By Colin Flaherty
The advertising for Creepy Dummy promises much more sinister material than it actually delivers (unless the mere sight of a ventriloquist dummy gives you uncontrollable shakes) but this light-hearted and silly show is the perfect vehicle to spend time with Jones’ cast of adorable characters (well Hugo is still pretty damn disturbing).
If you’ve seen her at various comedy rooms this year you will have met some of these puppets before (Dennis the Tennis Ball and her enthusiastic but dimwitted dog) and the newer ones (such as the spider and her great aunt) are just as spellbinding. Even though the interactions with her characters are largely self-contained scenes, a loose theme of confronting your fears is used as a linking device.
Jones’ humour is regularly silly with her puppets telling daggy jokes to impress the punters with their comedy skills; it’s all very family friendly fare. Regular self-deprecating comments make light of her eccentric profession and she regularly jokes about the limitations of the art form; a nice disarming tactic that fits well with her stage persona.
Several segments of shadow puppetry are brilliant, especially during the opening and her twist ending. One routine has Sarah performing in front of the screen, contorting her hands into animals, which is a way of inviting us behind the curtain to see how it’s done and become even more impressed by her talent.
Some elements from her A History of Ventriloquism show from the 2014 Magic Festival are sprinkled throughout and a “personal history” with ventriloquism sets up jokes and the premises upon which segments hang.
There are a few bits of audience participation but fear not, it couldn’t be further from the confronting or aggressive interactions employed by other Vents. These are gentle exchanges with the puppet usually made to look foolish as he/she awkwardly converses with the punter.
This is a wonderful hour to spend in the lovely company of Sarah and her menagerie of friends.
Creepy Dummy is on at The Butterfly Club (& one night at Tasma Terrace) until April 10
By Elyce Phillips
Sarah Jones and Nicholas J Johnson are the leaders of the second Black Hill scout troop, and we, the audience are their scouts. It’s a merry journey through the woods, with darkly comic undertones that had the audience chuckling the whole way through.
Happy Campers avoids the expected jokes around scout leaders and takes things in a funnier, more unexpected direction. The script is wittily-written and plays to the performers’ strengths. There’s a fair dose of pun-based dad jokes in the show, but they’re told with enough cheesy good humour to get by. Jonestown tread a fine line with their comedy, the sillier moments contrasting with the more gruesome elements of the storyline. Although there are a lot of plot hints laid out, the end does feel a little abrupt and severe compared with the tone of the rest of the show. That’s a minor hiccup, however. By and large, Happy Campers strikes the right balance between the dark and the daffy.
The rapport between Jones and Johnson is fabulous. Their performance is polished without feeling over-rehearsed. Jones’ cheeky antagonism of Johnson is a delight. The duo establish a good relationship with the audience, making them feel like part of the act. Positioning themselves as the leaders of our scout troop was a clever choice, getting the audience prepared to be part of the story. Often times those chosen to participate were more enthusiastic to get involved than they were required to be, which was a nice change from the usual awkward reluctance.
Jonestown have produced a well-constructed, thoroughly entertaining show in Happy Campers. They have completed their run of shows for the festival, but on the strength of this, I would recommend keeping an eye out for whatever they do next.
Jonestown – Happy Campers has completed its MICF run.
You can find more info on the group at https://twitter.com/jonestowncomedy and https://www.facebook.com/jonestowncomedy
Melbourne Fringe Festival is Whizzing towards us at great speed. It starts on Wednesday 16th of September and we are looking forward to seeing lots of interesting and funny things.
We are also really looking forward to bringing lots of reviews for you.
Meanwhile there are some shows at this year’s Fringe that we’ve already reviewed and so to whet your whistle here are some shows we recommend. They were all pretty popular with us and you can read our reviews from the links below . Remember that the performers would (and should) have updated, strengthened and developed their performances since their first outing, which is, of course, what makes live Performance so wonderful
Alice Fraser : Savage
“she is a household name in the making”
Squirrel Review: https://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=8424
Anne Edmonds – You Know What I’m Like Melbourne Fringe Info
“Honest and Hilarious Anne Edmonds brings big laughs from the moment she steps out on stage”
Squirrel Review: https://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=8446
Melbourne Fringe Info
Barry Morgan’s World of Organs
“This is a wonderful show that is suitable for the entire family”
I hear Barry is bringing his organ into the 21st C with a laptop this year!
