Sunday, March 30, 2014

Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Week 1

Shows I have seen so far

Ryan Coffey - the master of the loop pedal has the voice perfect for a power rock ballad and the beard of a bushranger. Master of the loop pedal. The show is a mix of songs and stand up, some old and new material.

Boy With Tape on His Face - pure genius mining comedy gold from what appears to be a random collection of everyday items as he uses them in a series perfectly timed sketches. Not a word is spoken. Lots of audience participation and interaction. Even more laughs.

The Big Hoo-Haa - a strong and confident improvisation group. Playing a series of improvisation games where everything is made up. Anything can happen and probably will. There is no amplification so move to the front to make sure you do not miss any of the surprising lines. Not every game works out perfectly, but like travel the comedy of improvisation is as mush in the journey as it is the destination.

The Festival Club - different line up every night with a mix of Australian and international artist representing all comedy genres. Bob Franklin as funny and dry as ever - a few audience members were on the verge of choking due to laughter at his set. Dave Callan always prepared to do whatever it takes to get a laugh, and always gets the laugh. Geraldine Quinn consummate performer still the comedy rock goddess. David O'Doherty (UK)  a toy yamaha keyboard was not to meant to be so funny. A perennial favourite of the festival, the crowd loves him and with very good reason. Jen Kirkman (USA) she is brash, she is bold, she is sassy. She is American but god she is funny. It is a big room with hundreds in the audience including a lot of comics that have finished work for the night and just want to relax and drink but the whole room was with her. This room always sells out.

Australian Knights and Dames


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has used the prerogative of his office to reinstate the honours of Knights and Dames to honour people who have accepted public office rather than sought it and who can never...ever entirely return to private life.

The first recipients of this award are, outgoing Governor General Dame Quentin Bryce and the newly appointed Sir Goverrnor General General Peter Cosgrove (that is one hell of a title to fit on a business card).

Here are my suggestions for other recipients of the honour, Knights and Dames of the Order of Australia.

Dick Smith, sure he has sought public life but he has also had public life thrust upon him. He is a great Australia explorer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who staunchly promotes buying Australian a time when even the Prime Minister himself was not made in Australia. Besides who would not enjoy hearing the queen asking a dick to kneel before her prior to the dick to arise.

Clare Werbeloff aka DameChk Chk Boom should be honoured for her contribution to Australian comedy. Her simplistic decryption of her eye witness account of a shooting in Kings Cross, Sydney, shot her to international prominence and provided instant fodder for the nation's comedians. When it was discovered that she in fact did not witness the shooting at all but instead had totally made up her version of events the satarists went into overdrive.

Dame Sam the Koala, rescued by Mark Pardew a firefighter with the Department of Sustainability and Environment during the 2009 Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria. Famously Mark assisted Dame Sam to drink from his water bottle. Sam has since died from an inoperable ovarian cyst, but during her short public life she represented the hope and resilience of all the people rebuilding their lives after the death and destruction of Australia's worst disaster.

Skippy, little did the mother of the eastern grey kangaroo know that she had birthed and raised what would become one of Australia's best known and beloved stars. There was nothing Skippy could not do, open doors, use the CB radio, rescue people from dished mine shafts...she even played the drums! Bestowing this honour on Skippy would also go a long way in equality for the GBLTI community, being that the kangaroo was female and yet the character was male.

Louise, Bridget and Frances Abbott, Prime Minister Abbott's three daughters have all had a public life forced upon them through the political ambitions of their father. The Australian public have had to witness them supporting their father. Riding, bikini-clad, on their fathers back piggy back style (and not as young children). When other young adults might be embarrassed having dinner in a restaurant with their parents the Abbotts have had to endure their father publicly declaring his strongly held opinions of a woman's role within a family and about sex before marriage. During his election campaign they also had their awkward-at-best appearance alongside their father on Big Brother Australia. Mr Abbott was desperately trying to demonstrate that he is in touch with young people and common Australians. He famously signed off with the phrase "I am the guy with the not too bad-looking daughters." Thanks for the vote of confidence Dad. Its the not too bad-looking Dames to you!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2014 - A Suggestion

So you have the catalogue for the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and have realised there are over 500 shows and you have no idea where to start. Here are a few suggestions. First of all for every famous act (international artist, television, radio personality or podcast) you go see you have to see a lesser known act - they may just see the next big thing in Australian comedy!

