Looking for laughs? Check out Con Coutis’ meta-lasagne of a show
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There’s plenty to laugh about in our rolling collection of reviews covering comedy across this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Con vs Con vs Con | Con Coutis ★★★★
The Motley Bauhaus, until October 15
Having scored a Golden Gibbo nomination (awarded to an independent performer who seeks artistic exploration over financial gain) at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Con Coutis has no doubt piqued the interest of the industry cognoscenti with this meta-lasagne of a show.
Con Coutis in Con vs Con vs Con: a meta-lasagne of a show.Credit: Nick Robertson
Throughout his latest hour he delves into the conflict of his own mind, and the physical and mental battles that 1000-plus other hyperverse Cons are plaguing him with. His commitment to the gags about his own psyche are relentless. As are his well-refined bouts of audience participation, mime and immaculate audio cues (a hat-tip must go to his overworked tech).
Almost moronically, it all crescendos with a dust-up reminiscent of The Matrix, Being John Malkovich and WWE thrown into a ring together. Somehow, it works – with each overzealous punch-on reciprocated with feverish audience laughter.
It’s thoroughly silly and enjoyable sketch. Compared with the work of his peers – it may undershoot the emotional undertones of Steen Raskopoulos or the batshit inventiveness of Tom Walker – but it still holds the punch to a land a visceral knock-out blow.
Reviewed by Tyson Wray
Con vs Con vs Con: a meta-lasagne of a show.Credit: Nick Robertson
Festival Hub, Trades Hall, Quilt room, until October 15
Sometimes all a show needs is minimal props (three tiny fences made of rusty corrugated iron, white picket timber and broken fake bricks and milk crates) plus a whole lot of talent.
Stickybeak runs until October 15.Credit: NickMickPics
Kimberley Twiner, Jessie Ngaio, Laura Trenerry and Patrick Dwyer are a bunch of clowns. Their physical comedy, at times, literally moves at snail’s pace. It invites us to take a stickybeak at an assortment of characters – human and animal – that live beyond those fences.
Delightful buffoonery ensues as a delectable, steady stream of zany yet relatable skits and interactions unravel. The over-arching thread allows us to eavesdrop on a neighbourhood. You could find yourself doubled-over – with laughter – as dogs bounce about doing their business, cats beg and purr for attention, teens flirt and adults peep into each other’s lives. Stand-out scenes include a spine-chilling toddler tantrum and a perfectly annoying fly.
Stickybeak is brilliantly paced and it’s a rollicking, silly, well-played, joyous ride.
Reviewed by Donna Demaio
The 50 Year Show | Sammy J – ★★★★
Melbourne Town Hall, October 6
Did you miss the most-anticipated show of this year’s Fringe? Don’t worry. It’s set to return – albeit in 2028.
For the uninitiated, Sammy J’s The 50 Year Show was conceived when he was, in his own words, a “nobody” in 2008. Every five years at the Melbourne Fringe he recreates the performance as a time capsule of the years that have fallen into the ephemeral ether of the past; with high-profile drop-ins, an avalanche of in-jokes and quinquennial segments both celebrating and commiserating the epoch.
Sammy J’s quinquennial 50 Year Show isn’t exactly fringe any more.Credit: Duncan Jacob
The now award-winning comedian and ABC personality plans to stage the show until 2058, when he will be 75-years-old.
A cavalcade of special guests return (both in-person and via video) to discuss the past, present and future – including Celia Pacquola, Charlie Pickering, Damian Callinan, Ali McGregor and Sammy’s felt-faced partner-in-crime, Randy. A choir in the balcony serenades the audience, while Lord Mayor Sally Capp releases the shackles of political handcuffs to celebrate the joyous nature of the event.
The 50 Year Dancers (or those who remain/commit to returning), the 50 Year Baby (who was in gestation at the first performance) and the 50 Year Crossword all make a return, as does the 50 Year Joke – which sees a punchline, not to be delivered for another 35 years, slowly prepared line by line in each show. A take-down of cryptocurrency is sublime, suitably accompanied by all attendees receiving an NFT on exit (read: a pinned button).
