Review: Marion Hotel vs A Whole Swag of Comedians

Posted on 30 July 2009

Marion Hotel is one of the latest venues Craig Egan has opened throughout Adelaide. I looked forward to checking the space out after discovering what a gem the Arkaba is for performances. I felt even more excited by the line up of comedians for the evening. I just wish I could have picked a better audience.

The Marion Hotel has a nice comfortable space for the performers to strut their stuff, nothing outstanding but certainly pleasant. I would say I like it better than HWY for coziness. The two pitfalls for the night were 1) not enough audience and 2) too many drunks who ended up taking over the show. If I were Craig, I wouldn’t let myself get too attached to that venue. Perhaps find something in North Adelaide.

I’ve been wanting to write about how to deal with heckling, but haven’t felt experienced enough yet to say anything. To be honest, I am SO grateful I am free of such experience. Last night was painful and I felt nothing but sympathy for the comedians. Now I can write about what worked and didn’t work for them, and perhaps we can at least all learn something.

Rich Naberhood

The host for the evening was Rich Naberhood. You would think with his emphasis on bogan humour as an Elizabeth boy, he would be a natural with the crowd we had. His name is meant to be ironic. However, the instant he said, “I’m Rich Naberhood,” the drunker part of the audience turned on him in a sort of peculiar class war. His humour is a relaxed sort of “meat and potato” style of joke telling. The little girl who sat near me (thank God for one delightful audience member) laughed very hard at some of his one liners. At another venue his working class humour might have had more universal appeal.

The problem he had was that with his relaxed style, he tended to give people time to laugh. Those empty spaces were leapt upon by the drunks as their moment to spout off insults. He would then wait for them to finish, which just gave them more time to spout off more insults.  At one point he asked if the fifteen minutes for his opening routine were up. He sounded like he needed rescuing. So, I checked my watch and said that yes they were. I hope he took that in the  spirit it was intended: a tiny life ring for him to bail long enough to catch his breath. When Rich came back for his next routine he definitely stood his ground better. Perhaps I will see him again sometime when he has a more supportive audience and is given a chance to shine.

Jason Pestell

After the disastrous opening all of the comedians were wary and cut their performances a little short. I was impressed with Jason Pestell’s efforts to make friends with the most vocal heckler by offering him a beer. His word play was delightful, “That was a juice joke…concentrate!” He even threw a kid joke to the little girl. I really like Jason’s material. I’d love to see him smile more while he’s delivering it.

Michael Princi

Michael Princi did the most to quieten the crowd, but not through any special effort. His humour just acted as a natural tonic to calm people down. He was witty; easily accessible; didn’t resort to sex, violence, or body humour; and maintained a snappy pace. This gave the drunks nothing to latch onto. They couldn’t add anything to his jokes, nor did they have the time to do so. Bless you Michael. I’ve always found your humour charming, last night I could have kissed you for helping to rescue the event.

Rob Hunter

Rob Hunter was the comedian for whom I came. He was the 2005 Raw Comedy SA winner and has written for the TV show Spicks and Specks. He projects a boyish character with a psychotic edge. He must have had lessons from Spock the way he was flapping that left eyebrow up and down. His wordplay was clever and, my litmus test for the night, he had the little girl in stitches. I swear he humorously barked like a deranged terrier at the chief heckler, after which the hecklers again remained pretty much quiet. I adore off-centre silliness and Rob served that up in spades. I will have to attend one of his solo shows in the near future.

Average The Band

Our last act thankfully was a crowd pleaser. Average The Band came on and performed a set of goodhearted boganish songs. I’ve seen these guys before with a third member performing support for Tripod at The Gov. They remind me of Bill and Ted from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, only older and with more facial hair. Their songs were tuneful and deceptively clever despite the outer suburb aura.

I would happily see all of the comedians I enjoyed last night again. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to see them at the Marion Hotel. Speaking with Rob Hunter after the show he pointed out that there’s a difference between a simple heckler and a drunk. A heckler is wanting a little attention, a drunk is just making a nuisance of themselves. I could see his point. I’ve seen both Ross Noble and Stephen K. Amos do glorious things riffing off of a responsive audience. I’ve seen several comedians die attempting to cope with drunks.

I sense that each comedian needs to develop their own methods for working with hecklers as suits the persona they have created. However, drunks need to be universally ignored and not given the time to embarrass themselves. Personally, I would say these venues need to take more responsibility for their drunks. First, they aren’t supposed to serve intoxicated individuals and, second, they should have a trained bouncer on hand to see someone off the premises if they are bothering other patrons.

To all who performed last night I hope the small group of enthusiastic fans you had at the front of the venue helped to make the night worthwhile, because your performances were certainly worthwhile.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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