Comedy for Christmas in Melbourne

By Lisa Clark

Comedy at Christmas time is the perfect choice for festive celebrations. Sometimes Very Christmassy, sometimes a look at the year gone by (& aren’t we just hanging out for 2016 to have gone bye bye?), sometimes a chance to drink, laugh and forget….  The Comedy Rooms in Melbourne are putting on some Fantastic line ups throughout December and brilliant comedians doing exciting Christmas shows. So organise your bookings, get together with your friends to laugh and forget about the past year and the coming Christmas family obligations.

3 Sat – A Very Judy Christmas – The Butterfly Club

Brendy Ford  as Judy Free

4  Sun – Political Asylum – The Brunswick Green

Mathew Kenneally
Toby Halligan
Jess Moir
Tom Ballard
Ben Pobjie
Nicholas J Johnson
& more!

7 Wed – The Wheeler Centre The Show of the Year 2016  – The Atheneum Theatre

Casey Bennetto  Geraldine Quinn , Deborah Conway, Tom Ballard, Geraldine Hickey, Cal Wilson, Danny McGinlay, Jennifer Byrne and more…

9 Fri –  Tripod Christmas Turkeys – Memo Music Hall in St Kilda

10 Sat –  Tripod Christmas Turkeys – Memo Music Hall in St Kilda

15 Thurs –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

16 Fri –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

17 Sat –  Sammy J & Randy Land – Xmas Tour – The Atheneum

19 Mon – Local Laughs Christmas show – Local Taphouse StKilda

MC Andrew McClelland
The Bedroom Philosopher
David Quirk
Michael Williams
Geraldine Hickey
& More!

21 Wed – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Tim Rogers

22 Thur – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier

23 Fri – Swingin’ Bella Christmas – Bella Union Bar

MCs Casey Bennetto and Geraldine Quinn will be joined by Scott Edgar, Steven Gates & Eddie Perfect

24 Sat – Little Dum Dum Club Orphan Christmas – European Bier Café

Tommy Dassalo and Karl Chandler and their mates.


Political Asylum’s U.S. Election Comedy Special – A satirical guide to the upcoming U.S. election

By Lisa Clark political-asylum-pic

Political Asylum has been a regular part of the Melbourne Comedy scene since 2009 with a monthly show and elections specials, it has also always been part of Melbourne Fringe Festival. This year at Fringe they could not help but do a special about American Politics and the extraordinary shenanigans leading up to this year’s American Presidential Election. This is probably influenced by the fact that two of the main producers of Political Asylum have been living in the U.S. for the past couple of years.

The atmosphere in the main room at The Lithuanian Club was set beautifully with the American flag flying on screen, red white and blue balloons and streamers (Go Doggies! Oops the AFL finals are on, sorry) and American political music playing, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan etc. Host Toby Halligan was energetic and firing on point with great snark and sharp observations and carried the ninety minute showcase well.

First up Laura Davis who just keeps getting better every time I see her, slaying the crowd with her material about gun control and then her magnificent feminist gear which though slightly off point was so stunning she had the audience gobsmacked and delighted. This was followed by Michael Shaffer who really impressed with his relaxed on stage persona and smart up to the minute jokes about things that have just happened in American politics. I look forward to seeing more of Michael in the future.

Impressive up and coming Alanta Colley changed the pace of straight standup to present us with a hilarious political quiz a bit like Who Am I from Sale of The Century but without the home viewer. It was a fantastic way to expose the politician’s appalling and ridiculously inappropriate CV. Am looking forward to seeing Alanta’s own show later in the festival.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall changed the pace again, for his delightfully daggy, “Meanwhile in Canada”. A Canadian expat, Alasdair celebrated Prime Minister Trudeau and focused on the contrast of the sanity of Canadian politics verses its disturbing next door neighbour. He used the big screen for his accompanying pictures well.

It was time to welcome back Matt Kenneally from his two years studying in America. He had a lot to joke about with his only glitch being his ignorance about the rise of gun violence in Melbourne over the past year. Not to the extent of the US but worrying none the less. He’ll soon pick things up and anyway, this was about America and there he knew what he was talking about. He knows people who are voting Trump and why. He shared the terrifying heart of the election. It’s great to see Matt on stage again doing comedy about politics where he has always shone.

