2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival:
• Andrew O’Neill in Alternative

Posted on 20 April 2012

One of the challenges I’ve had reviewing this year comes with seeing two similar festival shows in one night. I had one night where I saw two shows using mime, another where I saw two sketch shows, and last night when I saw two British standups. The problem comes when my mind automatically starts to compare and contrast the two.

Both shows could be good in their own ways, but if one far outstrips the other in some particular area, then I find I am giving the other show a less glowing review than I would if I had seen it any other night. Because I’m relying on a festival pass to see most shows, I can only vaguely arrange my schedule and hope doubling up doesn’t happen too often.

Andrew O’Neill in Alternative blew me away. His comedy is smart, original, thoughtful, and insightful. And as the saying goes, other comedians pale in comparison.

Another female comic and myself were complaining that if we heard one more comedian make a joke about how women go to the toilet together, mayhem could well ensue (I’m tempted to say, after which we went to the toilet together…but no, we are not cheap stereotypes). O’Neill started to tell a story that included his wife. Before getting far he suddenly went off on a rant about how most gender differences are contrived and he wasn’t going to stoop to tired meaningless clichés just to get an easy laugh with some of the guys. You could almost hear people blink as his words settled in, then three quarters of the audience, women and men, erupted into cheers. That felt so good.

Of course he didn’t stop there. He went on to declaim about classism, religion, and the media. Whether or not I always agreed with him, he had something interesting to say and wove in hilarious observations and absurd asides. “Of course Jesus could walk on water. It’s a scientific fact that he had inflatable feet!” This makes the show sound like it’s political observational humour, but it’s much more.

Alternative describes both O’Neill’s lifestyle and the style of comedy he’s presenting. He bounces back and forth between hyper-rational thought and supremely silly surrealism. Describing a spider’s tiny swimming gear was one of my favourite moments. He really should be touring universities, since some of his greatest fans may well be found there.

Andrew O’Neill comes across as a passionately caring man. He’s also out to be 100% authentically himself. That sort of journey always includes a lot of exploring and testing different ways of being, modes of thought, and groups of people. In the end you get material ripe for good comedy or a good novel. I’m happy to see him do both.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/alternative-andrew-o-neill/


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