Tag: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

REVIEW: Ali McGregor’s LATE-NITE VARIETY-NITE NIGHT

Comedy cabaret compendium is a nite to remember

By Bradley Storer

Introduced by her sullen handmaiden Flaxen McGinty (Virginia Ginty), the radiant Ali McGregor sauntered down through the audience, serenading us with sensual song and sublime vocals.

Ali McGregor

Although more than capable of entertaining us all by herself, the former Opera Australia leading lady took to the stage to present a rotating cast of comedians, burlesque and cabaret performers in what has become one of the main-stay events of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

On this particular night there was a wonderful selection of talent on display. Matt Okine, last year’s Best Newcomer at the Comedy Festival, showed great comedic skill as he regaled us with the awkward tale of having an African father and a former Nazi Youth for a grandfather (‘he wasn’t Nazi enough that he killed Jews,’ Okine reassured us, ‘…Just enough to be pope’). With bright eyes and a cheeky smile, burlesque performer Agent Lynch unveiled an instrument McGregor later informed us was called a ‘vagilaphone’.

Renowned international cabaret duo EastEnd Cabaret dropped in for an exclusive performance, chanteuse Bernadette Byrne and her sidekick Victor Victoria raising the temperature of the evening with a saucy accordion cover of ‘I’m Too Sexy’. Comedian Dave Callan closed the night with a spontaneous, fully choreographed performance of Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’, complete with back-up dancers, that brought down the house.

McGregor interspersed songs from her latest album throughout the show, including jazz and funk re-vamped versions of 80’s songs by The Prodigy and Salt ‘n’ Pepa. Her ‘buttress’ McGinty joined in on duets with her velvetly smooth voice, also taking centre stage herself to sing a cheeky tune dedicated to the virtues of her hand-crafted chair (to be understood in all its smutty glory, it must be seen in context). A true ‘late night’ show which combines ribaldry, entertainment and cheap low-brow humour all with a hint of classiness, a delicious cocktail of after-dark delights.

TIME: 10:30 (9:30 Sunday)

VENUE: The Famous Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd

TICKETS: Thur/Sun $30, Fri/Sat $35, Conc Thur/Sun $25, Conc Fri/Sat $30, Group (6+) $25

BOOKING: www.ticketmaster.com.au, www.comedyfestival.com.au, Ticketmaster 1300 660 013, Arts Centre 1300 182 183, or at the venue.

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Review: DEANNE SMITH’s Let’s Do This

From awkward beginnings to utter charm

By Bradley Storer

About eight seconds after psyching up herself and the audience with Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, comedian Deanne Smith cuts the music short and admits ‘I can’t maintain this level of energy for very long’.

Smith opens with a ukulele tune in which she recruits the audience to interject at her command with the title of her show – the song never really managed to gain momentum since Smith was constantly forced to stop and wait for the audience’s response, and this made for a slightly awkward opening. After this small bump in the road though, her show Let’s Do It for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival picks up and soars.

Deanne Smith

The main thrust of Smith’s show is an examination of her inability to be a self-confident and secure person, gleefully dissecting her various neuroses to side-splitting and, at times, jaw-dropping effect.

Smith’s strength is her innate sweetness and lovability, which allows her to delve into some unexpectedly filthy and dark places (at my particular performance, even Smith herself remarked at several points, surprised ‘You all got on board with that!’). Topics range from the unfortunate implications of the term ‘femi-nazis’ and her hatred of penguins to a remarkably optimistic view of humanity’s current effects on the environment.

Interspersed throughout are many moments of audience participation, people individually to be sung at, called up to assist onstage or to take photos during the show (for one particular section, I’d advise bringing along a friend to save potential embarrassment). The hour show flies by and it would be hard to imagine anyone who would not be doubled over in laughter by the end.

DATES: 30th MARCH – 21st APRIL

TIME: 9:45 (8:45 Sunday)

VENUE: MELBOURNE TOWN HALL – CLOAK ROOM

TICKETS: Full $25, Preview $20, Tightarse Tuesday $20, Laugh Pack (n/a Fri & Sat) $20, Concession $20 (n/a Fri & Sat), Group (8+) (N/A Fri & Sat) $20

BOOKINGS: www.ticketmaster.com.au, Phone – 1300 660 013, www.comedyfestival.com.au, Melbourne Town Hall Box Office

REVIEW: Saturn Returns for MICF

Double act lifts a curse to cosmic comic heights

By Myron My

Returning for an encore season during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Saturn Returns is an intergalactic comic cabaret by musical comedy performers Lachlan MacLeod and Simon Abrahams.

