I spent a few days at this years Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We didnt have regular internet access at the time, so I didnt write up the shows in detail as I did for the Adelaide Fringe shows.
I’d heard a lot about Melbourne as a city and I wasnt disappointed – vibrant and colourful, friendly and relaxed. We attended a few shows starting with Glenn Wool. Glenn is an old friend of mine and I was his first agent in the UK. He was an exciting act then and has grown into one of the most sought after headliners on the UK circuit. I had seen his show before since like a few of the acts, he was performing a show he had already done at last years Edinburgh Fringe, which is the big date on the international circuit. The show dealt with some of Glenn’s attitudes to life and the difficulties of maintaining a marriage as well as a comedy career and a healthy relationship with drugs and alchohol. Its an entertaining and somewhat liberating show tho Glenn felt the audience that particular night was a little conservative. He was the first of several acts we saw in rooms at the Town Hall – a very central and no doubt prestigious venues, but none of the rooms we experienced were really that suitable for comedy.
Having seen all of Justin Hamiltons trilogy shows at the Adelaide Fringe we were curious to see his new work. Once again the ambition of the show was to be applauded – Killing Joke is effectively a one man threatre piece played out between two characters representing the comics onstage and offstage personas. The acting skills didnt really convince me personally, the artifice of turning around literally presenting a different side of himself to the audience (one with his shirt hanging out) wore a little thin and the breathless pace of the delivery didnt seem to allow the story or characterisation to really sink in.
Dan Willis presented a very enjoyable hour in a pub around the corner using the simple device of describing the route of his stand up career to date to offer what was effectively a “best of” routine. I thought this worked pretty well – offering the audience a nice little insight into life as a career stand up and an entertaining and personable set into the bargain. We then rushed off to catch Reg Hunter tho couldnt get into the actual show as it was a total sell out, instead sitting by the bar supping a brew and listening behind a curtain. It was Reg’s first appearance in Oz so he was doing a general sort of a show which went well and offered an interesting experience in audio only. It was a little muffled but good enough to prove that Reg could easily release audio versions of his work. Following later discussions I may get involved once again in Reg’s career (I was his first and only manager) promoting him on the internet and possibly working towards better documenting his work.
We when all rushed over the road to where Reg was due to perform a short set in a show. In an artistically ambitious, competitive and perhaps slightly mischievous mood, Reg made a bet with fine Canadian comic Tom Stade that each of them would perform only new material in their sets. It was a brave move tho both acts are plenty good enough that it would almost have been too easy for them to bash out eight minutes of their best stuff and slay the room. This approach meant both were on their back foot but they acquitted themselves well and it was good to see comics taking some artistic risks and coordinating their efforts to some degree rather than acting completely individually. It was quite inspiring and lead to a very late but enjoyable night for all concerned. Tom’s delivery is amazingly powerful and measured and has had quite an effect on the way I think about comedy material – some of which Ive been writing since then.
Finally we caught Nik Coppin who like his good friend Dan Willis has been appearing regularly in Australia for some time. He had been gigging a lot and seemed a bit tired and had some loud bogans wanting to join in on the show. It was one of those occasions when a lively, vocal sector of the audience got heavily involved perhaps to the detriment of the overall show. That said the gig was never out of control and sometimes you have to accept that the gig isnt exclusively about the guy on stage – in comedy shows, the audience is by and large aloud to speak, so long as they are in dialogue with the act and not simply shouting over them.