Kirsty Webeck – I’ll Be The Judge Of That

By Lisa Clark

Kirsty Webeck is a born comedian, with comedy in her bones and it’s always wonderful to see a comedian grow and get better and better at their craft with each show. This year she is also trying to grow as a human being.

Kirsty has always been a welcoming and kind performer, cultivating her warm relationship with her audience through Social Media to live on stage. She has always approached her audience as a friend. She assumes we will accept her as she is and that we are both, comedian and audience, safe in the space. She skillfully brings the audience along in her performance, explaining the obscure stuff, asking if we all understand some things that might be culturally specific to Australians. She wants no one left behind.

I’ll Be The Judge Of That is made up of several stories about why she is trying to be more open and accepting of other people’s differences and opinions. Beginning with the universality of food and its etiquette, the laughs are immediate, generous and don’t stop throughout. A simple airport story becomes epic as she throws in all her airport jokes one after another to keep the laughter rolling. Her monumental centre-piece is an achingly embarrassing tale of the time a simple gig, hosting a Show-Band afternoon performance, goes horribly, horribly wrong and it is hilarious.

The stories can be about uncomfortable experiences and awkward social situations, and though Kirsty owns her place in them, she doesn’t belittle herself, or put herself down. She is always our hero, recognising where others are misjudging her, or celebrating those who show kindness and support.

Kirsty famously laughs throughout her set, it’s not that she’s laughing at her own jokes, as much as she’s just having a jolly old time and assures us that our laughter is really making her feel great too. The happy vibe is infectious and you can take your friends knowing everyone will have a brilliant time with a smashing comedian and come out smiling. Kirsty is killing it, but she’s choosing to Kill with Kindness.

Kirsty Webeck – I’ll Be The Judge Of That at The Westin 3 at 6pm til April 21. There is an extra show at 4.30pm on April 20.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/ill-be-the-judge-of-that

Dane Simpson & His Dad – The King and I

By Bren Carruthers

For anyone who has followed Dane Simpson’s career, this concept is perhaps something of an inevitability – stories about his dad, Bow, have been a pretty consistent staple of his material for years, almost placing Bow on a semi-mythical pillar. Now Bow finally hits the Big Smoke and takes the stage alongside Dane at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in The King and I.

At its core, the show centres on the pair’s (ultimately brief) appearance on the celebrity version of The Amazing Race Australia, with a smattering of other anecdotes spinked into the set along the way. Bow, with a comfortable chair and prop crown, plays a role as part offsider, part heckler, part hijacker, throwing up tangents, curveballs and dad jokes as Dane alternates between performing and parent-wrangling. It makes for a charming, organic chemistry, spiked with a hint of danger – Bow’s anarchic approach and penchant for an off-colour joke or two has Dane on his toes throughout. It makes for a loose, silly and enjoyable show.

Bow’s ‘performance’ – perhaps not as a polished comedian, but certainly playing to the audience – is ultimately an emblem of classic Australian larrikinism: not the hypermasculine variant, with its cocksure bravado, but the kind of larrikinism that is deftly cheeky, wildly silly and in bold defiance of authority, a type of character that is relatable and appealing to both Indigenous and white/colonising Australians. Although many would identify the archetype as very characteristically Australian, it’s a rare phenomenon to see in a Melbourne Comedy Festival show in 2024, and by that token, certainly a refreshing and welcome one.

Perhaps the question now is what effect this show will have on Dane’s material into the future. With Bow now 70 and living in Lightning Ridge in remote New South Wales, and Dane with a newborn on the way, it’s more likely that performing as a pairing will be a novelty than a regular occurrence. It feels somewhat like it could be a watershed moment in Dane’s career: does he turn the page here and look to apply his storytelling style to fresh topics? Or perhaps the new addition to the family will inspire a whole different perspective on Dane and Bow’s relationship? With Dane’s natural, down-to-earth ease and charm, storytelling skill and eye for the ridiculous, there’s no doubt he’ll be a regular fixture of the national comedy scene for many years to come.

The King and I is on in the Acacia Room of the Victoria Hotel at 7:20pm (6:20pm Sundays, no Mondays) until the end of the festival.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/the-king-and-i

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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/putting-on-a-show

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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/the-correos-effect

Viggo Venn: British Comedian

By Jess Welch 

Sometimes you see a comedian that entirely defies description. Viggo Venn is that performer. As a reviewer, it is a nightmare. As an audience member, it is a delight.

Venn brings the energy, even before he hits the stage. If you have seen any of his stint on Britain’s Got Talent – in which he made it to the final – you’ll generally know what to expect. If you haven’t, I recommend not looking it up beforehand. I hadn’t and I believe 100% that it was the right choice. Let yourself be surprised.

The only thing to note before you go is that the sign outside warns of “audience participation”. Take this warning seriously, but don’t be scared. Venn is like sunshine incarnate and it’s all in good fun. It’s a good
chance to not take yourself too seriously. Leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is as good as the audience. The more you give, the more you’ll get. Let out the screams, the full belly chuckles, even the snorts. It’s a safe space.

Venn is part clown, part comedian, part hair and more than a few hi-vis vests. A Norwegian by birth, he moved to the UK to become a British Comedian. If you’re worried the accent might throw you off, don’t
worry. His main communication methods are facial expressions and flailing. He is fluent in both.

This is a show for anyone and everyone. The audience, the night I went, ranged from children to pensioners, all whooping and giggling. There were couples, families, friends and even some people on their own. Yet Venn makes the audience seem as one, somehow. As if we are one big, happy, slightly odd friendship group. Perhaps the effect might be spoilt in a bigger room, but then again, Venn’s powers of the absurd might just make it work.

It’s wonderful to let yourself get swept away on the tide of complete and utter joyful madness.
And it is madness. It almost feels as if Venn has gotten just as lost in it as the audience, giggling and giddy, but somehow brings the show to a perfectly scripted finish. It’s masterful and baffling and I enjoyed every second.

Viggo Venn: British Comedian is on at Trades Hall – Common Rooms Bar. 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/viggo

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

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/virtually-a-reality