It’s also fantastic to see Jess Moir on stage bringing her bubbly personality to political comedy again. Not sure why I’ve not see her for a while but she’s an intelligent endearing comedian and I hope she does more in the future. Then the traditional finale with the not quite so bubbly but still amazingly energetic Grandfather of Australian political comedy Rod Quantock. Still able to surprise and have fun while making caustic observances and inciting revolt. He’s a legend.

I loved that the comedians stayed on topic and were making astute jokes about recent incidents rather than hashing up old tropes. I particularly appreciated the lack of lazy ‘jokes’ about Donald Trumps hair. These were good political humourists, they went for the policies and the quotes.

This was the first of two Political Asylum’s at Fringe this year. The main team (Toby Halligan, Mathew Kenneally, Jess Moir, Alanta Colley and Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall) are a solid group worth getting out for and the guests which will be different for the next performances will be just as good as tonight’s I’m sure. What better way of spending a night at Fringe than laughing at America.

Political Asylum’s U.S. Election Comedy Special is on at The Lithuanian Club – Main Theatre Sept 16 and 17 at 8.30pm

Toby Halligan -Toby, Or Not Toby

By Lisa Clark Toby Halligan

In a festival full of funny stories, sketches and silliness that rarely refer to current events because they have to last a long time (& often through several festivals) it’s great to enjoy a shared experience about our shared experience in the Zeitgeist and the news that bombards us every day. Toby Halligan is able to bring that for us, even with, for example, Trump material he may have been doing months ago, it’s not hard for Toby to touch it up with something Trump may have done today or this week. Unsurprisingly there is quite a bit of Trump Material.

Trump keeps popping up throughout the show like an evil gonk doll in a trashy horror film. It’s not really surprising, there is a lot of humour to be found in the Trump horror show and Toby manages to give his own fresh take on this ever spewing source of comedy material. His erotic fan fiction tends to get more “ewwws” than guffaws as it is a bit hard to take but adds a nice vicious edge to a show that tends to poke rather than skewer and fits in with the late night time slot.

Otherwise there is also plenty to say about local news items, I particularly loved his routine about the hilariously mindboggling behaviour of Rugby League players, and Toby is able to quip on up to the minute political exploits. I have seen Toby perform brilliantly as an integral part of Melbourne’s monthly political comedy night Political Asylum (how many cities in the world have a regular comedy gig devoted to skewering politics?) Its heart-warming to know that Rod Quantock has other comedians as passionate, (if not quite as dangerous) as he, to follow in his red ragging footsteps.

Toby also gives us some tales from his personal life, about how he was pranked by the elderly when working with them and how useful it is that he can blend in with heterosexuals because of his straight appearing “manoflage”. Toby doesn’t really use his being gay as part of his stand up but he does reflect on being a minority throughout the show and as outsider of sorts he can’t help but see the mundane world through the prism of his homosexuality; And that there, is pretty much what defines most great comedians. Outsiders who can surprise us with their unique take on the world. So Toby’s compulsion to jeer at politics is totally unsurprising.

The structure felt a bit random and lacking in flow, though the surprise (un)musical interlude is a whacky touch and might suggest that randomness is what Toby is going for. He also seems to be holding back a little in selling his material at full force. There’s some top jokes there and they deserve all of Toby’s personality. But considering that this is a preview night in front of friends and reviewers, nerves are no doubt coming into play. With a bit of tweaking and more confidence in his material, these things will be smoothed over and the talented Toby I’ve seen hold a huge crowd in his hand will get into his groove.

If you are looking for some comedy with a bit of depth and (left leaning) politics in a genial atmosphere at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Toby, Or Not Toby by the personable Toby Halligan would be an excellent choice.

Toby, or Not Toby is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 2

Visit the Comedy Festival website for full details

Toby Halligan – The Bad Gay

By Noel Kelso Toby Halligan

People often ask me if I ever get tired of seeing so much stand-up. Last night I saw my 100th show for this festival and I’m still laughing. It helps when there are comics as sharp and funny as Toby Halligan on the circuit.

Halligan is better known to many as a political comic with his writing having featured on The Project and Legally Brown, as well as being one of the driving forces behind regular monthly political comedy room Political Asylum, and although his solo shows do touch on some of the more overtly political topics of which he is so fond, mostly he talks about his own life and the peculiarities therein.

