Originally published on SBS arts pages, April 2014.
It’s Eddo! – Anne Edmonds
Billed as a show about Anne Edmonds’ ‘alter-ego’, by the end of It’s Eddo you’ll get the feeling this is less about a second self and more of a glimpse into the uncertain 35-year-old’s real, warm and gloriously dirty personality. This is definitely a testament to Edmonds’ performance.
From the start, Edmonds engages with the audience in an all-inclusive way. The opposite to ostracising, Edmonds invites you into her life by providing insight into mixture of characters that surround her as well as stories of her personal and professional failings.
The loosely connected stories about her masochistic mother’s pranks, humiliating jaunts to the Edinburgh Fringe and embarrassing encounters with an improv troupe in the States all serve as standouts. Edmonds revels in the wonderful irony that her sardonic self-reflections on failure succeed in bringing the laughs. As she makes the mundane amusing, Edmond’s is laughing too.
Edmonds really hits her stride when striding around stage, thrusting her crotch and belting out a tune or two from behind her keyboard. “The Longest and Most Annoying Song Ever” and an ode to single-life shopping at Woolworths smuggle witty and droll observations about urban life in the form of chirpy pop standards.
A party girl at heart, by the end of the show you’ll definitely want to invite ‘Eddo’ round to get drunk with your mates because while claiming she’s failing at life, Edmonds succeeds in bringing the fun.
David O’Doherty Will Try To Fix Everything (IRL) – David O’Doherty
David O’Doherty is feeling down and has some big questions for the universe. It’s apt then that his show takes place at the Forum theatre in front of a space styled backdrop.
With starlike lights twinkling behind him, O’Doherty offers a glimpse into his often-bleak yet whimsical worldview. Approaching his existential crisis through entertaining encounters with the mundane, David O’Doherty Will Try to Fix Everything is true to the Irishman’s humble and bumbling form.
While the subject matter is a little darker than usual, O’Doherty still brings the laughs, alternating songs about ladies and Grand Designs with observations about evil corporations’ twee advertising, cycling and the joys of owning a pizza wheel.
His rants may at times seem tangential or like he’s freefalling, but O’Doherty’s finely tuned ramblings always make their way back to his droll and astute search for happiness.
With his keyboard as his weapon in hand, O’Doherty provides some solid laughs and amusing highlights, primarily a number blaming his former hero Lance Armstrong for everything wrong in his life in the early 2000s.
O’Doherty may still be looking for the secret to happiness, but his fans will find it here.
Eurosmash! – Die Roten Punkte
Made up to rock out, all glitz and glamour, Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) certainly put on a show.
Berlin based brother and sister duo Astrid and Otto return to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with their brand new ‘Eurosmash’ tour that won’t disappoint Die Roten fans, old or new.
The Forum theatre provided the perfect spot to display their talents as the pair took to the stage to perform some seriously synchronised crotch-thrusting dance moves. Meanwhile the light show added some extra shine to their bright new routine.
Astrid and Otto remain an enthusiastic crowd-pleasing pair who, on top of their musical talents, provide entertainment between songs with some intensely amusing banter. Onstage their familial frustrations come to the fore and their reliably fragile dynamic provides some serious comedic gold that runs the sibling gamut from jealousy to incest and right back around to loving support again.
Highlights included Astrid’s skin-tight space-age costume, Otto coercing an audience member to shake his banana and their new lengthy mini-rock opera that serves as an origin story for Astrid and Otto’s upbringing.
Self-proclaimed the ‘best band in the world,’ on a scale from one to lols, Die Roten Punkte come pretty damn close.
The Pineapple – Genevieve Fricker
The blurb for Genevieve Fricker’s ‘The Pineapple’ describes the show as “a personal mess of songs, stories and stand up.” That pretty much nails it as Fricker takes self-deprecation to self-loathing depths with her individual brand of deeply personal, cynical comedy.
Overthrowing the twee sensibilities often associated with young musical comedians, Fricker—with an electric guitar in hand—rejects niceties and sweet melodies in favour of sardonic, nihilistic swagger.
Fricker’s vocal talents pleasantly contradict her Daria-esque observations and monotone musings. Fricker’s stage presence isn’t exactly warm but she’s still likeable, particularly when the audience are offered (fleeting) glimpses into her more sensitive side, such as when the titular pineapple is revealed.
