The Buzz (part 1) #micf2014 – by Dr Watson
We’re more than halfway through the Comedy Festival, so it’s time to give you an update on the show’s I’ve loved, the buzz around town and what’s still to come in the final week and a half of epic comedy times.
Let’s start with the shows. I haven’t seen as many shows as I’d like to have seen, but have squeezed a few good ones in so far:
Beau is on at a great new space, Fort Delta, behind the Capitol Theatre (just across from the Town Hall). Pre show, as the audience takes their seats, he chats comfortably with the crowd. It puts the audience at ease; it’s clear from the start Beau can handle himself confidently in front of an audience, and that this is going to be relaxed, fun show. After a brief exit, he launches into his show with enthusiasm, and his signature colloquial style. This year though, the “boy from the country” material makes way for more mature, universal stories, with just a few references to his days on regional radio and his quintessential country accent hinting at his early stand up persona. The show moves seamlessly through varied material; a love for movies and Humphrey Bogart, learning to be confident, young love, career ambition and a particularly hilarious run in with Wayne Carey. It’s funny throughout, and even more than that it’s warm, honest, engaging and genuinely enjoyable from start to finish. Beau has always been a great young stand up, but now he is emerging as a masterful storyteller with real character and heart.
For the past few years I have always made time in my Comedy Festival schedule to go see Tom Ballard. I was already a regular listener of his (now ex) Triple J radio show, and then I came to love Tom’s stand up, finding him acute, ascerbic and hilarious. (I know he was a stand up first, but I was in the UK when he was first on the circuit.) This year, a move from The Swiss Club to the Council Chambers in the Town Hall gave his show a different feel. The room was more spacious, the ceiling much higher, the space harder to fill. This year Tom also left his usual, pure stand up format, for a multi-media exploration of his childhood family trip around Australia. The idea is one ripe for laughs, and the slides certainly brought the journey, the time period, the particular joys of childhood and his interesting family to life. Unfortunately we were seated directly in front of the projector, so our view was obscured, which meant we missed a lot of the visual gags. The microphone was also tinny, and peaked when Ballard got amped up (which was a lot, as you would expect), and this distracted from the hard work he was doing to fill the big, open room with laughs. He certainly had his usual razor sharp material in there, with a particularly astute examination of the asylum seeker issue, and the culmination of the family trip on the Gold Coast was hilarious and well done. Perhaps it was a combination of the tech issues, as well as a slightly disjointed show intention (I wasn’t quite sure what the real theme of the show was) that meant I didn’t love this show quite as much as his earlier work. But I still love Tom, and will be back next year. It’s clear he is starting to explore a more political, intellectual and challenging type of comedy. He might not quite be ready to let the lion out of the cage just yet, but it will be very interesting when he does.
Nick is one of those Melbourne stand ups who has been solid for a long time. His no-nonsense bloke style is an easily accessible one for audiences. It is neither unfamiliar or challenging for Australian crowds, who love a man’s man who calls bullshit on all the, well, bullshit. This works in Nick’s favour though, as it allows him to push the boundaries and get away with saying things other comics probably wouldn’t. It is also testament to Nick’s comedic abilities that he can take audiences to difficult places – jokes about plane crashes and the Taliban for example – and then bring them back to safer territory without losing the room. He’s a very good stand up, and he has the audience from the get-go, even while taking shots at people who have food intolerances and do yoga – which surely must have made up half of the Melbourne audience! His confidence to tackle big themes is echoed in his admission of his own testosterone fuelled bravado, but it is the moments of vulnerability in that blokey exterior that keep the audience with him. Like all guys who try to be tough, it’s comforting to know that deep down they’re also afraid of the big bad wolf – or in this case, bear. His understanding of his own nature gives his comedy a humanity that transcends his immediately obvious masculine persona, and it is this, along with his experience and skill as a stand up that make him a comedian who will continue to resonate and grow in popularity. I don’t think it will be long before TV comes calling (if they’re not already).
Celia’s star has been on the rise for quite some time, but as I was living in the UK when she was starting out, and then she has been living in the UK since I have been home, our paths haven’t crossed all that much – despite knowing a lot of the same people, and moving in the same circles. Until this year I had never seen one of her solo shows, but had always heard about her spoken about with affection, both personally and professionally. So when I went to see her show this year, I had expectations that it would be a fun, solid stand up show. What I got was a lesson in what a really good stand up show should be. With very few bells and whistles (just a few props, light changes and a couple of audio queues) she embarked on a journey into her own neuroses and her desire to know that it’s all going to work out. But by doing so, she taps into our own superstitions, hyperchondria, hypocrisy and the need we all have to know what our future holds. It is not only clear that she’s a consummate performer, with just the right balance of endearing sincerity and dry cynicism, but also that she is a very accomplished writer. The themes and stories of her show weave back in on themselves with such ease that it would be very easy to miss how clever her show actually is. Where some comics would have rested on their laurels, content with stringing a few great comedy bits together, Celia has written a piece of comedic theatre, which takes her audience on a journey through the workings of her mind, and brings them back full circle. It is complete, clever, engaging, and very very funny. She definitely deserves all the success which has been coming her way.
If you have never seen Ryan before, you are missing one of the most talented (and dare I say coolest) musical comedy acts around. After a few years of performing the late night Comedy Festival slot, and gigging at not only comedy nights, but music festivals all around the country, his act is sharper than ever. Imagine if Chet Faker sang dirty blues, then throw in a fierce observational wit, a sexy guitar and you’re almost there. I have seen Ryan’s show every year, and more like a music gig than a comedy one, he will usually do at least some of the same songs. But this year they are tighter, and performed with more potent growl than ever before. Last night it had the girls in the audience lapping him up – even when he used the word labia. Ryan’s act is one of the most original, and iconic on the local circuit. He is instantly recognisable, and pulls together the marketability of a young indie band, with real comedic and musical talent. If you haven’t seen him yet, go. And management companies take note. Give this guy the right opportunity and the sky’s the limit.
I still want to see a bunch of shows based on their stellar work in previous years, including: Matt Okine, Claire Sullivan, Ronny Chieng, Luke McGregor, Pat Burtscher, Dilruk Jayasinha, Simon Keck, Doc Brown and Al & Anna’s Music Rant.
I have also heard exciting things about:
James Acaster – an UK comedian who has appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and 8 Out of 10 Cats.
Max & Ivan – theatre/sketch from the UK, nominated for Barry and Fosters Edinburgh Comedy awards.
Rama Nicholas – a local comedic actress who everyone keeps talking about, but keeps selling out when I go to see her.
Dr Professor Neal Portenza – absurdist fun from the recently controversial, always funny Josh Ladgrove of Come Heckle Christ fame.
Luke Heggie – winner of Raw Comedy in 2010.
Who have you been loving so far? Let me know!