Friday, May 4, 2012

Comedy: Perth International Comedy Festival #1

Festival director Jo Marsh
Yon, DeAnne Smith, Asher Treleaven
PICF runs until May 20
at venues around Mt Lawley

PICF director Jo Marsh was doing a fine job of looking both exhausted and elated in the foyer of the Astor on night two of her festival. "We sold a thousand tickets today", she told me, "and we've got sell-outs happening all over the place!".
Good on her and crew. It's scary enough mounting an exercise like this (140 performances by 40 acts over 19 days), but when you're doing it with almost no funding support (hats off to the City of Stirling, though) and mostly in-kind sponsorship, and when your genesis was clouded by some internecine brouhaha in local comedy circles, it can be a sphincter-tightening exercise.
Asher Treleaven
I think Jo can relax a bit (maybe that's not a perfectly-placed phrase). As the PIAF/Fringe extravaganza showed in February, there's an enormous hunger in this town for contemporary, quality, accessible entertainment,  especially in precincts where you can hop from show to show, grab a drink or two along the way and mingle with hip people. There's money out there, and if Perth is given alternatives to spending it all on $45 main courses and $12 drinks, they'll take it in droves, and do it all year.
Turnstiles is going to be doing plenty of droving at PICF over the next fortnight or so, 23 shows in all, and we'll report back to you with micro-reviews and other news as we go.
So let's get cracking!
Yon is one third (now that's stating the obvious) of the much-loved Tripod, one of the headline acts at the festival, but he's snuck upstairs for a quirky early show with musicians SJ and Naomune Anzai. His Mandaddy (Astor Lounge until May 5) is a sweet, obscene collection of love songs and ruminations on kids, middle age and – you're going to read this a lot on this page – porn. Yon looks like a ever-so-slightly demented Michael Stipe, sings clever songs cleverly, and the winsome, combustible SJ is a show-stopper.
Not a spare seat in the house for the sharp, tricksy DeAnne Smith (Astor Lounge, extended to May 6). The Canadian comic – I hope she'll forgive me saying she has something of Tina Fey about her, I'm sure she's heard it before –  flits prettily across material like Aussie English (We say Zee/bra, you say Zeb/bra, We say aluminum, you say aluminium) but there's always a sting in her tail (We say First Nations People, you say Abo, we say immigrants, you say boat people). She looks like a kid, but she's a seasoned, savvy performer, and whether she's scatting on meditation retreats, bikini waxing, the perils of lesbian dating or (of course) porn, she's point-perfect. Oh, and as you can see, she also plays the World's Hottest Instrument de jour, the ukelele.
First night at the festival, and already a "he's gotta have it" act. If Barry Humphries was starting out now, he'd be Asher Treleaven (Astor Lounge until May 5). The Melbourne comic has an explosive way with words (he's accosted in a bar by an old bastard with an "Australia face", he dodges boguns who look like hammerhead sharks, he talks about people "who you do sex to") and remarkable physical comedy chops. His demonstration of street violence avoidance techniques, complete with Shaolin monk routines, glitter and decoy hankies was so funny it hurt, as was his unashamedly pornographic take on Mills & Boon, but he's a funny man who's not afraid not to be funny, as his deadly serious "Poisonous Personalities" - a cavalcade of people he really, truly, deeply hates, demonstrates. Take him or leave him as you like, but I'd take him every time.

Tonight it's the much-anticipated Pajama Men, Dessie Bishop and the Tripodylites, all in the big room at the Astor. See you there!

Disclosures: I was bought a drink by Jo Marsh, bless her, last night. Two, actually. DeAnne Smith sat next to me at Asher Treleaven's show, but that was unlikely to have been a honey trap.            


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