While the room bursts with unbridled ebullience, there’s a tinge of melancholic whiplash in the air as the headlines of yesteryear are recited. What once enveloped society now feels inconsequential – a triggering reminder that the tribulations that transpire in daily life will one day be nothing more than something that happened a long, long time ago.
With numerous accolades and commercial success, Sammy J isn’t exactly “Fringe” any more – a fact highlighted by the venue he’s performing in, which is well over quadruple the size of the first, second and third iterations of the show. But this audacious idea and his commitment to its execution lies at the heart of the artistic spirit that the festival seeks to inspire.
Reviewed by Tyson Wray
Insomniac Mixtape | Telia Nevile ★★★★
Trades Hall and Digital On Demand, until October 22
“We recommend you enjoy this show with headphones and jammies” is advice I like to hear at the opening of any performance. All the better coming from the soothing voice of Telia Nevile, poet laureate and fellow sleep-seeker.
Telia Nevile in Insomniac Mixtape: delivery is perfect.Credit: Roc+
Insomniac Mixtape is both a live show (on at Trades Hall until October 15) and an audio digital on-demand offering that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own bed. No better place for Nevile’s meditations on the life of an insomniac.
Here’s a restless soul that can serenade you in new wave pop-style with “dare me to smother you” on the frustrations of lying awake next to a snoring companion, or rock a Ramones-style driving beat with late night lamentations on ageing. The delivery is perfect, the songs are catchy and the material is all too familiar to the sleepless.
This won’t send you to sleep, but it will keep you entertained in those long restless hours.
Lefa Singleton Norton
Yes/No: A Comedy Lecture | Tom Ballard ★★★
Trades Hall – Solidarity Hall, until October 8
Tom Ballard’s self-deprecating comedic prowess is on show in Yes/ No: A Comedy Lecture. The seasoned performer’s performance lecture experiments with traditional stand-up modes to unpack the upcoming vote for an Indigenous Voice.
Yes/No: A Comedy Lecture runs until October 8.
Using statistically compelling data and historical facts, Ballard argues the importance of the referendum in progressing political representation. Equipped with a PowerPoint interspersed with pop culture references, images of local fauna genitalia and childhood photos, he does well to inject comedy into dry content.
Dense sections felt like information overload – particularly with Ballard’s fast-paced momentum. It does reduce the clarity of his arguments, leaving insufficient time to fully unpack the nuances of the progressive “no vote”.
Though the ending is delivered quickly, and not punchy enough to drive his point home, Ballard should be commended for trying something new – and recovering well when he falters.
Reviewed by Vyshnavee Wijekumar
Werkin’ 5 to 9 | HollyPop & Brenda Bressed ★★★
The MC Showroom, until October 8
What do you get when a drag queen is audited by the Australian Taxation Office? A medley of show tunes, apparently.
HollyPop & Brenda Bressed lift the drag club curtain in Werkin’ 5 to 9. Credit: Francis Cao
Werkin’ 5 to 9 lifts the drag club curtain, offering the audience a glimpse into what it means to be an artist working amid a cost-of-living crisis. Sitting backstage after their Saturday night gig, the Kath & Kim of drag – HollyPop and Brenda Bressed – reminisce on their journey to full-time performing, a journey littered with part-time jobs, eviction notices and, inexplicably, a police brawl with a fairy.
Punctuated by familiar songs from Grease, Sweeney Todd and Priscilla, it’s like the campiest jukebox imaginable – made even more captivating by the Broadway-worthy vocal range of Brenda Bressed, a former competitor on The Voice.
Though its costume changes are minimal (arguably a faux pas for cabaret) and its initial pacing rather shaky, the duo eventually warms up, giving a figurative middle finger to anyone who asks “but what do you do for your day job?“
Reviewed by Nell Geraets
A Day in the Life | Stuart Daulman ★★★
Trades Hall, until October 8
We all want to feel like we’ve seen something unmissable, never to be repeated. Stuart Daulman delivers just this in each night of A Day in the Life, a show he writes daily based on what happened to him since he woke up the very same morning.
Stuart Daulman’s A Day in the Life appeals to our FOMO.
In an era when so much is available on demand, a show that appeals to our FOMO is set for success. By nature the material is somewhat fragmented and delivered in shorter bursts, but fast laughs and frequent punchlines keep the show pacy.