Saturn Returns 1

Coming on stage in stellar shiny silver three-piece suits and ties, the two men delve into the “curse” of Saturn’s Return, where an orbiting Saturn comes back to the same point in the sky that it was in at the moment of your birth. Each time this happens, roughly every 30 years, we are said to enter a new phase of our lives, so it’s quite fitting that Abrahams has already experienced his own Saturn Return and MacLeod is fast approaching his.

MacLeod and Abrahams perform a dozen original songs – ranging from ballads to rap to boy band pop songs – about the highs and lows of turning 30. Gems include “One Grey Pube” which looks at the inevitability of turning old and “Does It Work Out In The End” where they question whether things will get better the older (and hopefully wiser) we become. At various times, they take to the ukulele and piano on stage to accompany their songs and further reveal their musical talents.

Having just turned 30 myself, I could unequivocally relate to everything they were singing about. The fear of having taken a wrong turn somewhere, finding someone to love, a career and wondering when it will all fall into place are thoughts that have crossed my mind many times.

The two have been working together for ten years, and it shows. Their energy and charm during Saturn Returns is magnetic and very natural. They would have to be one of the strongest and funniest duos I have seen in a very long time on the performance circuit.

If you’ve passed your 30s, go along and reminisce about the “hideous, painful and traumatic stage of (y)our lives”. If you’re still in your 20s, go along and take note of what’s waiting for you. Getting older is not all bad, especially when you have great entertainers like Abrahams and MacLeod singing songs and making jokes about it.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St (entry via Carson Place), Melbourne

Season: Until 6 April | Tues-Wed, Sun 8:00pm, Thurs-Sat 9:00pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Concession

Bookings: www.butterflyclub.com or 9690 2000

Review: CONFESSIONS OF A SENSITIVE MALE STRIPPER

Bare-all story-telling for MICF

By Myron My

What drew me to the preview performance of Confessions of a Sensitive Male Stripper for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was the lack of stories you hear from male strippers in popular culture. It’s usually female strippers talking about their job, their lives and clientele, from Diary of a Callgirl to talk-show exposés. So I thought it would be refreshing to hear this masculine side of the story.

Confessions

Our anonymous stripper walks out on stage in a cowboy outfit, including a large cowboy hat and a scarf tied over his face so that only his eyes are visible. The story takes places at a doctor’s clinic where our stripper has gone for a check-up and begins to relay to the female doctor how he became a stripper.

The use of every sexual pun conceivable certainly borders on crass, but Anonymous manages to tread a fine line given the subject title and some of them are quite funny.

My main gripe is that none of his stories actually offer any insight into the mind of a male stripper. The stories are exactly what I’ve mentioned having heard before – except the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ have been swapped. Talking about his objectification by women and the sexually explicit comments shouted at him demanding he “take it off” became quite mundane and repetitive.

The wanting to remain anonymous gimmick doesn’t work well here either. When you can’t see who is talking to you and the performer remains seated for the majority of the show, it makes it hard for the audience to remain engaged.

This performance is ultimately a unique idea without a strong follow-through, for we are taken on this journey where Anonymous wants us to sympathise with him due to his embarrassing and cringe-worthy experiences yet his actions at the end feel contrived and are the exact opposite of what he has been trying to get away from.

I did leave the show wondering if this was in fact a real male stripper or just a comedian putting on a show, which is a worthwhile achievement by this performer. Either way though, Confessions of a Sensitive Male Stripper was unfortunately only as impressive as that prosthetic penis in the lacy G-string…

Venue: Elephant & Wheelbarrow, Cnr Bourke & Exhibition Sts, Melbourne

Season: Until 19 March | Thurs-Fri 6:00pm

Tickets: $15 Full

Bookings: www.tixnofee.com or at the door

REVIEW: Circus Horrificus for MICF

Running away to join the circus just got dangerous – and hilarious

By Myron My

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is upon us and it is preview night for Circus Horrificus It’s A Western. There is a sense of excitement and nerves as I take my seat: extreme physical circus acts is what has been promised, and boy, do these guys deliver.

Circus Horrificus

Unfortunately, the beginning of the show where we are introduced to Samora Squid and Bridget Bridge overstayed its welcome. Too much slapstick and I found the screeching and growling at each other rather irritating. I wasn’t amazed by anything and my interest was not piqued. It seemed that just when you thought it was going to go somewhere – it didn’t. Even the music in the background was distracting.

Once these two performers got over this initial hurdle however, they not only took it to the next level but smashed through it. Their energy heightened, their interaction got stronger and even the music was more harmonious with the action. There were many moments where the audience was equally mesmerised, horrified, cringing and cheering. It’s been a while since I have felt all these emotions at the same time and it really wreaks havoc with the your body – but this was nothing compared to what Squid and Bridge were enduring physically.

