Saturday, 14 April 2018

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Annie Louey: Butt Donut



For a festival that most punters think of as a long line-up of stand-up comedians, the percentage of stand-up shows I’ve seen this Comedy Festival has been pretty low. I actually wonder if traditional stand-up has a degree of difficulty that makes it tougher than other kinds of comedy shows; fifty minutes of a performer and a microphone - a style we’ve seen so many times.

Annie Louey stands out in the stand-up crowd because she is a young woman with Asian heritage who can mine her background for rich stories of culture clashes and dramatic stories of life and death. This Aussie Chinese Millennial has some great tales to tell in a refreshing, honest style.

Annie can make you laugh about young love, travelling the world, her snake-soup-making Chinese family and their surprise that this Aussie girl can use chopsticks. She also has some pretty dramatic stories about fainting into a fire and the passing of her elderly father. But she finds humour in these dark moments, too.

I was a bit lost with some of the pop culture references she was making, but I guess the generation gap makes that kind of thing inevitable. And she was so old when she got her first computer – 12. Back in my day, kids didn’t get computers until much later. But that difference in perspective is what makes this show really special.

Butt Donut isn’t polished, though. Annie is still finding her way, even after seasons in Perth and Adelaide. But the material is there and when she grows in confidence, Annie will be one to watch out for.

Melbourne Comedy Festival – The Travelling Sisters: Toupè



There’s a lot to say about The Travelling Sisters are their upbeat intro song and their bizarre costume changes and the genius physical comedy combined with more wigs than I’ve seen in the rest of the entire festival combined. So many wigs, so well utilised.

But I’m fixated on the tap-dancing cactus who just wants to be held. Some comedians will go a long way for a gag; some shows think bigger is better. There’s something so wonderful in such a simple, beautifully executed bit like this. No wig in this one, though – but a great costume.

The crowd-sourced song by a child trying to please their mother was a highlight the night I saw the show, but I wonder if this is a high-wire act that might fall apart with another less funny audience. No matter, The Travelling Sisters have the rest of the act worked to a sharp point. There’s an oddball family band from Arkansas with deep dark secrets. And a trio of lollipop ladies who have a striptease for you.

The Travelling Sisters are an offbeat comedy trio whose humour mostly dabbles in the strange, but once you get on their wavelength, Toupè is an hour where you might hurt yourself from laughing. And I was worried they might hurt themselves to make us laugh. Totally worth it.




Melbourne Comedy Festival – Cindy Salmon: Empowerful


Cindy Salmon wants to empower you! She wants you to kick-ass when getting out of bed. She wants you to put all your energy into brushing your teeth. Every moment of every day, you need to be eating the patriarchy and smashing that glass ceiling (which is why she wears steel-capped boots)!

Welcome to Cindy’s very empowering seminar or, as she calls it, salmon-ar. Are you ready to take complete control of your life? To combat all of your fears? To change the world?

Cindy is full of jargon and tips on making life better. The comedy comes from the broad American accent and the ridiculous bits of wisdom she spouts. It’s entertaining for a while, but the jokes do get a little repetitive as the show goes on.

In a week where real-life motivational speaker Tony Robbins showed what dangerous delusions self-professed gurus can have, Empowerful feels a little safe; Cindy Salmon is treading water and not swimming upstream as she’d have you believe.


Melbourne Comedy Festival – Garry Starr Performs Everything



Garry Starr wants to save theatre, so he’s here to perform every style of theatre to encourage his audience to see more of it. It’s a Whitman’s Sampler of theatre genres for anyone who has ever seen Shakespeare done slowly or anyone who hasn’t. This show has something for everyone.

It’s actually tough to figure out who would get more out of this show – people who know nothing about theatre or someone who knows what a Pinter pause is. There’s enough silly word play and physical humour that you could love this show whoever you are, as evidenced by the eye-opening experience the two young boys in the front row got last night.

Actor Damien Warren-Smith writes and performs with such skill. He gives us rapid-fire Shakespeare, earnest Melodrama, ridiculous slapstick and even more ridiculous romantic comedy – each sketch more hilarious than the last. There’s a bunch of audience interaction, which ups the comedy stakes beautifully. I do wonder whether he can always find someone who knows what to do with a butoh drum without prompting, though.