With these suggestions please remember that comedy is an art form and all art is subjective. Just because one person loves/hates the performance does not mean that others will respond the same. Important when reading published reviews too.

Elbow Skin's P.O.V.

Two of Melbourne's most likeable music comedy performers. Great harmonies lots of laughs. Dave and Ern always pull out something special for the festival. This year they are performing at the Forum on Flinders Street.

Axis of Awesome Viva La Vida Loca Las Vegas
Always strong performances and hilarious songs. This trio are You Tube Sensations and have been touring shows to festivals all around the globe. Their four chord song is an absolute music comedy classic that audiences will never tire of - mainly because they keep updating it will the most recent chart hits. As you try to pick all of the songs try and also pick all of the television ads you have seen one or more of them in.

Chad Bradley How to Make a Musical
Chad Bradley (Geoff Paine) may be known to some festival goers as a cast member from Spontaneous Broadway. Now he is back in a solo show. There will be a lot of improvisation in this show and Chad is very good at it. There will also be a lot of over acting and hamming it up, thankfully he is very good at that too.

Centrelink the Musical
Following sell out shows in the Adelaide Fringe this show is sure to be a hit in Melbourne. The brain child of Rohan Harry, the musical captures the pains of waiting in Centrelink. If you have ever stepped foot into your local Centrelink Office then you will have met every character from this show. It is a little out of the way from the centre of the festival but the trip to Sydney Road Brunswick will be worth the trip. Make a night of it and enjoy a bite to eat and a drink or two.

Ryan Coffey is Howlin'
One man, one beard, one guitar, one loop pedal and one amazing voice all adds up to one howling' music comedy show. He has toured the countries comedy venues and music festivals.Tickets are only $20 - bargain for such a quality show. Do yourself a favour...

Damian Callinan The Lost WW1 Diary of Private Paddy Callinan

Damian is one of the best story comedians going around. This show will be one narrative and is sure to be funny, poignant and moving in equal measure. And often all at the same time. If his previous shows are anything to go by then the narrative will be closer to the truth than anybody realises. Catch Damian at ACMI in Fed Square.

Denise Scott Mother Babe
A perennial festival favourite, sure she probably does not need any extra publicity but I could not include her. No-one tells a personal and self-depricating story quite like her. Sure this show is about being a mother, but you will not have to be a mother or have another to get your money's worth from her show - this year being presented at the Arts Centre - ooh fancy!

Stella Young Tales From The Crip
Ok so technically Stella's show is really sit down not stand up. This is a good thing because you will be laughing too hard to remain standing. I caught her doing a short set at Trades Hall a few months ago and she was refreshingly different and wildly funny. If anyone can be politically correct and incorrect all at the same time then it is Stella. Performing at Northcote Town Hall.

The Boy With Tape on His Face More Tape
Returning to Melbourne for what is sure to be another sell out show. He is unlike any other act in the festival as he does not speak a word. He has tape on his face - covering his mouth. His comedy is in his face and body. Oh yeah there is a lot of audience participation, on and off stage. He is never mean to the audience but some people might find this level of involvement uncomfortable.

Angus Hodge Finding My Rose Coloured Glasses
Angus ventures over the border from Adelaide, fresh from great success at this year's Adelaide Fringe. Here for his first solo MICF show, he has previously performed here as part of Wolf Creek the Musical. Adelaide audiences have been raving about his work for years, get down to the Forum Theatre to see what Melbourne has been missing out on for all these years.

Ged & Jamie This History...Melbourne: A Walking Tour - Involving More Walking...A Questionable History of The History of Melbourne
Not only do they have one of the longest show titles in this year's festival, Jed and Jamie also have one of the most unique. Ok it might not strictly be sketch comedy but they are great character comedians. I imagine it will be a satirical look at all of Melbourne's walking tours and the audience will also be the tour participants. I suspect that nothing in this history walk will assist anyone pass a Melbourne history tests. Ged and Jamie are also great supporters of Melbourne's up and coming comedians throughout the year so this is a great chance to support them

Just to show off the boys are also doing a second show, Cockbagg Magicians: D'illusional.

