luis – Kidney Kingdom
Three daggy, naive characters executed perfectly. It’s a shame that the run was so short.
2. Daniel Kitson – Where Once There Was Wonder
His first stand up show in years was a masterclass in how to hold an audience captiv(at)e(d) for about 2 hours.
3. Justin Hamilton – The Goodbye Guy
A brilliant wrap up for all those who have followed Hammo’s Festival oeuvre.
4. Ronny Chieng – The Ron Way
Ronny keeps you laughing all the while he talks down to you. Some serious comedy chops from this guy.
5. The Underlads – Living On Limbo Lane
A high energy show of extreme silliness. Seriously crude, clever and fun.

ELYCE PHILLIPS
1. Daniel Kitson – Where Once Was Wonder
Kitson’s stand-up is incredibly thought provoking, and then cleverly undercuts every thought it provokes.
2. Asher Treleaven – Troubadour
Treleaven’s shows just get better every year. I think the main improvement this year was the inclusion of sexy diabolo. All shows could use sexy diabolo.
3. Mike McLeish and Fiona Harris – Plus One
Hilarious, poignant, and the closing musical number was my favourite thing this festival.
4. Sarah Kendall – Persona
Always intelligent, occasionally cringe-inducing, with a bedtime story at the end that is morally ‘grey’ at best.
5. Victoria Healy – Independent Women Part 2
Wonderfully nostalgic, uproariously funny and full of bogan charm.

ANNETTE SLATTERY
1. David O’Doherty presents Rory Sheridan’s Tales of the Antarctica
This adorable and hilarious show contains my favourite phrase of the festival: “cat and kitten care” (say it out loud…in an Irish accent)
2. Justin Hamilton – The Goodbye Guy
Wrapping up a decade of shows – it’s a hell of a way to say goodbye!
3. Celia Pacquola – Delayed
Hard to believe – but she just keeps getting better each year.
4. Josh Earl is XXX
Awesome tunes and rocking stand up, looking forward to seeing him at XL.
5. Nick Coyle – Me Pregnant
This peculiar and touching story isn’t getting nearly the kind of attention it deserves this festival.

Also recommended: Danny McGinlay Learns Ukrainian; Michael Chamberlin – Joy & Despair; Simon Amstell – Numb; Dr Toby Halligan is Not a Dr

Justin Hamilton – The Goodbye Guy

By Lisa Clark

In 2007 Justin Hamilton changed the way he did festival shows and raised the bar for everyone when he performed his gorgeous, melancholy trilogy of shows about his love for Melbourne, a lost relationship and growing up in Adelaide, Three Colours Hammo. If any of you have been hanging out for another episode of the trilogy this is as close as it’s going to get. What’s more, it’s better.

Justin Hamilton is one of the best comedians in Australia and a master of taking his brilliant, hilarious stand up routines and working a sublime story around them in such a way that the whole feels organic and complimentary. Despite obscuring what is true and what is fantasy, it all feels like it’s coming from Justin’s gut. The plot of The Goodbye Guy revolves around an alternate yet hauntingly similar version of Justin who is famous for writing a humorous blog on a website called ‘The Crooked Smile’ but the culture has changed, it’s no longer making him happy and he’s struggling to realise that it’s time to change his life and move on.

Along for the ride, fans will be rapt to discover, are some familiar characters from the past. They include his nemesis, Jason Harrington (from The Killing Joke and Goodbye Ruby Tuesday) as the repugnant, successful, mainstream comedian made good and Kaliope his wise and mystical muse from Three Colours Hammo. These two play the good angel and the bad angel on Justin’s allegorical journey through his life and career. His comedy routines take the part of the blogs he’s written for the fictional website. Some of the routines are borne out of his actual blog and it is thrilling to enjoy them performed live. There are also tales as old as the hills appearing like old friends and new ones that had me falling about. Despite the many in-jokes for fans and those in the comedy community, Hamilton remains the everyman gag meister with hilarious stories about being mistaken for a New Zealand icon while touring with Greg Fleet and his inability to chat up women that will appeal to all.

