Alex Hines – Putting On A Show

By Lisa Clark

Alex Hines is a Moosehead Award recipient and the audience can see that she has used this opportunity well. This is a big, in your face, production with Alex implementing all the theatrical and comical devices she can throw at it.

The opening section is messy stand up about being a hot mess. She discusses having mental illness, (so chic right now) with tales of childhood trauma, that don’t seem to have punchlines. Her annoying, loosely contained hair that seemed to be about to fall out of its claw clip as she roams the stage was distracting but also expressing what the whole opening felt like. Teetering on the edge of chaos. As the show moved along revealing Alex’s impressive comical acting skills, it seems that the opening monologue may have been a character piece. It may possibly be a parody of a generic angsty standup comedian? Or is it? Either way, I was disturbed.

The pre-filmed videos are the first hint that Alex is not what she seems. They are so slick and she is so poised in them. They act as running gags and as a background story to what’s happening on stage. Alex certainly understands comedy tropes, with call backs, big and small, call backs to call backs, prop comedy, props that are also costume comedy. Her mime skills are superb, and she’s a good singer, but her jokes, which are occasionally delightful and clever, didn’t always land or go anywhere. The story telling was often riveting with a sort of dark, Gothy vibe, including surprising sci-fi elements but the laughs were sparse and often petered out. Sometimes they existed for call backs later on, but had not enough jokes in themselves.

The theatrical nature of Putting On A Show gets more impressive as it goes along. Alex uses the whole of the stage, she has a brilliant audio visual component, great props and stunning costumes. There are several big set pieces in the show which ends with a range of finale scenarios that were, clever, funny and ultimately, satisfying. The stage in a total mess, but the show itself is not quite the chaotic mess you suspected it was going to be at the beginning.

Alex wins me over in the end, hers is a genuinely intriguing and unique voice in comedy. She draws us in to her own weird world that is often completely bizarre and puzzling. Then the way she ties up some of the random weirdness at the end is actually awe-inspiring. It becomes clear that everything is meticulously planned and she knows exactly what she is doing. Or is it?

Putting On A Show is on at The Malthouse until April 21

David Correos – I Can’t Stop Vibrating

By Colin Flaherty

Wow! David Correos is one hell of a comedy maniac! After displaying his gung-ho approach to being a contestant on Taskmaster NZ, he brings that same energy to MICF with I Can’t Stop Vibrating.

He is a loud, boisterous entertainer who constantly commands your full attention. He bounds around the stage like a toddler full of red cordial, excitedly sharing his thoughts and ideas with us, giving the odd shrieked punchline to make sure we’re awake. He crudely changes his appearance for a number of wacky physical bits that require considerable clean up of himself and the stage afterwards. This is comedy turned up to eleven!

In the vein of performers such as Chris Lynam and Johnny Knoxville, Correos is a barely controlled comedian who often puts his body on the line for our entertainment. There is always logic behind his bits which puts him well above being just a sideshow freak. He informs us that he has mellowed somewhat over the years but still has the ability to disturb audiences with physical feats of stupidity. An example of this new attitude is the official finale to this show, a piece that is beautiful, graceful and messy. Call him a practitioner of “Refined Gross Out Humour” if you will.

This hour is more than just wacky stunts. Hilarious stories from his life are told with some wonderfully bizzare observations peppered throughout. He rarely emerges from these tales smelling of roses but his often graphic descriptions are offset by his oafish charm.

Correos is certainly a performer who fully commits to the bit at all times in his quest for laughter and adulation. His anecdotes tell of offbeat ideas implemented only to realise halfway through it will soon lead to pain, audience disgust or both. He even demonstrates some singing talent, even though it quickly becomes apparent that the song is waaaaay beyond his limited range. This head first approach to comedy creates plenty of ridiculousness and danger to keep the punters enthralled and in constant hysterics.

Although he may be a little too much for some folk, those who like their comedy on the edge will lap this up. All hail the new king of comic mayhem!