Talking about walking tours check out this photographic tour (not part of the comedy festival)

Celebrity Theatresports
Think Whose Line Is It Anyway" except the points do matter. Every show each team tries to out do the others in a series of increasingly unusual games and sketches. Audiences will be encouraged to provide ideas for the show. As the name suggests the show will include many celebrities, and not just from the world of comedy. Some of your favourite television stars and Melbourne personalities will be part of the show.

Set List
See some of the best comics from this year's festival test there skills as they make up jokes on the spot based on topics that they see at the same time as the audience. No pre-prepare, rehearsed and tested routines here.

Sell out shows in the Edinburgh, Montreal and London and seen on ABC2, it is a must see. High risk comedy...for the comedians. Guaranteed laughs.

Ali MeGregor's Late Nite Variety-Nite

Mrs Adam Hills returns to the festival for another season of her late nite variety night. A stalwart of the festival. An unpredictable mix of stand up, music comedy, sketch and burlesque. No two shows will be the same. With a variety of festival acts gracing her stage. Including some of the biggest names in comedy doing things they would never do in their own solo show. Then there is Ali's professionally trained voice you will not hear anything like this is any other show. In the Spiegeltent this year based in Fed Square. Likely to sell out.

Raw Comedy National Grand Final
Come and see some of Australia's greatest new comics do their best 5 minutes. The state winners of one of the biggest open-mic competitions vie for this much sought after title. Previous winners include Hannah Gadsby and Josh Thomas. Other Raw Alumni include Tom Ballard, Luke McGregor, and Celia Pacquala. It is a final so there is only one show. If only more reality programs were one show!.

Squeaky Clean Comedy
this two hour show promise lots of laughs, lots of performers and a variety of genres; music poetry, ventriloquism stand up and more. Like comedy but don't like potty mouth or explicit material then this is the show for you. As the title says this show is squeaky clean. Perfect to take your mother or your kids. If that was not enough the show is also partnering with World Vision to raise awareness of education initiatives for Australia's indigenous communities.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Waiting Game

Modern life is full of waiting. Many religions might even argue that life is merely the waiting room for the after life. In modern western society there is a lot of waiting lines for ATM, self-serve check outs, entry to a venue of choice. Some would say the longer the line the better the venue, or at least the better the venue’s marketing.

Sometimes waiting is frustrating, waiting for a taxi, waiting for the person who has jammed the office copier to come back and fix it, waiting for any service at the post office.

Other times waiting can be a positive, even exciting experience waiting months for your long planned holiday to commence, grand final week when your team is playing in the big game, waiting for a online purchase to arrive in the mail.

To consider how ones response to waiting can change consider an airport. With modern security passengers have to check in anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to departure.  Passengers arrive eagerly for their travel experience willing to wait out the time between arrival and boarding. How quickly does this eagerness change to frustration or outright hostility if that flight is delayed even for only a few minutes?

Do people work to fill in the time during the day before playing in the evening and weekends or is it vice versa. To answer which is correct for you, consider again the airport departure lounge. Is the inevitable wait  an opportunity to read, browse the overpriced retail stores or grab a drink and bite to eat or is it an opportunity to catch up on emails and read that report from the office.

Hospitals are an interesting experience in waiting. You want an ailment that is serious enough to get the medical professionals attention and get you to the front of the queue. However you don’t want your condition to be so serious that alarms sound, codes are paged through the hospitals p.a. system that bring doctors running from all corners bringing a variety of machines that beep with them. You also do not want a condition that places you in a room with stadium seating so that medical staff want to wait and line up for an opportunity to see how you are treated.