The theme of this new show is that of wanting to belong and finding your place in life and society. There are many clichés about gay men – they’re great dancers, dress well, flamboyant etc. – and Toby demonstrates his lack of conformity to any of these from the very beginning as he awkwardly bounces on stage in what is presumably his approximation of ‘dancing’ to a deeply uncool tune from the nineties. This tune ‘Scat Man’ is the source of his first tale of failing to fit-in and the stories become no-less funny as the show progresses.

As he states at the outset, music is one of our first tools used to find a means o fitting-in in social situations and the audience are encouraged to offer-up their own choices of first album ever bought. Most of these turn-out to be far cooler than Toby’s own choice. The audience is taken on a journey through Halligan’s various attempts to determine where he fit in his various social circles – what manner of ‘gayness training’ would he need to complete to slot into the various niches within the gay community and how to navigate the minefield that is the gay dating scene without the interference of his straight friends. We are kept laughing with tales of growing-up in the beige city of Canberra, experiments with drug taking and a little bit of politics – including a great anecdote about an encounter with Malcolm Turnbull.

Halligan is a very dynamic and engaging comic with practised stage presence knowing precisely the right tone to use to emphasise his points and gets full laughter potential from his tales of explaining GRINDR and Scruff to his Mother, pondering just what the gayest names are and a medical encounter with liquid nitrogen. For a great night of laughter and intelligent comedy this show is highly recommended.

Toby Halligan ‘The Bad Gay’ is playing at the Trades Hall, on the corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets at 9:45pm until April 19th.


5 Good Reasons to See Toby Halligan – The Bad Gay

1. I’m a founding member of and co-run Political Asylum, Australia’s best political comedy room, and we have a Prime Minister who Knights Princes and eats raw onions for dares. Come and have fun at the expense of all of us.

2. I write jokes professionally for The Project on Channel 10 and Legally Brown on SBS.

3. There’s dancing. It’ll be terrible but life-affirming.

4. There’s a love story. It’s crazy and funny.

5. It’s almost inevitable that the computers and or aliens will enslave humanity at some point in the near future, dooming us to an eternity of peat mining and/or tentacle massaging. So we might as well enjoy ourselves while we can.

Toby Halligan: Tobylerone

By Noel Kelso

If, like myself, you are a regular attendee of Melbourne comedy rooms you will have at some point encountered the routines of one Toby Halligan, a razor-witted comic with a topical turn of mind and an appetite for the political. He is one of the conspirators behind monthly political comedy room, Political Asylum and also writer for Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’ so comes with plenty of comedy credentials behind him.

The room in which the show is performed is sparsely decorated in minimalist black with a large portrait of beloved leader Tony Abbott resting on the floor, centre stage, so when Halligan appears it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that this is not just a show focussed around every comic’s favourite political punchline. It is even more surprising when Halligan expresses a certain amount of sympathy for our Prime Minister.

Halligan begins by pondering a question which is most appropriate in the current political climate in this country – specifically, ‘What does it mean to be Australian?’

Identity is at the heart of Halligan’s show as he briefly ponders his recent relationship break-up and the ensuing conversations he had with friends. We are taken through the process of having to get back out into the gay dating scene in a world of GRINDR and SCRUFF. Along the way Toby ponders his own attitudes to meeting people and relating to them – particularly his own Mother with whom he reveals he recently had a conversation about the use of amyl nitrate.

We hear how his upbringing in Canberra (a place with very little to get up to) and nerdy pastimes at school (he likes chess) perhaps led to the development of his initial awkwardness. This appears to melt away when he is on stage, thankfully, and his audience can be certain of forthright proclamations on topics as diverse as celebrity endorsements of public transport, revealing inappropriate facts about animals and how it is impossible for any politician to be completely honest.

So, we are brought full-circle and return to the true meaning of what it is to be Australian via Clive palmer and his dinosaurs.

Halligan is an energetic and impassioned comedian whose delivery style veers from innocent curiosity to full rant sometimes within the same sentence. But there is always a genuine warmth and playfulness to his material which prevents it becoming uncomfortable. Halligan appreciates the value of a well-placed expletive, not using them merely for shock value or to compensate for a poor vocabulary, but as a form of emphasis.

Tobylerone is playing at Upstairs at Errol’s in North Melbourne until September 26th.