There were numerous times I wanted to clap but all I could do was watch in disbelief in the various acts they performed. I would love to be specific about what these two artists do but I really think half the fun is watching without foreknowledge the crazy antics they get up to – although I will note that fireworks get up close and personal in places they should never be near…

The way Squid and Bridge present themselves, the costumes and the props they use all give off the authentic flavour of a real circus sideshow act. It’s no surprise that they would choose to perform at the newly relocated Butterfly Club, itself being eponymous with the kitsch and carnivale.

Despite its rocky opening, Circus Horrificus’ Squid and Bridge do win the audience over with their crazy cheekiness and it’s always great to see something that definitely isn’t your standard stand-up comedian in this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St(entry via Carson Place), Melbourne

Season: Until 21 March | Tues-Wed, Sun 9:30pm

Tickets: $23 Full | $20 Concession

Bookings: www.butterflyclub.com or 9690 2000

REVIEW: Joel Creasey’s NAKED

A young comedian on the rise

By Myron My

I first saw Joel Creasey perform at the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. That was his debut on the circuit and I was very impressed with the wit and the casual bitchiness that he delivered.

Fast-forward two years later and I am sitting at the Melbourne Town Hall watching Joel Creasey’s Naked. (Please take note of the ‘s in that sentence).

Two things I notice immediately. There is a lot more confidence and punch to his routine and the room is a bit bigger than his debut gig venue. Creasey is clearly moving up in the stand-up food-chain. On the flip side, the wrist is still limp so I know it’s still the same guy standing on stage making me laugh.

In Naked, Creasey looks at four themes: fear, secrets, nudity and Xena. I’m not quite sure how Xena fits in with the other three, but hey, let’s go with it! And that’s what you need to do when watching one of Creasey’s shows. He’s a bit like a kid in a candy store: talking really excitedly about everything and anything that pops into his head. Fortunately that anything is usually quite funny.

It’s no secret that Creasey is gay (or at least it isn’t now) and the topic of homosexuality is undoubtedly brought up in the show. Even though it is done with humour, there is a hint of seriousness and social commentary on the difficulties that gay youth experience whilst growing up. Thirty seconds later and you’re hearing about Creasey’s grandmother’s speed-dating experience. You just don’t know what is going to come out of his mouth next.

At 21, Creasey definitely has a lot of potential to just get bigger and bigger in the comedy scene. His self-deprecating humour is a winner with audiences and there is even a lovely surprise for them after the “credits roll”.

VENUE
Melb Town Hall – Backstage Room

DATES
Until 22 April

TIMES
Mon 9.30pm
Tue-Sat 9.45pm
Sun 8.45pm

PRICES
Full $22
Concession $18

BOOKINGS
Ticketmaster 1300 660 013 or at the door

REVIEW: Simon Taylor’s 10 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT YOU

Fall in love with laughter!

By Adam Tonking

Every now and then a show comes along that you can’t help but fall in love with. One of the many joys of reviewing is that I get to write a love letter to it.

I admit it, I have a crush on 10 Things I Know About You, written and performed by Simon Taylor.

On the surface, this show is about psychology, a topic that clearly fascinates Taylor. He takes us through the psychology of morality, delusion, love, comedy, and ultimately happiness; but this is first and foremost a comedy routine, and it is hilarious.

Taylor sings to us, he dances for us, he regales us with stories from his life and quotes from his psychology textbook. He is so delightful, and so very talented, that you can’t resist being drawn into his upbeat exploration of the human mind.

In between the constant laughs and all the psychology, this is a cleverly-crafted show. Taylor is in complete control of his audience and his material the entire time; no line is superfluous, no joke misses its mark. Even when it’s informative, it never ceases to be funny. And through all of his antics, he never strays from the flow of his narrative arc.

The various butts of his jokes were sometimes a little too obvious, but he comes at them from a fresh perspective, and keeps them contextual. It never feels like pandering, or playing for cheap laughs.

All of this builds to an amazing finale of such simplicity and brilliance it blows you away. You leave the show with a smile on your face and a spring in your step, and – if you’re me – head home to write a love-letter to it.

Taylor’s show is magnificent, and I dare you to see it and not come out feeling better about the world. And a little bit in love.

But enough gushing like a schoolgirl. Simon Taylor’s 10 Things I Know About You is on at The Butterfly Club, 204 Bank St, South Melbourne from Wednesday 28 March till Sunday 22 April, at 8pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays, and 9pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Book at www.thebutterflyclub.com, and do it now.