Hamilton’s writing is cinematic with darkly humorous and romantic influences that include Woody Allen and, George Clooney’s film Up in the Air. Although it doesn’t stop being funny, there is a point where the stand up is left behind and that comes when Justin sits at his laptop to write his final blog ‘The Goodbye Guy’ while Bernard Fanning’s lovely ‘Weekend of Mystery’ plays for quite a lengthy time in a scene not unlike something from one of Daniel Kitson’s best story shows. A brilliant storyteller in his own right, Hamilton stretches beyond stand up to create theatre that’s more captivating and visceral than most of the stuff being produced by well funded theatre companies.

There are usually many shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival that advertise themselves as ‘must see’, but I can’t imagine that there will be anything as essential to this years festival experience as this. Justin makes it very clear that this will be his last festival show for the foreseeable future and although it is a devastating loss (because he is so damned good at it) I can’t wait to find out where Justin takes his talent from here. It’s a show about grief, about dealing with change, but most of all it’s about hope for the future and letting the child within dream.

The Goodbye Guy is on at The Victoria Hotel.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/the-goodbye-guy-justin-hamilton/

 

Justin Hamilton somehow finds time to explain The Shelf Podcast

By Lisa Clark

The Shelf Podcast accompanies a comedy room curated by yourself and Adam Richard, was there always going to be a companion podcast?

That was always the plan.  We originally wanted to record the game show and put that up as a podcast but it would have cost way too much to put together.   We may do something like that in the future but for now it will be Adam and I with the occasional guest.

Was the podcast always planned to keep going at times when the show itself was not on?

Definitely.  Since we decided that The Shelf would be produced season to season the idea of a podcast that bridged the gap was always the plan.

You are both workaholics from what I can gather and have discussed on The Shelf the stress this can create.

Apart from preparing for upcoming festival shows Adam Richard has recently hosted the Showdown on Sunday afternoons and Justin Hamilton has been in Adelaide for The Fringe Festival.

Justin Hamilton – The blog and Podcasts Can You Take this Photo Please? And Dig Flicks

Adam Richard, – The radio gig/s, online blogs, promoting Outland and looking after Fab’s online presence as well as podcast The Poofcast.

Have I missed anything?

The work Adam does every day for radio is out of control.  I think he works three different markets every morning all over Australia so it isn’t just Fox FM in Melbourne.  I am staggered at the amount of work that goes into what appears to be a breezy grab each day.

I have also been producing a late night show in Adelaide for the Fringe Festival while working for the Talk Fringe website interviewing performers and audience.   While in Adelaide I also hosted the Adelaide Comedy Gala, performed in the Adelaide Debate and hosted the South Australian final of Raw Comedy. I produce and host a show out in Berwick that happens once a month.  I also have a weekly movie and TV review spot for Botica’s Bunch in Perth, their number one breakfast radio show that I’ve been lucky to be a part of for the last five years.  In my spare time I am finishing up the latest draft of my first manuscript that will hopefully see the light of the day at the end of the year. 

Oh…and I’m directing Tegan Higginbotham’s first solo MICF show. 

You’re only here for a short time, no point in lounging around.  People are quite surprised to know I’m usually working anywhere between 9am to midnight most days.  I know people don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m busy but this is what my life has been like for at least the last five years.

How does the Shelf podcast fit in with the other podcasts you both do?

This is 100% what Adam and I sound like when the mics aren’t on.  That is one of the things we love about the podcast and I think it has worked even better while I’m in Adelaide.  We really are just catching up.  If you listen to our latest podcast you will hear us talk about everything from Yumi Stynes to The Dark Knight Rises to my disdain for bread that won’t toast properly.  “Can You Take This Photo Please?” is more about interviewing comedians and the like about their process and history in regards to their craft with anecdotes to pepper the tales while “Helliar and Hammo Dig Flicks!” is really just two movie buffs getting extremely nerdy with each other and our guests.