This show is a solid hour of laughs. Will is save theatre? You decide. See this and as much of the Comedy Festival as you can. Every ticket sold helps.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Cameron Duggan: Sorry I’m Late


Cameron Duggan is very relaxed, in life and on stage. He’s often late for work; his record is four hours and they sent him home. He takes his time with his show, too. The audience gets no sense he’s in a rush. His stories are low stakes, really – he found some really cheap socks once and he’s not that keen on art galleries.

I do wonder what his other nights at the Festival have been like, though. He had some hecklers in the night I saw him and he took a pretty relaxed approach to them, too. A bunch of drunk Irish lads were in for a beer and a good laugh – and halfway through the show they left to get more beer. Cameron took it in his stride. (They came back and gave Cam a beer, too. So that was nice.)

When he asked if anyone in the audience was regularly late to work, the guy who responded first turned out to be a life guard. Cam thinks that’s probably the kind of job you wouldn’t want to be late for, but he got more worked up about how well built the life guard was than the fact he might have been deficient in his responsibilities at the pool.

Cameron seems like a nice guy (he thinks he’d be on a list of nice guys) and his show was a pleasant way of filling in an hour between two shows I’d been asked to review. I admitted as much when he spotted me sitting alone in the audience, wondering what I was doing there. “I had an hour to fill in,” I said. I think he’s surprised when anyone turns up. He’s that kind of guy; loves a beer, always late to work, has a good sense of humour.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Melbourne Comedy Festival – Kaitlyn Rogers: Can I Get An Amen?


Cecil is a preacher and he wants to welcome you to the Cult of Sass. Cecil has travelled all the way from Goondiwindi to be with us in Melbourne tonight, to read from the gospel of Whoopi Goldberg, to teach you three simple lessons based on the three independent women of Destiny’s Child and to share with you the Holy sacrament… wine from a box.

Kaitlyn has the character of Cecil down pat; she’s met a few preachers like him. He ingratiates himself with the audience, with songs, and high kicks and references to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It’s a heady mix of hilarity and silliness and audience participation. What else would you expect from an introduction to a cult?

There are songs we can all sing along to. There are call-backs we can shout with him. And famous film quotes some of us can finish – even when no one else ever has.

This satire of cults and preachers deliberately breaks down later in the show and it becomes clear that the sly digs at women not being allowed to preach is about something else. These men that stand on stages and proclaim what is and isn’t funny, that’s what’s at the heart of this.

Can I Get An Amen deftly plays with how men see women, how women see women and how drag queens know that if you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anybody else.

Forget the Church of Cecil. Forget the Church of Sass. Go worship at the Church of Kaitlyn Rogers. A true inspiration and a hell of a funny woman.


Kaitlyn Rogers is preaching sass and shouting back at Trades Hall until April 22nd.


Melbourne Comedy Festival – Hit By A Blimp: I’m Here


Hit By A Blimp is a sketch comedy trio, combining the improv/scriptwriting/acting talents of Tiana Hogben, Caitlyn Staples and Jayden Masciulli. I’m Here is the second show for the trio, after Who We Were at Melbourne Fringe in 2016.

The show starts with the trio reciting excuse after excuse for not attending a friend’s party – a list that we’ve all seen if we’ve ever created an event on Facebook. It gives us a good grounding for the pace at which the show will move; the show zips through its sketches like we’d scroll through our social media feeds.

A lot of the show is concerned with how we interact online and in person – and there’s a particularly insightful and hilarious bit about two people at a party, who only know the birthday girl and no one else, but they are forced to make conversation. Tiana and Jayden capture the awkwardness of trying to connect with nothing in common, while Caitlyn interjects with a musical commentary about how the two are getting along.

There’s jokes about waiting for texts, a dance sequence about Uber Eats, and a sketch about sexually explicit cocktails. There’s an odd bit about the language of attraction and dating amongst three buoys with a cameo from a flock of gulls, which was clever, except the trio all pronounced buoy as if they were Americans.

Some of the punchlines were killed by the transition music or blackouts. And while pace is important, some of the sketches could have worked better if the performers had been clearer.

Overall, though, I’m Here is delightful hour of sketches about young people in the digital age.