Daulman opens with an extended “recap” of previous days using safer material to warm the crowd. It’s effective, but we’re in the audience because we want in on the experiment. It may be riskier to spend more time on the untested, but this is where the potential for magic happens. It’s in the unexpected that the highlights of this show are found.
Reviewed by Lefa Singleton Norton
STUD | Aiden Willcox ★★★
Trades Hall, until October 8
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to date an AFL player from the ’90s, STUD plays the part of a stage simulation run amok.
Winner of Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe in 2022, and taking out the gong for Best Newcomer at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Aiden Willcox crafts a psyche that is repugnantly boorish – honing in on a myriad of alpha-male, hyper-masculine stereotypes.
STUD runs until October 8.Credit: Belinda Anderson-Hunt
Pacing the stage with a Johnny Bravo bravado, Willcox attempts to serenade and seduce the crowd through song and sketch. It’s enjoyable character comedy – but nothing that hasn’t been mastered before (think Zoë Coombs Marr’s all-conquering Dave). The toilet humour, as well, overstays its welcome and becomes wince-inducing.
STUD is akin to a one-night stand in your 20s with the titular character: fine enough, but nothing you’d tell your mother about.
Reviewed by Tyson Wray
Leave to Enter | Nick Robertson ★★★
Festival Hub, Trades Hall, Evatt Room, until October 8
Nick Robertson wants to get something off his chest – so he’s written his first show. After charmingly professing that “there’s a magic in storytelling”, he relays a 45-minute tale of adventure and mishap.
Robertson mainly mines a singular experience – being deported from Scotland – to find the funny.
As the story unfolds, the laughs come with repeated mentions of “the best film of all time”, his mother and his favourite free-to-play tile-matching online video game.
Leave to Enter runs until October 8.
Robertson’s likeable demeanour adds a little shine to the story. He quickly recovers each time there’s a slight fumble or minor stumble.
A Backstreet Boys soundtrack laces the honest account with nostalgia, while the use of a screen and basic graphics is entertaining and effective.
So, what is the best film of all time according to Robertson? Well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise
Reviewed by Donna Demaio
Death Metal Boomer | Dan Brader ★★
Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets, until October 8
The show begins nearly half an hour later than scheduled due to another performance running overtime. Sure, I think, it’s like a punk or metal gig, where runtimes are usually slightly off. But when Death Metal Boomer eventually begins, Dan Brader immediately launches into improv.
Death Metal Boomer runs until October 8.
It takes a while of audience banter to enter the show proper, not long after a loud Canadian guy and his friends egg Brader on to do a shoey after finding out he’s from New Zealand. He obliges, then proceeds to perform the entire gig shoeless.
The show itself is unmemorable, with many self-deprecating “gee whiz I’m Kiwi” piss takes alongside some quite misogynistic jokes. This could very well be the titular “death metal boomer” personified, but because Brader never contextualises this he really could be any questionable white guy. Even so, why don’t we leave those relics to fade into obscurity? As he repeatedly reminds the audience, he’s 40 years old. The death metal scene now is –if one bothers to observe –much more progressive. It’s 2023: punch up, not down.
Reviewed by Cher Tan
Eulogiser Bunny | Cameron Ribbons ★
Trades Hall, until October 8
This is probably the kind of comedy gig you need to be drunk to appreciate. I certainly wished I’d socked down a few. The premise is intriguing enough. Comedian Cameron Ribbons hosts his own funeral in the guise of a dodgy pastor. The promise of a murder mystery hovers in the air, and the audience is invited to guess the culprit as details of the artist’s demise are revealed.
Eulogiser Bunny runs until October 8.
Unfortunately, the murder mystery is a MacGuffin. Eulogiser Bunny is basically a stand-up show and, well, if you enjoy dad humour and terrible puns, go for your life.
Audible groans. Barbecue-stoppers. Several jokes so lame the mind immediately repressed them. I do recall an ill-judged mention of the Voice referendum – in support of it obviously – but still, why risk depressing the audience at a comedy show? As for a pronoun gag? Ha. Your funeral.
Perhaps it was opening night nerves: the filmed sections were funnier. The live stuff, though, was an evident strain even for the performer, and Ribbons got louder not better.
Reviewed by Cameron Woodhead
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