The advertising materials for this show tells us that when you hit 40, the usual Venezuelan expression is “Congratulations! You’ve made it to The Fourth Floor!”. Aristeguieta goes to great lengths to remind us that he has not, as yet, made it to the fourth floor – but’s it’s approaching quickly.
Much of the material in the show is, unsurprisingly, about ageing. His material moves effortlessly from conversations with his younger self, to the anomalies of the Xennial generation (it’s a thing – look it up!), to things of youth that you no longer want to/choose to/can do, to the agelessness of fart gags. And all delivered in a delightfully positive, optimistic and incurably enthusiastic way. There’s nothing angst ridden or cynical in Aristeguieta’s material or demeanour, which makes this such a standout from a lot of the other shows in the festival.
Aristeguieta has lived in Australia since 2012, and has made quite a name for himself at the various comedy festivals and touring comedy roadshows. This familiarity with Australia has given him a fantastic insider-outsider’s perspective on our foibles, accent and idioms.
You can tell that he loves language and languages – the different sounds, the different inflections, the different phraseology – and given that words and language are his main tools of trade, he uses them to his best advantage. He revels in the nuance. For those who love the idiosyncrasies of language, Aristeguieta’s observations and conclusions are masterful.
This for me is definitely an “add this show to your list of shows” show. This is a comic in fine form, with well-matured material. You’ll come away glad you did.
Ivan Aristeguieta, The Fourth Floor is playing 28 Mar – 21 Apr in the Athenaeum Theatre 2
It’s not long now until the world’s largest fringe arts festival begins in warmer climes and again a massive contingent of Australians and expats are headed to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many have traveled the Australian festival circuit and have been whipped into shape for international audiences. Some have been previously reviewed by Squirrel but remember they will have been further polished and may have been revised and reworked.
Last year Australian, Hannah Gadsby won Best Comedy at the Fringe, she’s had to cancel her Edinburgh Fringe run this year but there’s a lot more amazing comedy talent coming up from down under. If you are travelling anywhere near Edinburgh this August, have a look at the following list of shows and consider going to see an Australian act.
After judging more than 1000 entrants, Raw Comedy brings 12 national finalists to the stage to compete for the opportunity to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Raw Comedy National Grand Final is hosted by the amicable Ivan Aristeguieta who is warm and personable, and keeps the energy high for all of the contestants throughout the show.
Gavin Sempel starts the show, immediately getting the audience onside with commentary about his slender appearance, moving onto humorous anecdotes from his life. Having seen his set at the state finals, there is something in his delivery that is still joyfully entertaining to watch the second time around.
Sian Smyth follows next, with some polarizing punch lines. The topics span from social work, to porn, to Gandhi, and she provokes both cheers and groans from the audience at different points.
The third contestant is Jane New, whose distinctive stage persona could be easily attributed to nerves. She distinguishes herself as a writer, rather than a comedian, and she gets sprinkled laughter as the crowd warms to her particular brand of humour.
Alex Hall-Evans starts the second bracket speaking of sexiness, and his humour seems typically millennial. Hall-Evans interacts well with the crowd, and generously applies hyperbole to get the laughs.
Next up is Emma Holland who uses a paper fortuneteller to warm up the crowd. She succeeds with weirdly specific questions, and the genius is in the deliberately warped assumptions inherent in those questions. Holland then moves onto translating emojis for the crowd, and the explanations get progressively more absurd as she cycles through them.
Scout Boxall follows next, specializing in earnest set ups, which are then contrasted with on the nose absurdity. The laughs come from hitting the target of the criteria that Boxall has set, but also from the weird exploration of the themes, and the contrast between them. Boxall is a standout, closing her set with the only musical number of the show.
Bronwyn Kuss is deadpan in discussing body image and self esteem, but there is something unconvincing in the delivery that the audience struggles to relate to.
Next, Emo bursts onto the stage with a strong stage presence, interacting with the crowd, and mining themes of race, and sex for comedy. Although the material is not the most original from the night, Emo gets the crowd laughing with his charisma and classic jokes.
Ryan McArthur follows with his set focused on awkward experiences. The first example lands well, and the audience audibly relates. From there it starts to feel more like someone venting about experiences that they can’t let go of, and the audience is unwilling to follow McArthur down this path of indulgence.
Matthew Vasquez starts the last bracket with some racial humour relating to his South American heritage. Vasquez’s style is distinctive, in that he seems to say a punch line, and hold for applause or laughter. It’s surprising to see how often this pays off, and you can hear the audience catching up with Vasquez’s thoughts as pockets of laughter start bursting in the crowd during the pause.
Bec Melrose delivers one of the more varied sets of the night. With cleverly constructed jokes, Melrose explores issues of gender, politics, and productivity with a clear point of view.
The last contestant for the night is Kevin Jin, who speaks mostly about race and dating. Although these topics are frequently visited in stand up, Jin is still able to surprise and delight with his take on these. Jin has an affable style, and his comedy is easy to enjoy.
Without spoiling the big reveal for when the Raw Comedy National Grand Final is aired on SBS, it is safe to say that there was fierce competition this night, and throughout the state level heats. Although only one lucky winner gets the prize of a trip to Edinburgh, it’s clear that there is a bright future ahead of all of these brave, funny, and clever stand ups.
Raw Comedy National Grand Final was on April 15 at The Melbourne Town Hall.
Ivan Aristeguieta seems to have arrived on the Australian comedy scene a fully formed stand up star. That’s because, like any comedy star who seems to be an overnight success he has actually had many years on the boards. He started as a comedian in Venezuela and has been working hard since emigrating; learning our culture and language and getting himself to the world class level of stand-up he’s at now. It’s been a journey of discovery about himself, as well as the world around him.
In the past Ivan’s work has been about the differences between Australia and Venezuela and food, this one is more deeply autobiographical, about his family’s roots in Spain and the passionate nature of their culture. It’s about Duende, love, transformation and Balls (yes, also surprisingly, cricket!). Ivan takes his audience beyond just the differences in culture to the differences between the First and Third world problems. When he jokes about celebrating just surviving a day in violent Venezuela an audience member behind me blurts out ‘So true!’ through his guffaws.
Ivan carefully constructs Matador like a master craftsman, with major set pieces containing joke upon joke within jokes. So many major and minor observations and asides are crammed in with all the skills at his disposal but he makes sure the joins are invisible so you can relax in safe hands and roll with the laughs. Audio visual support is used sparely and wisely. He opens the show with some delightful pictures of his family and of himself as a child in an adorable Matador outfit.
I cannot think of another act I’ve seen where everyone who attends is guaranteed an awesome time. As a bonus a smaller clique in the audience gets to enjoy Ivan’s brilliant Kel Balnaves impersonation while everyone else just admires his ability to do an Aussie accent. I wish Ivan Mucha Mierda for the rest of the run.
Ivan Aristeguieta performs Matador at the Victoria Hotel