Reviews: Adelaide Fringe & Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Part 1)

Posted on 16 April 2009

Well, I had all of three days in Melbourne during the comedy festival and had a chance to learn from, meet, and observe a number of very fine comedians. Of course it has now been more than a week since I’ve returned and my brain has been a mess of curdled mushroom soup in recovery from a cold. My apologies that these will be short reviews.

Nik Coppin in Loquacious

Okay, I saw Nik and a couple others at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. So these reviews are REALLY late.

The Fringe is used by many comedians as a place to preview their shows and sharpen their material before moving onto the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Poor old Nik was given a tiny venue called “The Tuxedo Cat” to make it sound swanky. This venue is situated on the roof of a flea market and his show was on at 6pm. Despite these hurdles he still managed to attract an appreciative audience and give a great show. All I can say is, if this was the preview, he must be astoundingly faboo at the Melbourne festival.

Nik Coppin did have a bunch of fun scripted stuff. His stories about Essendon Football Club, spiders, and religion were both surprising and humorous. But what really works for him, and what budding comedians should watch and learn, is his absolute confidence in just chatting with the audience. He invites comment, then genuinely listens to responses. His good-natured charm deflects heckling and he brings people on side by avoiding put-downs and rewarding participation with lighthearted banter.

I can’t believe that after the show he managed to catch me in a conversation about which is better: Marvel or DC comics. Obviously, Dargaud the publishers of Asterix and Obelix walk all over those guys.

Rating: 2 Adam Hills and 1 Bill Cosby.

Sam Wills in The Boy with Tape on His Face

This was my favourite show at Adelaide Fringe this year. I had seen Sam Wills push his entire body through a tennis racket before, but that in no way prepared me for the magic of The Boy with Tape on His Face.

This show is done entirely in mime. As such he is being compared with Marcel Marceau by other reviewers, bit of an easy call. I love Marceau, but the comparison loses some of Wills unique character. No doubt his show does have a European flavour to it, probably closer to Jacques Tati in execution. His persona is eager to please, but exudes a world-weary put-upon attitude which opens opportunities for classic Australian/New Zealand dry irony.

Wills is skilled at comunicating thoughts and situations with just his face and body. Even a stand-up comedian who relies on one-liners should learn from this man, since adept physicality heightens humour.  He then uses the energy of his imaginary creations to transform ordinary objects into rube goldberg machines, puppets of famous performers, and more. Especially exceptional was his ability to enlist the audience to participate in his madness without a word. I loved his dancing rendition of “Blame it on the Boogie” using props and three unsuspecting audience members.

Rating: 1 Marcel Marceau, 1 Mr Bean, 1 Harpo, and 2 Jacques Tatis

Claire Hooper in Forget Your Troubles C’mon Get Hoopsy

Claire Hooper relies on the absurdity of her own life for the marvelous anecdotes and one-liners she delivers to great effect. This is true of many stand-up comedians. Here are the tricks that make for a great comedian: 1) you must have a unique perspective, 2) this perspective must emotionally connect with your audience’s experiences, and 3) you will need to deliver this perspective through an interesting persona. These are where Hooper shows her mastery.

Unique perspective: A female perspective is still a unique perspective in this industry, but Claire Hooper goes beyond that. Like their male counterparts many women revel in cynicism, but about child-rearing and
husbands (ie Fiona O’Loughlin and the women in Mother of the Year ) which can be funny.  Hooper retells the little frustrations and strangenesses of everyday life, but without the damage or pessimism. She still celebrates the little victories as well. In C’mon Get Hoopsy I loved her stories about training her new puppy which exemplifies this.

Emotionally connect: Claire Hooper turns herself inside out during her routine giving people a personal view of both her thoughts and feelings. Everyone can understand being frightened of people who might be out of control from drink, drugs, or mental illness. When Claire talks about buying a house next to a housing estate, we can sympathise with her stress, because she is confident enough in her resilience to give us a peek into her vulnerability.

Interesting persona: A comedian doesn’t actually have to have a likeable persona to succeed. Sometimes unlikeable personas are interesting because we enjoy seeing them get some comeuppance. In Claire Hooper’s case she is immensely likeable. She is aware of realities, she’s not actually playing the innocent, but she approaches the world with a childlike aplomb that is engaging.

Not only is Claire Hooper a talented performer, she is also a generous person. I think all of the women at the Jeez Louise Funny Women’s Forum were grateful for the time she shared with us expounding upon her art. Many thanks Claire!

Rating: 2 Gracie Allens, 1 Minnie Pearl, and 1 Bill Cosby

Tune in soon for part 2 of these reviews!

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


1 Response to Reviews: Adelaide Fringe & Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Part 1)

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