Pat McCaffrie – Politics and Polar Bears (There Are Still No Polar Bears)

By Peter Newling

When the performer personally knows the names of every audience member within the first five minutes of a show, you know you’re in a small audience. And that was certainly the case on this particular Tuesday night at the Melbourne Fringe. It’s a shame, because Pay McCaffrie is worth listening to.

McCaffrie is something of a rising star in political comedy. His clever, pithy observations have earnt him a seat in the writing room of Mad As Hell, along with other satirical programs. There is nothing to indicate he would be out of place there.

To attempt satire – especially political satire – you first need something to say. “Write about what you know”. And McCaffrie certainly has plenty to draw from. Growing up as a young gay man in the Catholic education system in Adelaide gives him plenty of material to reflect on – and as a reformed law student, he has the ability to find exactly the right word, and use it to its fullest effect.

But basing your shtick on political observations can have its downsides. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, as McCaffrie found out on a recent comedy tour of regional NSW and Victoria. He delights in telling stories of how his well honed observations relating to the recent federal election utterly failed to capture the imagination of some in the more insular communities. He riffs freely about the uber-dinkum Daggy Dad image that the current PM is promoting, freedom of religion, environmental issues, as well as Australia’s position in international politics. What’s not to love?

His style is erudite and charming, without crossing over into smugness or pomposity. There’s a warmth in his engagement with the audience, and an instant likeability – probably more to those who lean to the progressive side of the political ledger.

If you’re going looking for polar bears, you may be disappointed. But if you’re looking for an incisive, informed, very funny look at Australian politics, from a new and exciting voice in satire, this could be a great way to round out your evening at the Fringe.

Politics and Polar Bears (There Are Still No Polar Bears) is playing at Trades Hall – Evatt Room until 29 September 29

Lemon Comedy Queer Showcase

By Peter Newling 

A sell-out crowd packed into the warm and welcoming Hares & Hyena’s bookshop in Fitzroy for Lemon Comedy’s only foray into the Midsumma Festival for 2018. A small stage has been erected in the corner of the store, surrounded by chandelier, regency wallpaper and thousands of books. Complete with friendly bar service, who could ask for a better venue?

Lemon Comedy bills itself on its website as a “new global stand-up showcase that aims to promote diverse, sharp voices in comedy”. Younger performers get the chance to strut their stuff in front of a large and supportive crowd, while more seasoned performers can try out new material in a safe space. And, on this balmy Tuesday evening in Melbourne, they didn’t disappoint. The organisers brought together an eclectic mix of performers and performance styles for this one-night-only show. In fact, the audience was treated to seven classy acts across two hours of joy.

The quality of any gala often rests largely with the ability of the host – and in this role, Alistair Baldwin excelled. He kept the audience’s energy up between comics with warm repartee and generous introductions. His own material is terrific, managing to cover off topics ranging from Australia Post to cuttlefish in his mild-mannered, seemingly good natured shtick.

Space does not allow a full run down of all performers – so let me instead tell you about some acts to keep an eye out for in the future.

Melbourne comic Kit Richards was a stand out, giving the audience a sneak preview into the new musical that she is writing – which explores elements of early white Australian history and the difficulties of English folk adapting to Australian conditions. The songs were cleverly constructed, hilarious, and lovingly delivered. If that musical ever gets made, I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket.

Comedic trio Hit By A Blimp (aka Caitlyn Staples, Tiana Hogben and Jayden Masciulli) gave us an energetic mixture of sketch, song and interpretive dance in their Coldplay inspired portrayal of the pros and cons of Uber Eats. Well regarded improviser Nikki Spunde made a welcome return to stand-up and proved to be an audience favourite with her languid homage to sleep and haunting things.
Headlining the evening was the evergreen Geraldine Hickey. Whilst her choice of material – a set based on common fears – wasn’t the most imaginative of the evening, she won over the crowd with her trademark dry, laconic delivery, astute observations and easy-going nature. It was great for the younger comics to be able to enjoy a masterclass from such an experienced and assured performer, and provided the audience with a worthy pinnacle to their night’s entertainment.

Other performers rounding out this excellent, varied bill included Pat McCaffrie, Gamze Kirik and Liv Hewson.

Congratulations to Lemon Comedy on bringing together a great night out, and for giving us the gift of an inspiring celebration of diverse comedy. If you missed Lemon Comedy’s Midsumma gala, never fear. Their next gig will be on Valentine’s Day, and will celebrate, appropriately enough, the joys of singledom. Sounds like fun to me.

Lemon Comedy Queer Showcase was a One Off performance on 16 January 2018 at Hares & Hyena’s bookshop in Fitzroy