I personally like to have something to wait for, no not to be eventually served by a bushranger bearded hipster barrister to get my morning caffeine fix waiting for something exciting or interesting. I like to have holidays booked ahead of time with the dates in my diary. I like to have tickets to an event or performance. I like eating and drinking out with friends, whilst I enjoy a spontaneous opportunity – a phone call asking what are you doing tonight?” I enjoy the night more if I have had to wait for it. Even if it is only 24hours I enjoy the anticipation and the waiting.  A blank diary is my enemy.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscar 2014 Recommendations


I am just a single guy, I am definitely no academy and I definitely don’t make replicas of my penis, dipped them in gold, nickname them all Oscar and hand them out to movie stars. I also do not have a red carpet, in truth I do not have carpet of any colour. Finally I am not wearing a tuxedo created by one of the world’s finest fashion designers, I am however comfortable.

That said, on the eve of the 2014 Academy Awards here are my thoughts on who should walk home with the metal dildo. They are not recommendations, if this was a box of cereal these would be marked with an asterisk and the words “serving suggestion”.
 I have ranked each of the nominees in each of the main characters

Best Picture
1.     Nebraska  - a surprisingly heart warming with equal doses of comedy and drama. Not since Thelma and Louise has a road trip been so entertaining with or without a constant parade of topless co-eds.
2.     Dallas Buyers Club six of the nine nominees for best picture are based on a true story. Three of them about how institutions have let down the very people they are designed to protect. In this case the fight of people living with HIV/AIDS fighting the American Food and Drug Administration.  
3.     Captain Philips – After the disappointment of in The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons Tom Hanks remembers he can act.
4.     Philomena – the second true story picturethis time it is the cover ups, lies and deceits of the Catholic church, behaviours that do not appear to be recognised by the church itself as sins.
5.     Gravity – awesome visual effects (there should be an Academy Award for that) Sandra Bullock proves she is more than just congenial and that she looks good in a pair of boy-cut briefs. Sure it is peppered with technical inaccuracies, including the boy-cut briefs. The story might be seen by many as somewhat predictable, albeit the brick through the head was a surprise.
6.     12 Years A Slave – a powerful and moving story, and the third true story in this category, some great scenes dispersed a lot of ordinary ones. There was also Brad Pitt an inexplicable cameo. Although only 2¼hours in length it did feel like the full 12 years.
7.     Wolf and Wall Street and American Hustle, yes they are together because fundamentally they are the same movie the former up market and the latter dirty and grungy. And yes the former could be a remake of The Great Gadsby. The last two of the true stories.  At 2hr59 min the Wolf is also the longest of this year’s nominees. Although  20 minutes shorter Hustle felt longer.
8.     Her – original story line but nothing happens. Nothing.

Best Actor
1.     Bruce Dern (Nabraska) – the whole point of acting is to get the audience to truly believe the actor is in fact the character they are portraying.   Playing a man who is losing his mind is not as easy to do – Dern nailed it.
2.     Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) – I am surprised that he is even nominated let alone that he is second on the list. His filmography is not exactly an anthology of the world’s greatest films. And he lost all of that weight. Expect your favourite woman’s magazine to have a feature on the new McConaughey 7 day wonder diet..
3.     Leonardo De Caprio (Wolf of Wall Street) – surprising comedic timing and who can forget his physical commitment when climbing down the stairs?
4.     Chiwetel Ejiofor a solid performance that may sneak a statuette on the night as Hollywood tries to purge itself of its guilt of America’s awful history on human rights.
5.     Christian Bale – no amount of extra weight (is that Matthew McConaughey’s excess?) and fake bad hair will disguise a performance that is grating at best.

Best Actress
1.     Cate Blancett (Blue Jasmine)– winner by a country mile. Enough said.
2.     Amy Adams (American Hustle) – a bright spot in an otherwise dull film.
3.     Sandra Bullock (Gravity) – as with McConaughey it was unexpected that she was nominated and that she rates as high as third.  She may have rated higher, if like Mexican reporter Carlos PĂ©rez believes, the movie was indeed filmed in space.
4.     Judi Dench (Philomena) – another strong character piece by the dame, her consistency is ultimately her downfall this year. There was nothing extra. Even her hair seemed to be repeated from Notes on  a Scandal.
5.     Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) – unlike her fellow nominee Judi Dench, Meryl brings too much to this film. Unfortunately for Meryl Streep this is not the best female over-actress. She is as far behind the field as Cate Blanchett is in front.