Squirrel Review: https://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=1628
Melbourne Fringe Info
Geraldine Quinn – MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt
“Quinn is both powerful and vulnerable, scathing and sweet”
Squirrel Review: https://www.squirrelcomedy.com/?p=6602
Melbourne Fringe Info
Jonestown – Guinea Pigs
“the performers are a joy to spend an hour with”
Melbourne Fringe Info
Laura Davis – Ghost Machine
“It’s the funniest existential crisis you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching”
Melbourne Fringe Info
1. You love weird psychological experiments: We’ve got them all and we’re gonna misrepresent them! We’re the Doctor Phil of comedy!
2. You put stock in awards and such: We don’t ourselves but, if you’re interested, we were nominated for the Golden Gibbo in 2014 and won the Moosehead in 2015. Not that we’re bragging.
3. You love a good story: Guinea Pigs has more twists than M Night Shaymalan making a balloon animal Chubby Checker.
4. You like your comedy like you like your coffee: Black, sweet and injected directly into the anus.
5. You saw the movies Saw, Cube or Oldboy and thought…this needs more jokes.
You can see Guinea Pigs at Porland Hotel at 7:15 (6:15 Monday) for the rest of the festival.
For Info & Bookings see the MICF website
By Lisa Clark
When stand-up/ventriloquist Sarah Jones and standup/magician Nicholas Johnson got together to create the wildly successful Pajama Party it was pretty obvious that they have a fabulous rapport as a comedy team. It’s wonderful to see them build on that as Jonestown with their new Moosehead Awarded show Guinea Pigs.
The show begins with a reassuring fairly traditional opening monologue by Sarah that really highlights what a brilliant standup comedian she is even without her ventriloquist puppets. It settles the audience in and lets us know that we are in safe hands. She is eventually joined by Nick and the show can start going off the conventional rails. We soon learn that while retaining the sense of fun of their first outing, this is more assured and cleverly constructed production with a very different atmosphere. Guinea Pigs is a bit more science-fictiony. The dynamic duo soon find themselves locked in a sealed white room and being experimented on by a sort of villainous but polite looney scientist who is performed by a disembodied voice otherwise know as Andy McClelland.
The experiments carried out such as The Sanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiment are apparently famous. There were audible noises of recognition from the audience but I’d not heard of the names of any of them, or Radio-lab (an American radio show/podcast about science) which they referenced. I knew of some of the experiments from descriptions and depictions in the media and other tests such as shock treatment are pretty well known. My ignorance of science did not matter at all because Sarah and Nick know how to entertain the whole audience and it was fun watching social conventions being stripped away as they approached these tests in various silly ways
It was interesting to note the lack of magic or ventriloquism, considering the specialist talents of the performers involved, but they were not missed in a show jam packed with various exciting stunts, genial audience participation, fanciful flashbacks to a fictitious back story and a gorgeous black theatre puppet show. I was slightly disappointed the screen couldn’t have been used a bit more but the wait to find out what it would be used for was certainly well worth it. The end felt a teensy bit wobbly and not quite up to the quality of the strong beginning, but over all the script is well written and the performers are a joy to spend an hour with.
Guinea Pigs in other comedian’s hands might become a Gothic horror sci fi comedy, but with Sarah and Nick things never get too far down the dark path. It’s all fun and games, a bit of a romp with a scifi bent that keeps the audience on side at all times. There is the odd rude word & mild adult reference but this would be an excellent Festival show to take friends or family to, especially families with kids over 16, you’re all bound to have a ball.
Guinea Pigs is on at the Portland Hotel until April 19
Brian McCarthy Memorial Moosehead Awards are more like a supportive grant and 2 – 4 applicants are chosen each year depending on how exciting and different the ideas are. It is a way of promoting creativity in Comedy and the award includes The Comedy Channel Director’s Grant, which engages a director for each of the Moosehead Award Recipients. If you’ve got some fabulous way out idea for a show that might need some help, you can start thinking about making your application next year.
The winners of the 2015 Moosehead Awards have been announced
Starring – Bob Franklin, Greg Fleet, Lawrence MooneyBrain child of Steven Gates
JONESTOWN – GUINEA PIGS
Nicholas J Johnson and Sarah Jones
THRASHER: A LIFE IN A SKATE SHOP (working title)
Our congratulations to all of the 2015 Recipients, we look forward to seeing all of these intriguing sounding shows next year during the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
For more information check out The Moosehead Awards website: