Melbourne International Comedy Festival - top picks
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Reggie Watts – Paul and Luke’s Pick of the Festival a.k.a. What in God’s Name is Going On?
Luke: Reggie Watts can perhaps best be introduced by paraphrasing Shaun Micallef: “And here’s a comedian that no amount of explaining could possibly explain”. A unique combination of absurdist monologues, frenetic beat-boxing and inane songs Reggie Watts’ live show is a largely improvised and inexplicably hilarious testament to exactly what one can do with a microphone, a loop machine and an entirely tangential grip on reality. Definitely odd, but also definitely amazing.
Paul: My first encounter with Reggie Watts came about because Luke forcibly dragged me along last year. I've always been dubious of comedians who use excessive amounts of music in their acts - mainly because Tripod groupies freak me the shit out - but Reggie is something else entirely. He's part noise artist, part comedian, part poet and part Wookie. He manages to sandwich layer upon layer of carefully crafted, yet minimal, random shit into towering, enthralling creations. His songs morph into bears, which proceed to eat your parents. And you'll thank him for it.
Josie Long – Date Fodder
Paul: Josie Long is adorable. Not only does she look like an indie chipmunk (she even has rosy cheeks. Actual rosy cheeks. And not because she has dysentery. She doesn't have dysentry, by the way. Or, she might, but it shouldn't reflect on her comedic skills. Or should it? I don't even fucking know where I am right now). Her shows are bouncing, chintzy vehicles for her obsessions with seemingly banal minutia, but she imbues everything she does with so much childlike wonder it's hard not to fall in love with her a little bit. She's like a bouncy British hamster in pants.
Tim Vine – Take Your Mother
Luke: Tim Vine trades in puns and one-liners. That's pretty much it. He also looks not entirely dissimilar to Gil from The Simpsons, so it works, in a strange way. Tim also used to hold the world record for the largest number of jokes delivered in one hour. Not a distinction necessarily indicative of a quality comedian, but he did manage to get out 499 zingers in that hour, which is roughly 8.3167 jokes per minute or one joke every 7.214 seconds. He was eventually supplanted by Australia's own Anthony "Lehmo" Lehmann, but Vine still has the advantage of being, well, funny.
The man is also responsible for one of the single best things I have ever seen in comedy, a routine called 'Pen Behind The Ear' in which he attempts to throw a pen so that it lands behind his ear. The night I saw him, it took well over five minutes of frantic throwing - replete with steadily escalating dramatic theme song - and when he finally did get the pen behind his ear the audience gave him one of the most sincere standing ovations I've ever witnessed... It was really very impressive.
Reginald D Hunter - Really, Really Don't Take Your Mother
Luke: When I first saw Reginald D. Hunter - a black man from Georgia who currently resides in London - he was performing in a show entitled 'Pride and Prejudice and Niggas' (there it is Luke, the only time you will ever be able to write that word). The poster featured him dressed in full Mr Darcy garb, glaring and pointing accusingly at the viewer. It was not for children. One of the more memorable routines involved a riff on a London Underground ad at the time which read "Want to know the price of an illegal taxicab? Just ask a rape victim." To which his response was 'Well, I didn't feel good about it, but what else could I do? "Excuse me, I know you've just been raped, but I'm trying to get from Watford to Crystal Palace and I only have £20. Do you think that will be enough?"
It was not for children.
But what separates Hunter from so many other "I'm not sure how cool I am with this..." comedians is that his offensiveness is, by and large, both a) very funny; and b) politically cogent. And while he deals with a lot of the usual themes of race and masculinity beloved of black male comics, there's still something both intelligent and counter-intuitive about his comedy. His routines never entirely deposit you where you expect them to. Like the time he was talking about the importance of knowing oneself and he ended up getting the audience to put up their hands if they'd ever looked at their own arsehole.
It was not for children.*
* Having been filmed at the Festival Gala last year, this video is almost entirely suitable for children.
Jamie Kilstein – He’s Not Jon Stewart, But He’s Close
Paul: Jamie is a pitbull of a comedian. He's candid, angry, effusive and he uses big words. His material is heavily political, but if you're anything like Luke and myself, that's like waving a sexy red flag at a sexier bull; articulate, impassioned debates on everything from gay rights, to abortion, to whether or not Obama is doing his job. He's a joy to watch, partly because he articulates what many of us are trying to say, but also because he's terrifically pissed off most of the time. Also, he says "fuck" a lot.*
* Again, not in this video, on account of the fact that it was shot for last year’s Festival Gala.
Felicity Ward - I Say Godfrey, Here's a Woman Who Appears to be Bringing the Lulz
Luke: The gender imbalance in this list notwithstanding, one of the more refreshing developments seen over the course of the last few Comedy Festivals has been the increasing prominence of female comedians at the top end of the Australian comedy food chain. Even better, these women are smart, skilled, hugely funny and don’t in any way cohere to the ridiculous goddamn stereotype that all female comics do on stage is talk about periods and boyfriends. A stereotype usually used and abused by people who don’t actually watch comedy and have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Apologies if this sounds like you, but really it’s the comedy equivalent of saying “I’m not racist, but...”.
Chief among this new breed of Australian female comics is Felicity Ward, a tremendously talented story-teller who nails self-deprecation like few others in Australian comedy. With a hard fought and seemingly permanent air of gawkiness, Ward tells gleefully awkward anecdotes that leave you with the distinct sensation that - in addition to being fucking hilarious - she’d also just be a really cool mate to have a beer with. If you are at all cynical about the ability of women to be funny, then I cannot recommend her highly enough. [Yes, yes, I know this is a clip from Thank God You’re Here, but YouTube was surprisingly light on for Felicity Ward stand-up]
Pauly Shore – He’s Pauly Shore
Paul: Do I really need to spell this out? HE'S PAULY SHORE. The man who made a career out of doing something called THE WEASEL. THE WEASEL. Which perhaps gives you some sense of the calibre of comedian we’re dealing with here.
After his career slowed to the pace of a glacier, he appears to have chosen to make a foray back into the world of standup. Will he be any good? The answer is almost definitely no, but I don't fucking care. It's Pauly Shore, people. I don't care if he gets up on stage and takes a crap into another crap he just fashioned into a bowl, I'm going.
Luke: When I was 10, Biodome was my favourite film in the world. Fortunately I moved on. Has Pauly Shore also moved on? I can’t work out whether the preferred answer to that question is yes or no, but there’s only one way to find out.
Oliver Clark – Ironic Misogyny
Paul: Oliver Clark, a Melbourne based performer, was first introduced to me when he spent a full two minutes letting a balloon loudly deflate onstage. Oliver seems to inhabit a totally immersive character; a sleazy, blue-velvet-clad, surreal, slightly vague lounge singer. He's also an adept musician, and his commitment to his bizarre, terminally engaging alter ego is pretty damned compelling. In essence, he's a charming weirdo in Lynchian attire, and he has a tendency to breath on audience members necks.
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