By Elyce Phillips
It’s 6am at Czech House. Six bleary-eyed improvisers are up on stage, looking for suggestions from an equally bleary-eyed audience. Many have fallen, some have only just begun and there are still 14 hours to go.
For this year’s Fringe, The Big HOO-HAA! threw all their comedic eggs into one proverbial basket and put on a 24 hour show. It’s something we’ve seen at festivals in the past. The 24 hour show has become something like an extreme sport in the comedy world – and the HOO-HAA team’s performance was up there with the greatest of endurance athletes.
Team members of the Hearts and the Bones rotated through the night in hourly blocks, with ten minute breaks in between. For every hour you stayed, you got a dollar back from the $24 ticket price – a moment heralded on the hour with the jingling of a bowl of gold coins and a burst of an on-theme tune like ‘Gold Digger’.
The event began with HOO-HAA’s usual two hour program, with Liam Ryan on hosting duties. Ryan was an absolute stand-out through the 24 hours, somehow remaining incredibly witty right to the end. The man is an absolute natural as a host.
From there, the show took a step into different territory, changing up the theme with each hour-long block. At 10pm, there were games based on stories told by Nova’s Deano. At 12pm, an improvised musical.
At 3am, we hit Danger Hour and things started to get a bit weird. HOO-HAA’s usual games were beefed up with a series of increasingly painful punishments. We saw a strip edition of Doo Doo Ron Ron. The poor players who found themselves Desperate and Dateless (Ryan and Michelle Nussey) had pegs clipped to their bodies every time they made an incorrect guess. There was even a moment of genuine danger as Scott McAteer slightly choked on an unreasonable amount of bread in a game called Carbo Loading.
In the next couple of hours, the weirdness continued. We had Free Love at 4pm, in which team members paired up and did whatever they wanted for 15 minutes, resulting in an extremely complicated piece by Matt Saraceni and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd about the invention of closed captioning. Then it was a mega round of My Game, My Game, where we saw such gems as ‘Multi-Cluedo’, ‘DolphinHospital’ and ‘It’s Banjo Patterson’s Birthday!’.
By 6pm, brains were beginning to break. I think everyone’s mindset was best summed up by Saraceni during a game of 181, in which the players had to come up with one-liner beginning “181 somethings walk into a bar.” On the theme of spiders, Saraceni stepped forward and said, “Let me give you a little insight into how things are inside my head. 181 spiders walk into a bar. Something about a web?” With many in the audience just as sleep-deprived as the players, that simple statement was perhaps the funniest moment of the hour. We were all suffering together.
How they managed to get through the whole 24 hours, I have no idea. The sleep deprivation was enough of a challenge for those of us in the audience. In the end, only four audience members stuck it out for the full 24 hours, but many more popped in and out over the duration.
It’s an absolute testament to the skills of the HOO-HAA! team that they created an experience that was genuinely hilarious for the full 24 hours. There’s no sense in pointing out the stars in the group – they were all fabulous. Go and see them in action for yourself, perhaps at their saner two-hour show.
The Big HOO-HAA! Perform every Thursday at 8pm at The Portland Hotel.