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

The 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards

This afternoon the Melbourne International Comedy Festival announced the 2021 Award winners at the Toff In Town, with host Adam Hills. Adam mentioned how incredibly strong the majority of the shows at this year’s festival were and he was right. The duds were rare and everything that was good was Absolutely brilliant! It must have been very difficult for the judges this year.
We could not be happier to announce the winner of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award 2021 for the Most Outstanding Show is Geraldine Hickey! Hickey said in her thank you speech: “I’d kind of like to dedicate this award to anyone who’s in the middle of their career and at the tipping point of, Is this working? Should I keep going? No one notices me. Well keep going ’cause fuck I did and look at me now!” To big cheers.
Now, when is she getting to host a TV show / her own Netflix special? Soon I hope. She has been selling out live shows for years now.

Most Outstanding Show: Geraldine Hickey What a Surprise!
Aaron Chen – Sorry Forever
David Quirk – Astonishing Obscurity
Ivan Aristeguieta – Piñata
Luke Heggie – Lowbreed
Michelle Brasier – Average Bear
Nikki Britton – One Small Step
Reuben Kaye – The Butch is Back

Best Newcomer Award: Charlie Zangel – Cockatiel 
You may know Charlie Zangel who has been performing for years as Charity Werk
Anna Piper Scott – Queer & Present Danger
Chris Ryan – Big Hair, Big Dreams
Scout Boxall – Good Egg

The Golden Gibbo: Nat Harris & Hannah Camilleri! – Pet-Nat + Han ah  Chocolat.
An award given for creativity and bravery.
Claire Sullivan – Toast Rat
Woah, Alyssa! – Woah, Alyssa! 3
Ben Knight – Teacher
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Andy Matthews! – Teleport

Directors’ Choice Award: Melanie Bracewell – The Rumours Are True 
A New Zealander you may know from her regular appearances on Have You Been Paying Attention, she accepted this in her netball uniform.

The People’s Choice Award: Daniel Sloss
This award is for most tickets sold across the 2021 Festival and UK comedian Sloss was very closely followed by Tommy Little.

The Piece of Wood: Greg Larsen – This Might Not Be Hell.
This award is chosen by other comedians in the festival for one of their own.

Funny Tonne: Winner Ben Carruthers
As I publish He’s seen 79 shows, and written 52 reviews, he said the emphasis was put on review quality this year.
The funny Tonners didn’t start their run until after the Festival had begun and were somewhat outshined by comedian Blake Everett, who is up in the 90s and has given nearly every one of them a quick positive review on twitter. And he is performing in his own acclaimed festival show Blake and Oliver Dig Their Own Graves and also did tech for award nominated Toast Rat.

Class Clowns National Champ: Dhruv Rhao (who was the youngest nominee) Runners-up: Jai Uhlmann and Sophia Marosszeky

The Deadly Funny Award:  Jahmarley Dawson   Special mentions were given to Cy FaheyBen Moodie and Kasey Johnson

5 Good reasons to see Nat Harris & Hannah Camilleri: Pét-Nat + Han ah Chocolat

1. There are two of us, which could potentially double the opportunity for laughter and fun. It’s maths.

2. If you like upbeat 90s house tracks, horny goblins and 18th-century theatrics.

3. Hannah and Nat are both the third child out of four siblings. Maybe you can relate to our need to be “seen” and our people-pleasing ways? And both their nan’s surnames were McNamara. Yes, we are looking into it. From an aesthetic point of view, Nat and Hannah have really different hair.

4. If you love the thrill of laughing and would like to check out something a little different from stand-up

5. If you watched the successful lockdown web series, Little Shits created by Hannah featuring Nat and wanted to see more, then this is the perfect opportunity

Nat Harris & Hannah Camilleri perform Pét-Nat + Han ah Chocolat aaaa at The Improv Conspiracy Swanston Fridays Saturdays & Sundays

Tickets Available Here:

5 Good Reasons to see Hannah Camilleri in Coming

1. This is Hannah’s third show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and third time’s the charm. Let Hannah charm your socks off this year.

2. No two shows are exactly the same. Like a snowflake or a potato chip, every show has it’s quirks and nuances.

3. This is a wild, one woman show. Every character, every situation- it’s all Hannah, so you don’t have to worry that you thought you had picked a one woman show only to find men on stage, ’cause they’ll be characters!

4. Get transported to fantastical new lands by the dulcet tones of Hannah’s vocal cords vibrating and their ability to morph into various voices.

5. This show is conveniently on at 6pm right in the CBD so you can finish your stressful day at work, have 50 minutes of belly laughs and then fill those now empty bellies with delicious food, ready for a big night of comedy. Start your night right with this show!

Coming is on at Crowded at The Croft from March 25 to April 4

5 Good Reasons To See Hannah Camilleri in Big Snot

1. See a revolving door of wild yet nuanced characters performed by one person.

2. “Be prepared to embrace the utter ridiculousness that culminates when Hannah weaves her tapestry…” Onya Magazine 2018

3. It’s like screen to stage in Big Snot where Camilleri draws inspiration from VHS classics and 90s TV and performs on a stage. Screen to stage.

4. Camilleri was actually a humble Comedy Festival usher for years and now you can witness all that pent up frustration explode on the other side of the camera, or whatever, in her second Comedy Festival

5. It’s on at 9.45pm so Big Snot could be your final show of the night. We’ve planned your evening: see show at 7.15pm, see the other show at 8.30pm and then head to Big Snot at Globe Alley (formerly Belleville) for 9.45pm

Big Snot is on at Globe Alley from April 15 to April 21

5 Good Reasons to see Hannah Camilleri in Vision Statement

1. I’m fresh from studying under Philippe Gaulier and have bundles of optimism to share with you

2. I’ll be introducing you to relatable ringleaders!

3. Im completely playful, silly and ridiculous but there exists notes of nuance; en pointe enactments of existing experts

4. My show is Directed by the hilarious and super talented Tom Halls (in How To Kill The Queen Of Pop at fringe Hub) who teases out the ridiculous and invites it to stay!!

5. Do you have an affinity with Cruella De Ville, Ursula, The Grand High Witch, The White Witch (BBC’s The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe), Big Business (1998 film starring Bette Midler), James Bond, Indiana Jones or Miranda Priestly? They’re great 😉

Vision Statement is on at Club Voltaire from September 15 to 24