2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival Reviews, Part 3
* New Art Club
* Simon Munnery
* Sammy J and Randy

Posted on 23 April 2011

New Art Club—Big Bag of Boom

Tom Roden, Pete Shenton, and myself are all comedians who have embraced unitards. We are more than happy to make dancing fools of ourselves. Some comedians interweave a bit of wriggling to music into their routines. Rarely do you see dance made a central part of a comic act.

I have seen Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Their humour derives largely from the drag aspect of the show, while performing traditional choreography with the odd comic moment. In their case I sometimes wish they would just do Swan Lake as a serious production. Who gets to be seen dancing and how needs to be shaken up. The New Art Club certainly shakes up people’s perceptions of who gets to dance and what dance is supposed to look like.

Shenton and Roden make their dancing look comic, but they are skilled contemporary dancers. Roden suprisingly integrated some well-executed belly dancing moves and Shenton was able to get good height with his jumps and kicks. I don’t think the average punter would recognise this, but it’s not really as important as whether people laughed and enjoyed the show. This they did.

I enjoyed the fact that they were breaking new ground in how physical comedy works. Instead of pratfalls and double-takes, they were working with absurd juxtapositions and interactions of their bodies with one another. Often they put their movement into some sort of context such as a conversation or a picnic. This caused some of their humour to stray into mime. Particularly fun was pretend ping-pong.

The most challenging piece involved Shenton and Roden dancing out an Irish terrorist killing. Like Coen Brother films I found it both funny and a little hard to take, but they made people think. This work reminded me of Mel Brooks’s Springtime for Hitler routine. The point is to demonstrate how absurd cruelty is and to mock the people who fetishise it.

One note if you plan to see this show, and I highly recommend it: I was warned that it’s best to follow through on the audience participation instructions. This was good advice. Cheating doesn’t get you very much and you lose the laughs. They mostly used this interaction as a way to create scene changes, but they made sure you got a humorous surprise out of the moment.


Simon Munnery—Self Employed

Simon Munnery uses a wide variety of comedy styles within his one show. He does stand-up, poetry, multimedia, and sketches. He plays with words and lightly intellectual ideas, he also plays around with slapstick. I liked some segments of his show better than others, but felt I was in safe hands, since anything I might find slow quickly shifted into another segment that had more appeal.

The character he projects is self-effacing, gently drawing people into the worlds of babies and mad conceptual restaurants. I love the way Munnery uses understatement to deliver his jokes. Most courses in comedy will not recommend this. Yet in Simon Munnery’s hands, it opens up a whole new delicious flavour to what makes us laugh.

I would like to see more of Munnery’s work. His comedy is thoughtful, amiable, and quirky. He’s the MadHatter’s nicer twin brother.


Sammy J and Randy in Bin Night

I have reviewed Sammy J a couple times before. He’s a very fine comedian. I would also say that in this show he produced some of his best music. It was tuneful, funny, and he could probably have fit in one or two more ditties. The comedian who doesn’t get as much said about him is Heath McIvor.

McIvor as Randy does a finely executed turn at both puppetry and comedy. Randy’s eye focus from Sammy to the audience is impeccable, his timing and performance of double takes is exquisite, his ease with improvisation is superb. I am impressed with how well McIvor uses body language to develop Randy’s relationship with Sammy J on stage. Randy is a completely believable presence. He delivers his saucy wit with swift skill.

Bin Night itself is a string of very funny moments. You could practically see how the guys brainstormed comic element after comic element. One thing they might have done: set the original script aside for awhile, before giving it a second going over. The moments needed to be better integrated into their story. With greater focus on their central theme Bin Night could have ended with a larger comic climax.

As always Sammy J and Randy are a fun night out and well worth the effort.


Peace and kindness,


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