Fricker’s particular strength is in her ability to tap into Gen Y’s fascination with nostalgia and YouTube. It’s unsurprising then that the stand out number from the show is about an advert for McCain frozen corn from the 90s. While some punchlines don’t hit the mark, the ploy is fun and Fricker provides some good chuckles along the way.
Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
In a show framed as a ‘behind the scenes’ to his new true crime book, Murder in Mississippi, John Safran proved why he’s one of Australia’s most popular entertainers.
Pre-empting the awkwardness of the subject matter, Safran opened by apologising to the audience for ‘coercing’ them into laughing at a murder. And laugh they did because this was classic, sarcastic Safran schtick performed to a theatre of fans.
Discerning and self-effacing throughout, Safran offered humorous insights into his writing experience as well as some peripheral details about the story itself.
A slide show presentation was followed by an ‘in conversation’ and Q&A with the audience, the show felt more like a literary event. Casting back into his filmography with clips from the likes of John Safran vs God, reading email exchanges between colleagues and spinning anecdotes about his creative processes, this wasn’t standard MICF fair.
Yet Safran’s ability to deftly straddle these cultural worlds and mediums – television, radio, comedy, writing – underscores his talent. He is comfortably making a career by being an always intelligent – and somewhat uncomfortable – presence.
Hosted by class act Justin Hamilton, the Q&A portion of the performance was executed with a finesse not often associated with such endeavours. Safran was generous with his responses and the show ran for a little over an hour, at which point both Hamilton and Safran seemed genuinely disappointed they had to wrap up. As did the audience, so endearing was the rapport.
Upon concluding, Safran indicated that the price of admission meant any ticketholder could ask him a question if they see him on the street from now until ‘forever’. Whether anyone takes him up on his offer, who knows. But even if they don’t, they got value for money with the show itself.
Bring a Plate – Mel Buttle
After spending sixty minutes with Brisbane based Mel Buttle, it’s easy to see why she’s been named one of Australia’s best up and coming comedic talents.
Touching on the same observational fare as other 30-something female comedians – (no) babies and motherhood, single-life and immediate family – Buttle’s asides and self-depreciation are served in just the right measure to make her stand out from her contemporaries.
A key story about her father letting a pet budgie fly free-range acts as a fitting metaphor for her show and style. Quick paced and ecstatic, Buttle’s anxious charge gives her a genuine and endearing edge.
Content wise, Bring a Plate is not exactly revelatory. However tales about her eccentric yet relatable childhood, internet trolls and mum’s collection of dolls expose Buttle’s winning combination of charm and rapid-fire wit. The hour flew by in a haze of constant laughter (likely as quickly as the budgie flew around her dad’s house).
Buttle is a highly accessible presence, the perfect balance of vulnerability, charisma and smarts. Sadly the show ends on it’s weakest note – a scripted play in which Buttle confronts one of her vitriolic detractors. Otherwise, her additional digressions from straight storytelling are consistently amusing, with “Mum Quiz” a highlight.
Sleight in Fright – Reginald D Hunter
International comic Reginald D Hunter has returned to Melbourne with his new show ‘Sleight in Fright’ after taking a year off from comedy.
Starting strong with some topical jokes that liken the current Oscar Pistorius trial to the infamous O.J. Simpson case, Hunter makes it clear he’s been misunderstood and in trouble before, but that this previous controversy won’t stop him from being contentious now.
The show is predominately a mixture of jokes based on race, sex and politics with some memoir about his childhood, large family and year off in Georgia thrown in to purposefully give his often-debatable moral code or views a somewhat heartfelt edge.
Hunter pushes the incorrigible side of his stage persona to the edge, often teetering over into the offensive or misogynistic, only to rapidly backtrack with some humanist justifications, sympathies or rationalisations. Knowing the audience will be keeping score, Hunter repeats this routine time and again and the crowd lapped it up – he’s an intelligent and (at times) likeable presence.
Hunter’s deliberately laissez-faire style helped his likeability factor – by breaking into laughter at his own jokes, dropping some local identities into jokes for good measure and complimenting the crowd as more attentive than those of the evening prior, Hunter shrewdly won the audience over. Making his fears known that he may ‘run out of show’ before the hour was up only served to get the audience further onside.
Hunter’s strongest laughs came from his political and social satire about the States – his home country – while ending on a quiet, poignant note was a nice and slightly unusual touch.