The Big HOO-HAA! – 24 Hour HOO-HAA!

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.

Melbourne Fringe Festival Comedy Award Winners

Congratulations to all the performers who won awards at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, to all those who took part and especially to those who practiced the art of comedy.
Here are the comedy award winners this year:


Best Comedy: EDGE! by Rachel Davis and Isabel Angus

Best Venue: Imperial Hotel



Touring Award

Outstanding Comedy Show

Winner: Simon Keck – Nob Happy Sock


Local Award

People’s Choice Award

Wizard Sandwiches: The Last Lunch


For our full archive of award winners  see our History of Australian Award Winners page under the FEATURES section


Marcus and Dan’s Award Winning Show

By Colin Flaherty

With its cheeky title, the advertising blurb of Marcus and Dan’s Award Winning Show didn’t give too much away but dropped extremely subtle hints as to what to expect. Joining Daniel Pavatich and Marcus Willis on stage were seven other performers and together they set out to improvise an entire movie based on an audience suggested title.

On the night I attended the film was “Three Men Flying” which resulted in a rollicking air force drama set during the cold war era. With a nod to many well-known movies, most notably Top Gun, we saw the interconnected stories of a seriously determined boy with dreams of flying, a pilot with no respect for the rules and a nervous wreck of a co-pilot, and their part in stopping a soviet plane loaded with nukes. Plenty of recognizable movie tropes and clichés were used in the telling of the story; a training montage, a kid out to avenge his father’s death, a cannon fodder character and many, many more.

The way that the show was structured was different to most long form improvised shows in that the character performers weren’t necessarily in control of the story most of the time. Just like a film written by committee everyone not acting in the scene contributed narration, prop and costume description, camera shots (close ups required the subject to approach the front of the stage) and lots of plot twists. At times it was like those not in the scene tried to throw in as many ideas as possible to see what would stick. The result was some very frenetic on stage action with people buzzing around the characters filling in the details with wild gesturing.

An interesting addition was a kind of Director’s commentary where “writer” Pavatich would be called upon to explain a plot point. This tested his quick thinking and produced some laughs but his general response was to comically dismiss the point as being beyond his knowledge rather than make up some outrageous statements to add to the lunacy.
Being the last show of the night at the venue, the team weren’t restricted to squeezing all the action into an hour so no one was really keeping an eye on the clock. There was the danger that they were digging too deep a hole and wouldn’t be able to wrap things up, but somehow gave a satisfying conclusion. The movie approached a feature length of about ninety minutes which fit the concept but was possibly a tad too long. Such is unpredictable beast that is improvised theatre.

The large cast all worked very well together and kept the show moving at a cracking pace. There didn’t seem to be too many toes stepped upon with everyone willing to go with any new direction the movie took off in. This team of quick wits came up with many hilarious lines and scenarios that kept the audience in stitches. It was a hoot.

Marcus and Dan’s Award Winning Show is on at Gertrude’s Brown Couch until October 6

String Theory – Andy Matthews

By Lisa Clark

Andy Matthews is a charming performer with a clever mind and a sharp, perverse wit. Originally from Tasmania he has been performing in Melbourne for only a few years and his stand up is nerdy, impressive and his own. After doing shared festivals in the past, this is his first solo festival show. String Theory is a striking showcase for his writing and storytelling skills.

As we enter the small rather packed Loft, Andy is engaging us in some lightly awkward small talk. He explains that there is no backstage for him to hide in and pop out from. It’s actually a good little space for this intimate performance but it does get rather hot, so you might want to dress lightly. His introduction is a warm, inviting one, but it comes with a warning. “Pay attention”. This is not a laid back romp, it’s time to switch on your brains and keep up. We are also introduced to his brother George on the synth who noodles away on his instrument throughout and gives a lovely “Look Around You” early 80’s science documentary feel to the show, particularly to the String Theory segments that ‘tie it all together’.

