Chris Ryan Big Hair Big Dreams

By Lisa Clark 

Chris Ryan has been performing and running rooms in Canberra for seven or so years and won Best Newcomer at the Sydney Comedy festival in 2019. Her first solo Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show feels a bit like she has thrown all her favourite material at a wall hoping it will stick. Quite a bit of it did, she has some very funny ideas, but she lost the audience at one point and the show wasn’t strong enough to fully win us all back.

There are several threads running through Big Hair Big Dreams, much of them lacking context and making a lot of her topics feel a bit shallow and all over the place. The main one seems to be about dreams, though we never quite find out what they are or were, for Chris. She seems unsure, yet feels she’s somehow failed to achieve them. I should’ve realised from her Festival Guide blurb, which she repeats in the show “If any of them had worked out, she would not be doing this show”.

So. Why are we all here?

For a laugh I guess and tonight she gained a lot of laughs from an audience of tipsy, rowdy, middle aged ladies who were sooo up for it. Nudging each other with barely whispered outbursts “It’s so True!” and “That happened to ME!!” etc. A lot of my enjoyment was about how excited and giggly they got about hoarding condiments!

Then about half way through she broke our faith. When we all sympathised with her for being slighted as a teen with a big “AWWW”, instead of rolling with it, she stopped and actually chided us “Oh you BELIEVED that? I just made that up!” The audience was a bit quieter after that. How could we believe or relax and enjoy anything else she told us in her set? She’d had the audience in the palm of her hand and then she threw it away.

She mentions one of her Mum’s dreams at the end of her show but it would’ve been nice to explore the differences between her and her Mum’s dreams earlier, like when she was pitching her funny reality show idea Mum Swap. Some of her darlings should’ve been cut and kept for another time. She has a really dramatic tale to tell towards the end but it sadly felt a bit under written and somewhat tacked on. Maybe it needs more time for reflection. The ending was also a huge letdown after a big lead up. It was like she couldn’t be bothered to commit to it. But maybe that was the point of the show?

Chris Ryan performs Big Hair Big Dreams downstairs at Comedy Republic until April 18


Melbourne Fringe Festival – Awards and Wrap Up

By Lisa Clark 

We’ve had a wonderful Melbourne Fringe Festival which was full of all things creative and wacky including, a show in a car (Equal Best Performance Winner: Dion), a shop window (Winner of Best Ideas and Words Award: Between Two Lines) and one in a huge space with only two audience members (Equal Best Performance Winner: Blindspot). We here at Squirrel Comedy are mostly interested in Comedy. That’s not to say that we didn’t see funny shows in other catagories or that there were some rather unfunny shows that found their way into the Comedy section, but, hey this is Melbourne Fringe and it’s all about mixing it up and taking risks. sammy-j-award-winner

Congratulations must first go to Best Comedy winner Sammy J who has created his Opus Magnus in Hero Complex. A work that had everyone who headed out to the Northcote Town Hall to see it howling with laughter, cheering and crying with pure joy. I saw a lot of great shows at the festival but could not imagine any I missed were better than this – in any category – and couldn’t be happier with its Best Comedy Award win. An autobiographical show with a sprinkling of his brilliant comedy songs and a lot of surprises that must be kept secret, making it difficult to review. Except to say that it is a celebration of unpopular nerdy passions, in this case comic book hero The Phantom, but of course it’s about much, much more. Look out for it at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and other Festivals no doubt, just don’t miss it.

Winner of the Queensland Tour Ready Award was another stunning autobiographical comedy; Isamofarcist by Sami Shah who’s come to Melbourne from Afghanistan via studying in the USA and living in Western Australia. Sami has been doing excellent stand up around Melbourne for the past year about religion, politics and other dangerous ideas in a very accessible, warm and hilarious way. A comedian who’s definitely worth going out of your way to see if you like your comedy smart. Queenslanders can look forward to seeing Isamofarcist  next.

More congratulations to one of the hot tickets at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Andre Tonight! by Chris Ryan and special secret guests that had everyone whispering that this was a must see. It won The Discovery Award and was a discovery to everyone who managed to get seats in the Rehearsal room (now with raked seating). Chris’s character reminded me of an Epping based Norman Gunston, a beautifully rounded sad sack character with a dream to be a TV Tonight Show host and some of his dreams came true in Andre Tonight! Another show to look forward to when it pops up again.

A Squirrel discovery at Melbourne Fringe was another amazingly strong character comedy Cindy Salmon’s Empowerment Hour. The show is a send up of an American “empowering” daytime TV host such as Tyra Banks or Bethenny Frankel (the 2nd rate Oprahs). Hayley Tantau’s, Cindy Salmon is one of the most powerful high status creations on the Australian stage right now. A high status character that can be hilariously satirical, wildly inspiring, teetering on the monstrous and yet somehow sympathetic is rare among current female comedians (I can think of Sarah Ward’s Yanna Alana and Queenie Van de Zandt’s Jan Van de Stool). Hayley pulls it off; sustaining it for a full hour without dropping her perfect American accent once, while keeping the audience on side despite some hilariously appalling behaviour. Go see comedy Cindy Salmon’s Empowerment Hour if it pops up near you and we’ll be keeping an eye on Hayley Tantau.

Here are some of the Award Winners that might interest our readers:

Best Comedy:

Sammy J – Hero Complex

QLD Tour Ready Award, supported by Brisbane Powerhouse:


The Discovery Award, supported by Melbourne Festival:

Andre Tonight! by Chris Ryan

NSW Tour Ready Award, supported by Sydney Fringe:

Tina Del Twist GOLD CLASS by Wes Snelling

Best Venue:

Hare Hole – Hares & Hyenas

For a Full List of Awards presented by the Melbourne Fringe Festival see their website