By Colin Flaherty
The latest offering by The Very Good Looking Initiative is set in the world of cheesy TV talk shows. They accurately call it experimental and subversive anti-theatre but calling it a comedy is often a stretch.
If you’ve ever been to a TV taping you will recognize all the stupid things the audience is put through by the warm up guy, applause practice, call and response, and generating excitement. We experience all this but the over use of repetition pushes these things to the point of exhaustion.
Once the “show” starts proper, our host Elliott Gee, all fake tan and Gold Coast haircut, gives us an extended opening monologue full of lame jokes. A particular highlight is his troop of dancers who regularly bump and grind with huge smiles and a limited repertoire of moves.
It’s inevitable that in a show set at a TV taping the production itself or the host will experience a meltdown and boy this is a doozy. Things devolve into a terrifying Lynchian carnival of grotesque characters and bizarre situations that uses a harsh soundtrack of electronic noise and nightmarish lighting. We hear the disturbing inner thoughts of our host and see segments of a TV show direct from hell. Those that worship at the altar of Tim and Eric may get some perverse laughs but everyone else will generally see these scenes as disturbing or sad.
Let’s Get Practical! – Live has a similar feel to their last show Cull (Melb Fringe 2016 and MICF 2017) in that they go to really dark places in search of laughs. Like Cull, I found it a struggle to get beyond a nervous titter with most of their ideas. A handful of the segments are played broadly by all indicating that the intent is indeed humour. Even with the dark tone these are clever and playful enough to get us giggling. Other scenes however are delivered so po-faced that we experience discomfort rather than laughs.
There’s no doubt this is an impressive assault on the senses that has plenty of spook-house thrills to entertain. All the performances are top notch and the themes are challenging, making this a show to check out if your tastes swing towards the freaky. Just how many laughs you will actually get depends if you think words such as “excruciatingly wonderful” and “anxiety-inducing” are terms that promise an amusing time.
Let’s Get Practical! Live is on at the Cooper’s Malthouse – The Tower until April 22
1. We’re pretty sure Let’s Get Practical! Live is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s most anticipated talk show.
2. Its hosted by Mr Practical himself, the charismatic Elliott Gee. He’s got the hair, the smile, that killer tan. He’s wearing a fresh new suit and he’s bursting at the seams with one award, and another two nominations under his belt. He’s back!
3. The show will be performed Live. Yes, it’s completely LIVE. LIVE from the Tower Theatre in one of Melbourne’s top venues, the Coopers Malthouse!
4. It’s at the sexy time of 9.30pm. It’s late, but not too late. It’s perfect. You’ll make it to the gym, be able to cook a six course dinner, and still have time to gaze into your lovers eyes. Then jump on a tram or a train and take the scenic route to the Coopers Malthouse, grab a drink, and then it’s non-stop entertainment all night long with the biggest names around. What a night!
5. If you’ve ever had anxiety. See it.
The Very Good Looking Initiative perform Let’s Get Practical! Live at The Coopers Malthouse
By Colin Flaherty
CULL examines our social media habits, in particular the things we see in Facebook feeds. Patrick Durnan Silva and Honor Wolff of The Very Good Looking Initiative reveal the dark side of it all. Even innocent things like cat videos are not safe from this duo’s disturbing dissection. This sets the scene for some biting satire about the online world…but all I ending up getting was a nibble.
This is an extremely high energy, all singing, all dancing show which features so much dancing that it threatens to overwhelm the comic elements of the show. Sure, there are some klutzy dance moves to enjoy but it seems to be more a showcase of the duo’s musical theatre skills. Delivering dialogue while out of breath certainly has us laughing at them but it slows down a perky monologue.
The script has some witty lines to entertain but a lot of the scenes fail to end on strong punchlines. Instead they either transform into a Lynchian nightmare with impressive sound and lighting, drift off to nothing or simply flit to the next sketch. This may be considered post modern but ignoring comedic principals is risky and unfortunately it doesn’t really work for this pair. A number of serious topics relating to Internet use are covered, for which they should be commended, but apart from some wacky overacting there really isn’t anything amusing offered to us. You get the odd nervous titter from the darkness of it all but these scenes lean too far into tragedy.
A lot of the dialogue is performed in the requisite screeching which grates on the nerves of an old fogie like me so I’m certainly not the target demographic of this show. The younger crowd appeared to get a lot more out of this, particularly some pop culture references that may sail over some people’s heads. I sensed though, that a lot of their laughs came from recognition rather than any witty insight offered by the pair.
Silva and Wolff are certainly not afraid to make themselves look silly in pursuit of a laugh which helps to sell the lines and their slapstick works well. Their comedic arsenal can be boiled down to pushing repetitive sequences past breaking point, awkward freeze frames, long pregnant pauses, and darkness for shock value laughs. Oh…and did I mention that they can sing like divas and dance up a storm?
A full frontal assault on the senses, this wild ride through the online landscape is full of colour and movement and fits the experimental tag offered in the Fringe guide. Those born after the MTV Generation will have fun laughing at the ridiculousness of their peers but others may find CULL largely style over substance.
CULL is on at The Courthouse Hotel until September 23