Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Comedy: The Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow

Featuring Mike Wilmot, Bob Franklin, Felicity Ward, Sam Simmons and Lawrence Mooney
His Majesty’s Theatre
June 14 – 19, 2011

Mike Wilmot
We’re in something of a golden age of stand-up comedy. The ability of the Melbourne Comedy Festival’s roadshow to play six nights in the 1200 capacity Maj (and, on the strength of Tuesday night’s crowd, making a good fist of filling it) is testament both to the strength of the audience for stand-up, and the quality of the performers who attract them.
It’s an audience that other performing arts forms would give their eye teeth for: ranging across the age groups but anchored by thirty-somethings, affluent, educated and constantly re-inforced by the top end of television and on-line entertainment.
The Melbourne Comedy Festival is the pre-eminent showcase for stand-up in this country, and the Roadshow is a tireless proselytiser for it and comedy. Apart from the long run at the Maj, the show has gone or is going to ten WA centres from Karratha to Esperance in three or so weeks, a terrific undertaking by both the festival and the performers.
As you’d expect from the seasoned and talented performers on the bill, the show is two hours of constant, outrageous jestering. Master of Ceremonies Lawrence Mooney is a stylish, provocative performer in his own right, and each of the featured artists, the droll Bob Franklin, manic Sam Simmons and fey (as in Tina) Felicity Ward have tricks up their sleeve and the crowd in their pockets.
Simmons is the most ambitious and challenging of the performers, and had a little less hold on the audience than his colleagues, but perhaps a slight re-jigging of the bill (he closed the first half after a long intro by Mooney and Franklin’s set) might have given him a better shot at the crowd.
The show’s main attraction is the Canadian comedy star Mike Wilmot, and his meanderings through the relative merits and dangers of his home country, Australia and his domestic arrangements were a testament to his skill and experience.
I’m always fascinated by the places a skilled storyteller can take you. The test is to pick a line in isolation from late in their patter and remember how he got you there. The Wilmot line that stuck in my head was “Michael Jackson is scarier than a bear in shoes”, and I can tell you he got to that bizarre place by a dazzlingly logical and hilarious route. Sensational!
I'm sure you can guess that the acts are uniformly obscene, scatological and anatomically frank, and I wouldn’t suggest you go near them if you’re easily offended. For the rest of us, the Roadshow is a fabulous night of filthy fun you should get to if you can.
Here’s a taste:

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