Do you see this as an avenue to explore different topics to your other podcasts?

We literally do no preparation for the Shelfcast.  Invariably when the show starts is exactly when we’ve begun talking to each other.  I love the spontaneity of it.  I’m as surprised as anyone to hear what we’ve talked about when I listen back to the show.

Has the podcast has morphed into something beyond its original scope?

The great thing about podcasts is that is there is no governing regulation stating what makes a good show and what makes a bad show.  Therefore it is completely creative and isn’t trapped by a set of didactic guidelines that try to dictate how a podcast should work.  I would hope that all the podcasts I’m involved with are slowly morphing over time.  My prediction is once they introduce podcasts awards; if they haven’t already; we’ll see a conservatism begin to sneak in as people chase the “prize”.

You often talk about how you love to get together and chat at your favourite café. I think you’ve captured that well on the podcast. Listening in to your conversations is like sitting at a nearby table and listening in to your private conversations. Do you sometimes forget that there is an Audience listening?

Without a doubt.

Have you thought about the difference between performing this sort of chat live & it being recorded for posterity?

When you’re performing live there is a sense of responsibility to go for the laughs more but since people are listening to podcasts driving or going for a jog etc I think there is an easy going nature to just recording your conversations and letting the jokes flow a bit more naturally.  It is good to think about what you’re saying though.  I was quoted from one podcast recently in regards to the Jim Schembri scandal.  You never know who is listening out there.

Are the recordings edited afterwards?

Adam and I don’t but we’ve had guests on who like to change something a little bit later.

In the first series, last year I noticed that you had some Shelf regulars as guests, such as Tegan Higginbotham and Gatesy and Not as many guests in 2nd series of podcasts.

That is purely down to time and distance.  I’m still in Adelaide and Adam can call me first thing in the morning to record.  Have you ever attempted to organise a gaggle of comics?  It can be a nightmare!

Can we expect that the live Shelf shows during Melbourne International Comedy Festival will be like the previous versions of the show?

I think there will be elements that will be similar, there will be the chat with Adam and I, possibly even some guests for that part.  I remember the night we flew Wil Anderson down just for the chat was a highlight.  I also enjoyed performing an old Bunta Boys song with Gatesy a lot.  I hadn’t warbled in public in over 12 years!  The singing might have needed some work but it was gratifying to see a 15-year-old comedy song still get big laughs.  We’re re-introducing the game show for the MICF.  We will also have a few new regulars and special guests.  We’ll always keep you guessing.  The idea behind the show was never to reinvent comedy.  The idea was to provide a show that was exactly that:  a show.  That way we could intertwine skits, character comedy, stand up, musical comedy and games.  I’m very proud of everyone who was involved in the first two seasons, I think it inspired them to some of their best work yet.  This was the kind of room I would have loved to have seen when I was a young man.

Monday nights are becoming increasingly popular for performers. Please give our readers 5 reasons to choose to come and see The Shelf during The Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

  1. 1.     We have some very special guests who are going to make cameos every night alongside our regular crew.
  2. 2.     For a measly $25 you will be treated to a two-hour show that is unlike any comedy show in Australia. 
  3. 3.     You will see some of your favourite acts in a way that you’re not used to seeing them eg Gatesy performing stand up, Wil not performing stand up, Tegan Higginbotham and Adam Rozenbachs nailing the news etc
  4. 4.     You won’t see this show on TV because we want this show to be naughty, dangerous and exciting…something that TV executives just don’t understand.  This is what a comedy night should be.
  5. 5.     European Man.
You can listen to the podcast from The Shelf website  http://shelvers.com.au/

You can get tickets or a season pass to see the naughty, dangerous and exciting The Shelf live during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival here

The Shelf season 1, 2011.