String Theory is the sort of phrase that keeps coming up on Big Bang Theory and might have piqued your curiosity about what it’s about, well maybe you should be going to a science lecture rather than a comedy show. Apparently Andy Matthews was inspired to do this show after being disappointed by the film ‘Cloud Atlas’. I’ve not seen it but I don’t expect that would change the way you experience Andy’s show which is basically a string of absurd stories strung together by some string theories of Andy’s.

The stories are all bizarre, surprising and densely written. They are often told as if read from a primary source. My favourites are logs from some of explorer Matthew Flinder’s lesser known anachronistic travels , a story told through letters of complaint and a Ballad of Michael Burt, in which a farmer becomes an unexpected hero. The laughs at the beginning, for Flinder’s story were loud and constant, but as the show went on it petered out somewhat and the room became pretty quiet. The stories were all entertaining but they were so densely written and jokes piled on top of each other so that they were hard to catch and left little space to laugh, less you miss more of the story. The stuffy room did not help.

The humour in this show is poetic and literary and would suit fans of absurdest writers such as Lewis Carroll. It is laugh out loud at times and amusing, but more of a spoken word comedic essay rather than a standup comedy performance. With more experience, Andy could work on perfecting his delivery, so that his stories flow better and work better as a performance. At the moment, you can hear that the stories are well written but they are a bit heavy going as a long form performance piece for a comedy audience. Worth a go if you are an adventurous fan of the Absurd.

Andy Matthew’s String Theory is on at Fringe Hub – Son of Loft

5 Good Reasons To See Love, Factually with Tom Lang

1. Once you find out the weird crap snails get up to, you’ll never look at a snail the same way again. Tired of looking at snails the same way? We’ll fix that!

2. Will help you understand the opposite sex. And your own sex. Or if you’re one of those animals with more than one sex, those too.

3. At least three holy shit really moments. We’re so confident that you’ll be amazed by at least three things you hear in this show, that we won’t even offer you your money back, because nobody would need to take that offer up! That’s how confident we are.

4. Will make you a brilliant dinner party conversationalist. You’re sitting around a dinner table in silence. Everyone’s uncomfortable. You pipe up “hey, did you guys know owls don’t have penises?” Smash cut to the party going AWESOMELY and it’s all thanks to you. Good work.

5. Sounds a bit like love actually. So if you say it really fast you can bring a date, because they’ll think it’s some kind of lame romantic comedy instead of a searingly insightful hilarity-fest.

Love, Factually is on Thursday, Friday and Sunday at The Imperial

Nellie White is The Shitty Carer

By Colin Flaherty

In …The Shitty Carer Nellie told the story of her experience working in the UK as a carer, a role she was rather unqualified for and completely unprepared. The advertising is rather drastic (see the image to the right) so the expectations of something comically over the top were high. The resultant show however was the polar opposite with low key observational humour, deliberate pacing and an extremely serious tone.

The show started off well with some amusing stories about her time spent in London and how she fell into her role as carer. We heard of how dreary London was, her brief spell of homelessness and the homes she shared with some eccentric characters. Most of the humour came from White’s blunt, occasionally crude, comments about her actions and bizarre quotes from the people she encountered. We laughed with some shock at her temerity and often un-PC thoughts.

When White went into detail about the woman she cared for, a former doctor named Lee, the number of laughs decreased dramatically. There was the odd amusing comment about her comical attempts to cope but generally it turned into heartfelt recollections about her time spent with Lee and her dismay at the lack of support for the gravely ill. This about-face seemed to be due to both the very serious subject matter and her direct involvement with Lee who, as revealed at the top, had passed away since.

It must be a huge emotional drain to revisit these memories every night but it was a hindrance to both the comical content and her delivery. Her words slowed even further than her usual laissez-faire candence and she seemed to be on the verge of tears. After about only thirty-five minutes we were thrust from the theatre to ponder the experience. Her conclusion was not very optimistic and left all feeling rather down; not the greatest way to end a comedy show.

There were the bones of a powerful and entertaining performance in this show but it needs some work before it becomes a polished comedy work with a message. It would have been nice to see some rage rather than all the sorrow to get the points across in an amusing manner.

Nellie White is The Shitty Carer is on at The imperial Hotel until October 6