I Can’t Stop Vibrating is on at The Greek until April 21

Jackie Hatton – Virtually a Reality

By Colin Flaherty

From the opening video segment featuring “audience” praise for Jackie Hatton you know that we are soon heading into the dodgy parts of the internet. Virtually a Reality is a hilarious look at the minefield of cyberspace and one woman’s attempt to navigate it.

She begins with clever observational stand up about the wonders of the digital age. Gushing about the utopia we are headed towards with a sense of naivety soon veers into the darker corners as we are introduced to her digital boyfriend, an unpleasant Andrew Tate like figure created via Jackie’s algorithms. Plenty of comical conflict ensues as they argue with innuendo and double entedres aplenty. Hatton then segues into a story of being hacked and fending off all the misinformation made in her name.

As expected this is a tech heavy show with her responding to and interacting with the screen. When the tech decides to behave, she presents a seamless fusing of the digital world with the physical one. Flashes of internet search history provides wicked glimpses into her character. The many deep fake characters we see are all on the ridiculous side of the uncanny valley. This heightened artificial world in which we are placed is a joy to behold.

Hatton is a brilliant performer who gives us a sassy hero to cheer for, an innocent with a cheeky grin. She portrays this surprisingly nuanced character with a deft hand. It’s not the most physical of performances (she’s primarily standing before a screen) but she conveys so much with gestures and expressions.

In a festival containing multiple shows sharing the theme of internet life this is surely among the best. While not doing much to address our fears of the impending robot uprising, this modern day hero’s journey has plenty of laughs.

Virtually a Reality is on at Doubletree by Hilton until April 21


Conk – Frequentshit Live!

By Colin Flaherty

In the years before TicTok became the dominant social media platform, people like Conk (aka Connor Dariol) were using Instagram to post short form video. His account, frequentshit, became a sounding board for all his ideas and Frequentshit Live! is some variation of an in person version. With a specific time period (2016 to 2022) and no new content being up loaded (he is locked out of the account), this a fascinating internet time capsule. It’s an ambitious project but the resulting show is all over the place, probably by design.

As the name implies, this show is very much Conk throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks, a constant stream of ideas that land with varying degrees of success. He gives us plenty of puns, a wide array of silly visual gags, amusing musical parodies and lots of non sequiturs. Some really clever bits are fighting to be seen and heard above the maelstrom and they reward those who can find them. Things slow down a little with some “artist laid bare” (not quite literally) segments describing his Covid experience and showing that it isn’t all internet wackiness.

He is very much a slave to the video feed as the performance is pre-programmed, continually showing posts from the Instagram feed with numerous prompts for him to comment on, interact with the material or just talk over it. There are regularly multiple things happening at once, making it difficult to follow everything if you’re not adept at multitasking. Older pop culture references take some work on your behalf to recognise them so often by the time you manage to make the connection and get the joke, the next segment is upon you. The bombastic soundtrack that assaults your ears certainly doesn’t help clarify things.

Conk throws himself into this performance with gusto and a stage overflowing with props and costumes keeps things visually interesting and propels the show forward. There is a clowning element to this piece that requires a rowdy crowd who are up for playing with him. He regularly seeks opinions and gives punters various objects to hopefully add to the insanity. This artist is unafraid to look foolish as we manipulate him for our amusement.

This certainly is not a show for everyone. Some will run away screaming finding it a bit impenetrable. Others will relate and let the chaos flow over them. If this sounds like your bag, gather a group of like-minded friends and strap in for the visual and aural assault.

Frequentshit Live! is on at The Motley Bauhaus until April 21

Bec Petraitis – Nerd F*ck

By Lisa Clark

Bec is a bit of a nerd, from reading comics, to playing online games to dressing in a hand-made furry costume at an Anime convention. All pretty nerdy things to do, but Nerd Fuck is not really about nerd culture, as such, it’s about getting to know Bec.