By Lisa Clark

To Celebrate our Featured Podcast we are republishing a room review of The Shelf from it’s Debut at The Toff in Town.

Melbourne has a fabulously healthy live comedy scene with venues offering comedians for all tastes, from the nervous newcomers to the polished stars. Four months ago Melbourne comedy legend Dave O’Neil started up his Comedy Funhouse in Fairfield and now two other stalwarts have opened up a weekly room, for the month of October at least, and have their own fun.

These two are Fabulous Adam Richards, gossip bitch of top rating breakfast radio show The Matt & Jo Show,and Justin Hamilton, currently a movie reviewer for breakfast at Mix FM in Perth but cherished as Australia’s best stand-up comedian who isn’t a household name. They seem like an unlikely pair of mates, but apart from both being astute experienced comedians they are geeky fanboys at heart and have obviously created a place where they can put on a show in their own terms and have some fun with friends.

So what is The Shelf and how is it different to the established rooms about town? For starters it has a team of regulars joining Hamilton and Richards: Steven ‘Gatesy’ Gates of Tripod, Tegan Higginbotham of The Hounds and relative newcomer European Man (Ted Wilson). The evening is separated into three distinct brackets, the first is a bit of a mix of chat, stand-up and music, the second a full long set from a headlining guest and the third a live trivia gameshow.

The first section on opening night begins with Hamilton providing a searing set about his recent shenanigans touring New Zealand with Greg Fleet, as well as introducing the evening and co-host Richards. Hamilton is fairly renowned as one of the best comedy MCs in the country and is the perfect host, clearly excited by his new enterprise.

The first guest is rising star Celia Pacquola, home from her new digs in London, her stand up just gets better and better as she becomes more assured about her work. Pacquola has a delightfully quirky edge to her comedy that always adds surprises to her warm, friendly style. She endears herself to the home crowd, which tonight is full of friends and comedy geeks, with tales about how she’s having fun in the UK using her Australian openness to freak out the Pommies.

Next up is a bit of a historical moment in Australian comedy, the first ever solo spot by Gatesy from Tripod. The highlight, which is going to be a weekly feature is his ‘Non Topical’ song where Gatesy sings a song that has been topical in the past, but is not now. Tonight’s song is about Stuart Diver being rescued. It was a bit shaky, but his experience at working an adoring crowd got him through.

The second bracket is pure nonstop Tom Gleeson, currently starring in Good News World and fresh from Edinburgh, where hecklers quickly learned that Tom is not to be messed with. In fact the bulk of his material was about how his hair-raising experiences at boarding school made him impervious to persecution. Tom is in top form, like a thoroughbred during the Spring Racing Carnival he sprints out of the gates with the crowd roaring, and is magnificent to behold.

The final segment is the least polished, which is part of its charm. A mini game show hosted by Richards, with team captains Hamilton and Higginbotham with a guest each, Pacquola and Gleeson. The trivia questions are about things found on the shelf: books, DVDs, CDs or games etc. Helping Richards are European Man and Gatsey, who provides the clues through song.

The room itself is set up in cabaret style with small tables. Toff in Town has hosted many legendary comedy nights including Tripod’s Pod August Nights and Asher Treleaven’s Oyster Club. On this night, I couldn’t recommend the bar as everyone on our table had bad experiences with service. A more positive aspect is that you can book your seat and know in advance that you will get in, which is important for a room with a limited run and popular line-ups.

There is nothing revolutionary about The Shelf, it reminds me a little of Hessie’s Shed by Crowded House’s Paul Hester which was a series of high quality live comedy and music with a trivia quiz at the end hosted by Brian Nankervis. That quiz went on to become Rockwiz on SBS, so who knows maybe ‘The comedy show you’ll never see on TV’ as The Shelf is describes itself, will somehow end up there anyway

Originally published in Chortle.Au on 7th October 2011

Check out  http://shelvers.com.au/