Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Comedy: Perth International Comedy Festival #2

The Pajama Men, Des Bishop, Tripod
Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley
PICF runs until May 20

The Astor was under siege. People cramming in and out of the old girl, milling on the sidewalks, clambering down fire escapes and queuing for a hundred metres up Beaufort Street. It was like thousands of really hip looking orcs had descended on some fortress in Gondor looking for man-flesh.
Well they weren’t really orcs (what was I thinking). They were Perth, and what had created this frenzy was the trove of comedy gold that had been hoarded inside the building.
In February, PIAF and the Perth Fringe showed that there’s an enormous hunger in this town for contemporary, quality, accessible entertainment, especially if it’s gathered in precincts where you can hop from show to show. PICF is about to prove the point. 
Upstairs in the small Astor Lounge, Tripod’s Yon, the Canadian comic DeAnne Smith and Melbourne's Asher Treleaven were playing to pretty much full houses (see earlier PICF post for notices).
In the main room downstairs, the American duo The Pajama Men showed why they are one of the hottest items in world comedy theatre. There seemed to be nothing Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen can’t do on a stage. Their voices are compulsively, cracklingly hilarious; their rapid fire impersonations – I lost count, but there were probably dozens – as punchy as a nail gun; their puppetry, hands becoming horse’s mouths or comic alien invaders, simply mind-boggling. It’s demented, inspired comedy and, even if the story line of their show meandered a few minutes beyond its use-by date, you should mark them down as a must-see next time they come your way.
We're used to visiting artists showing off how much they'd picked up about Perth and its peculiar ways, but Des Bishop seemed to know it like a native. A huge chunk of his material was a source of wonder to me: when he asked the crowd what the three most important numbers in the galaxy were and they thundered back 4...5...7!!!!! I thought I'd landed in a parallel universe. Which is exactly what I'd done. The one inhabited by young Irishmen and women on one year working holidays in Australia on the 457 visa. Then followed a mysterious, hilarious journey through the lives of people on this visa, all of it lapped up by the crowd. Most everything else in Bishop's gleefully off-the-cuff ramble worked just as well (perhaps only the closer, which relied too much on the dubious talents of an audience member, fell noticeably short of the mark).
 I was a bit disappointed in Tripod, who have subsided a little to become unsettlingly like a grown-up Wiggles. Still, at their best – a song about cashed up nimbies getting all the local pubs closed down – they’re still on the money, and you can’t deny the loyalty of another sell-out crowd.
The festival expands this week and next to include other venues around Mt Lawley, and I expect the comedy orcs will descend on them as well. Should be a hoot! 

Link here to a version of this piece in The West Australian. Reviews of Des Bishop by Rob Payne, Asher Treleaven by Betty McKeough link here and Yon by Craig McKeough link here also appeared in The West.

Slipped back to the Astor Lounge on Tuesday night for Perth comedy staples Werzel Montague and John Robertson and their Superdub vs The Vampires, a pastiche of mostly horrible vampire flicks (the abysmal Dracula's Great Love a particularly entertaining example) dubbed over with quippery from the pair. Jimmy James Eaton made a fairly inconsequential guest appearance. 
The whole thing was diverting enough, but Montague and Robertson seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more than the audience were, and I'm not sure they'd really put the necessary effort into it. Material like this needs to be much tighter to generate the sort of helpless laughter that rolls you from one set-up to the next. As a result, the show was more than a little overplayed, with Robertson, in particular, too often over the top in the intimate theatre setting.
They're clever blokes though, and I'm sure their talents will be on better display in their solo shows during the festival.   

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