By Lisa Clark
In early 2015 it was announced that for the first time, for some inexplicable reason, Australia was going to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. There were lots of ideas for who should represent our great and distant southern land but one name rose out of the throng. “Send TISM” the people cried and despite the fact that TISM hadn’t performed together since 2006, a petition was created and signed, by thousands. Unfortunately it looks like TISM has not been chosen, but in Hara-Karaoke ex TISM (This is Serious Mum) singer Damian Cowell imagines; what would happen if they were?
The answer to that is a low fi dystopian sci fi musical set in the distant future of 2525. Damian is giving us the hour long concert version of “Eurovision Ruined My Life – The musical” and the first song ‘Where are They Now – 2015’, sets the scene. The world and Damian’s life is going into a bit of a tragic decline. Further songs describing his fall into debauchery and disgrace include an insightful attack on the gambling industry and a surprisingly romantic tune about his relationship with Danni who works at Dan Murphy’s bottle shop. He also manages to pop in some top tunes from his current album ‘Jesus Barista Superstar’ and ‘Folk Music Turned me Into a Fascist’.
Last time I saw Damian Cowell it was a few months ago at the Corner Hotel as he debuted his current disco-themed album Damien Cowells Disco Machine with all the trimmings, a fab band that included two sets of drums (like Adam & the Ants), two gorgeous backup girl singers who played various instruments and a slew of guest performers like Shaun Micallef and Tony Martin, who appear on his album. There were disco balls, lights, costumes and screens showing lyrics and pictures. At the centre of it all was the charismatic, gracefully aging rock star Damian Cowell, occasionally fiddling with his laptop. At last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival Damian performed as DC3 with two band members and a sound and visual show that bombarded the audience overloading us with information. Hara-Karaoke is a completely stripped back affair. Just Damian and his laptop from which he controls projections of lyrics and some pictures in a small room. Everything is focused and clear which is perfect to bring his brilliant comedy to the fore.
Along with the vicious satire and the killer songs Damian often surprises with some rather adorable silliness and traditional jokes. I enjoyed his ‘honest adverts’, not a new idea but well executed and is at the heart of Damian’s comedy mindset. A direct, angry, politically left look at the society around him. The darkest he gets is in his musings on mortality in ‘Fuck, I’m dead’ and his naff impression of Guy Sebastian singing one of TISM’s filthiest songs is definitely worth the price of admission. TISM fans will be sated by the finale created especially for them.
Damian Cowell is doing searing political musical comedy. He’s might be new to the comedy world but he’s been doing it for years and knows how to entertain an audience. Bring your brains to this one and jump into the boiling mire, you’re in the dexterous hands of a legend.
Damian Cowell – Hara-Karaoke is on at The Forum until April 19
By Lisa Clark
Having just come from another more traditional stand up type of comedy festival show, the atmosphere and audience at Fortyfivedownstairs is distinctly different to a typical comedy crowd. There’s an arty rock n Roll feel. Is that someone I’ve seen perform on Rockwiz? Is that someone wearing sunglasses at night? Is that man on stage an ex lead singer from This Is Serious Mum? If you’re too young to remember TISM you might know their song Somebody Start a Fight or Something used as the Theme for Paul Provenza’s The Green Room. If you’re too young to remember TISM this might not be the show for you.
Damian Cowell is still angry about a lot of stuff and is still amused by so much that abhors him that he is able to turn it into comedy. The only difficulty for the audience is keeping up with his avalanche of satire. The opening is a bombardment of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie, a welcome song about the gathering with traces of nuts and a lengthy spoken word monologue somewhere between poetry and stand up. Meanwhile you are trying to read all the words projected onto the white wall behind the band. The words can get quite dense with the back wall occasionally resembling a telephone book (remember them?) but become more effective when it features one word at a time. The best approach is to let it all wash over you, take in what you can and enjoy laughing at the funny bits. Things repeat enough to build up a kind of concept collage that comes together to make sense.
But What’s all this about Wagner’s Ring Cycle I hear you ask? Well I’d rather not give that away, I’ll leave that for you to discover and enjoy, and needless to say you don’t need to know anything about Wagner to enjoy this. However you might have to be over 30 to get a lot of the humorous pop references as he eviscerates our love of popular culture and how it’s changed since the 1970s. There’s a romance to Damien’s sarc that is connected with nostalgia and softens his vicious wit. His delivery and style is reminiscent of John Clarke but with a little more venom.
If you know TISM or DC3 you’ll know what to expect from the songs that act as sign posts in the well structured show. These include (and I’m guessing at some of the titles here) ‘A Gathering, Shitness, No Longer Popular Search Word Party (hilarious!), Root Shoot Marry, Henry Fucking Wagons and Stop. Some of these are available on their new album “May Contain Traces of Nut”. This wasn’t a concert as such but I still had to fight an urge to dance. The other two members of DC3 in elegant white suits, played guitar and bass, or politely sat in the audience during Damian’s rants and helped set the stage behind him.
I’m sure the irony of performing to an arty crowd sitting at little tables in an art gallery/theatre/bar in Melbourne while tearing strips off pretentious arty wankers is not lost on Damian. This is comedy at it’s most cerebral and socio-political. It’s also wildly entertaining and hilarious. Certainly not your bog standard stand up comedy.
The DC3 are performing the Ringtone Cycle at Fortyfivedownstairs