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.

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

Chris Parker: Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge

By Lisa Clark

Chris Parker is dancing to his own private dance mix of bangers (such as Stupid Love by Lady Gaga) from his phone on stage while the audience files in. He says it’s silly to wait behind the curtain, and anyway he wants to hang out with us and not feel left out. FOMO is a big part of the generation addicted to their phones and the connection with other people that it represents. He’s creating a real party atmosphere and maintains that throughout.

Chris is larger than life, loud and passionate, cheery and cheeky. Exuding fun and mischief, he is having a ball on stage and it encourages the audience to join in. The final song on Chris Parker’s opening house music playlist, Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, is significant and takes us back to his 12th birthday party with all the complicated and awkward memories it evokes.

While exploring his youth, he talks about how the use of his mobile phone has changed over the years. About how important it is in making plans and communicating with friends and loved ones, how group chats have become increasingly complicated. There are now so many ways of chatting on every app and how everyone is creating content and constantly in fear of feeling locked out. He himself has become popular on Tic Tok and live streaming on Instagram which went viral during lockdown, though he doesn’t delve into this (that was a previous show). He knows he’s part of the problem.

He goes into a deeper dive of his 20s and how awful they could be. How it was easier to make friends, though not necessarily ones that are good for you, how he came out and lost his virtue. I’m amazed at how he was able gloss over these massive experiences so flippantly with easy jaunty jokes. He’s our dear eager to please friend, making sure we’re here for a good time.

Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge is the kind of show that’s feels like hanging out with a vivacious friend, in this case at a rowdy party that never gets too wild. Because Chris is in his 30s now and would rather cuddle up in front of the TV at home with his husband than party all night with the ravers.

It should be no surprise that Chris is a great comedian, he’s won New Zealand’s top comedy awards, the Fred (named for Fred Dagg, a character by John Clarke) and the Topp Awards (named for the iconic Topp Twins). He’s also well-known there for Winning Celebrity Treasure Island and coming runner-up on Series 3 of Taskmaster NZ. The show is funny throughout and he ends with a string of social media drafts that are an excuse for rapid fire quick gags. The audience came out raving to each other, bursting with praise for him and I was pretty impressed with a grin on my face too. We really had a fantastic time at the Chris Parker party.

Chris Parker performs Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge at The Westin One

Kirsty Mann: Skeletons

By Lisa Clark

I love a good Coming Out Festival show and this is a highly entertaining one. Kirsty Mann is not gay though, she is coming out as a comedian who is also Doctor and also a fragile human with foibles, insecurities and a brain the size of a planet.

Coming from a grand tradition of Medical Doctors who become comedians such as Graeme Garden, Graham Chapman, Harry Hill, Ken Jeong and our own Rob Sitch, Kirsty’s comedy is so sharp you could cut yourself with it. It’s not really a medical comedy as such, but she’s certainly got a lot of eye-opening, comical hospital anecdotes. There is going to be quite a bit of blood and hospital talk, so it’s not for the easily squeamish. Luckily she has a great bedside manner that charms and wins over the audience very quickly.

Kirsty welcomes us cheerfully into the space and opens with some light audience interaction. She calls it a “Safe Space”, and as she picks out punters to answer her questions I think “But IS it though?” and of course it is. Kirsty knows exactly what she is doing and she’s making a point. It’s all about feeling highly uncomfortable in social situations when very standard small talk questions come up like, ‘So what do you do?’ and ‘What have you been up to?’ For someone trying to hide a double life these are especially nerve-wracking.

Kirsty is a brilliant storyteller and does the voices well, by creating characters that include her sassy, gay, Irish best friend, his snooty, posh actress friend, Kirsty’s annoying arrogant crush, and her German gossipy workmate. She apologises for the Australian accent she attempts when bringing her strict boss to life, it’s not great but she makes it part of the silly fun.

In amongst the ups and downs of amusing tales from her life she hits the inevitable, looming mountain that is 2020 and the horrors of working in a London hospital during Covid. It is visceral and moving, giving depth and poignancy to the performance as well as being the catalyst for coming out. We do not linger too long in the darkness, Kirsty swiftly moves us back to the laughs and conclusion of her tale.

Kirsty is well known for clever and silly online sketch videos via social media and it’s always wonderful when an online performer proves that they are equally adept at performing to live audiences. Skeletons is the smartest storytelling comedy show I’ve seen in a while, sophisticated, tight and layered. It’s a shame her run in Melbourne is so short, see her if and when you can.

Kirsty Mann performs Skeletons until April 7 at The Malthouse