The comedy business has had a somewhat chequered career in Perth, despite producing some big time comedians and much terrific material (Minchin, Creasey, Armadale, Eagles supporters).
For a while the Perth Comedy Festival, based in and around Mt Lawley, looked like it would be the springboard for an ongoing comedy scene, but, for one reason or another, it has subsided into a spin-off of the Melbourne Comedy Festival with no particular local character or sense of place.
That’s left rooms in suburban pubs like the estimable Lazy Susan’s, squeezed upstairs at The Brisbane, and the Charles Hotel carrying the can. Comedy badly needed a place a wider demographic of Perth pleasure-seekers would want to come out for.
There’s no denying comedy’s popularity in Perth – the bulging comedy programme at Fringe World attests to that – but, somehow, it has struggled to find that vital ingredient - a home that’s an attraction in itself.
It’s early days, but it looks like that room has arrived.
The newly-opened Comedy Lounge has a lot going for it. It’s got genuine date night black-is-the-new-black style, some sexy lighting, cute little tables (which you can book) on raked levels, and a bar you don’t have to go downstairs to get to that you can mill around in, and even slip out to during the show (choose your comedian carefully). There’s a decent, albeit uneventful, snack menu at reasonable prices and a maître de who seems to get everyone sorted and seated more than satisfactorily.
Which is a long way of saying that this is a fairly cool place to be, located in an increasingly hot part of town among the jazzed-up laneways around Murray Street West.
Which brings on the comedy, and, on the six-pack stand-up night I went, it was well and truly up to scratch.
The great thing about stand-up comedy, of course, is how easy it is to get to you. A change of clothes and a single seat on a Tiger Air red-eye flight and a funny person can be delivered all the way to Perth without the usual logistical impediments to such an outcome.
The other great thing about stand-up nights is that, at ten or so minutes a stand, you can ease your way through the unmemorable, or even the truly awful (though none of this night’s bill, which included Damien Fleming’s little brother Justin, Shayne Hunter, Sean Conway and Marty Bright were anything like that) while you wait for inspiration.
You didn’t have to wait long. Greg Fleet anchored the show, and was as erudite, thorny, self-battering and hilarious as always. I suspect we’re going to see a lot of Fleet and his fellow senior laughmeister, Pete Rowsthorn, at the Lounge, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
On the bill proper, Perth export Rory Lowe’s is droll and dreadlocked with the sort of insights we fondly imagine only a stoner could have. He’s got that greatest of assets a comedian can have – we all know someone who’s just like him. Only he’s funny.
And then along came Townsville’s Danielle Walker. She’s that rare beast, the comedian you don’t know what to make of. For my humour, which runs most to the likes of Neil Hamburger and Paul Foot, Walker is the ant’s pants. She sniggers at her own jokes (so she should), she draws pictures of pigs with amputated legs. She’s just a little bit demented and, like I said, it’s hard to know what to make of her.
And I don’t know if any of us know anyone quite like her.
The Comedy Lounge gets underway in 2018 on January 11, and will have a strong presence during Fringe. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it becomes a place to be as the year cranks up.
The Comedy Lounge Perth City is upstairs at 403 Murray Street, Perth. Shows generally run from Thursday through Saturday, and tickets seem to range from $20 to $35.