Bec takes us through her life from kindergarten through primary and high school, touching on some themes that are pretty familiar to many nerds such as having friends that are more about the shared nerdy pursuits rather than any deeper connection, generally not fitting in and the inevitable bullying. She talks about hiding in the school library to avoid the bullies and making connections with the librarians and teachers. This show is not really feeling like a celebration of nerd culture as such. There are shadows of murkiness, but she does not delve or wallow in them. Bec flies across the chasms keeping things pretty light and friendly.

Nerd Fuck is a show of amusing anecdotes from her life. There are no long stories and she never really gets to the meat of why the incidents, such as taking her grandpa’s sword to Show and Tell, are so significant to her, other than making her feel embarrassed and illustrating her nerdy cred. Themes of mental illness and mentions of ADHD seem to be ubiquitous to all MICF shows this year. I’m starting to feel a bit queasy when comedians self-diagnose on stage, but then as Bec says it’s almost impossible to get a therapist who can diagnose you and they cost a fortune. Maybe when you can’t get into therapy, write a comedy festival show and use your audience!

Nerds tend to love things passionately, I was hoping for some of this energy, for Bec to share more about what she loves, rather than suggesting it’s a symptom of some sort of mental illness. She mentions her predilection for hoarding collectables, as a lot of nerds do. I wanted to hear more about them, see some of what has she got and what are her favourites, or her silliest? But it is a tough life being a nerd, you learn not get too weird about these things with mundane people. Luckily the title of the show has brought her the right audience who find laughs of recognition throughout and get some of the more obscure references.

Nerd Fuck is an amusing traipse through the life of Bec Petraitis and we get some enjoyable laughs about some nerdy things along the way.

Nerd F*ck is on at Tasma Terrace until April 21

The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour

By Colin Flaherty

As we arrive at Scrimpy Studios we are led past the dressing rooms where we witness chat amongst cast and crew. It appears that all is not well. Once seated we are kept entertained with groovy music and voice over facts about the (mock) TV studio in which we are situated. After an introduction from the Floor Manager (and the obligatory laughter and applause practice) we are ready to begin the live taping of The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour.

This was a brilliant piece of immersive theatre. The room was set up as a 1970s television studio complete with multiple cameras (disguised as analogue period-looking devices to boot) which are fed to static filled screens at the side of stage (whether or not the performance was being filmed for other purposes is a mystery). Although it looked like it was produced on a budget (even for the time period) all the synthetic fibres and open collars transported me back to watching the Penthouse Club back in the day. With the “cast” remaining in character throughout, the immersion was so well done that it’s sometimes hard to determine whether things said on stage were from real life or just part of the show.

The show consisted primarily of various musical acts singing their wonderfully daggy and often inappropriate songs. Haigh once again showed off his awesome singing talents by playing a part in every musical act (along with Isabelle Carney in a jesus-loving brother-sister act ala Donnie & Marie). There were also appearances from the Don Scrimpy Dancers, puppet mailman Twinkle Toes delivering the mailbag segment and the characters from children’s show “The Wibbly Wobbly Wood”. We were so transfixed by the colour and movement that it was easy to miss some of the crew slipping away to inhabit some of the on screen roles.

The TV hour was broken up with commercial breaks featuring some wonderfully amusing businesses and causes. They featured period correct production values and plenty of problematic content for our modern sensibilities. By the end of the taping you were itching to head to the nearest Dimpies Roadhouse after all those customer testimonials!

There is a different guest performer for each show. In our case it was Hannah Camilleri as “The Mechanic” who performed a somewhat improvised piece about a car repair for one of the audience members. She mostly kept to the time period, even admonishing the punter when they offered up modern concepts in their interactions.

Last year’s Songs from the Heart in the Hole of my Bottom (with Aiden Wilcox) set the bar quite high for the “all singing and dancing shows of kitsch” genre. Haigh and team have once again succeeded in bringing us another hilarious, sweaty and chaotic period piece. A groovy time was had by all.

The Isaac Haigh Variety Hour is on at Trades Hall until April 7