2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival:
• Hayley Brennan—She’s Off and Racing

Posted on 10 April 2013

A comedian’s sense of storytelling and show structure develops in stages. At first they just nail down how to tell one-liners and anecdotes, learning what gets a laugh. Once this stage is achieved they usually test the waters with a festival show. If their festival show goes well, a good comedian makes the effort to continue developing their skills.

Stage two, a comedian starts thinking about themes, layered storytelling, call backs, and possibly even a message. Stage three, a comedian learns how to play with their material, giving it greater physical and emotional expression; and also learns how to play with the audience. Once they are able to riff off their audience, a comedian has pretty much hit their stride.

Each stage is valid and can deliver an enjoyable evening. Hayley Brennan in She’s Off and Racing has clearly mastered stage one. She has the comic patter down and knows how to deliver a punchline. Her material about the bogan nature of Geelong is well trod territory given a nice personalised twist. She knows how to stay afloat when a joke fails and comes back with solid saving lines. She has a comfortable presence in the spotlight.

Brennan is just coming to grips with stage two skills. She starts the show with a racing metaphor and a theme to do with growing up. The metaphor is an opportune one. It could potentially drive the structure of the show, allowing the performer to indulge in many references to a popular sport.

Brennan did punctuate her show with intervals of race announcing. She did set aside ten minutes to elaborate on how racing season bears resemblance to the shape of her life. The metaphor could still have been more pervasive and gone deeper. If you advertise your show is about horse racing, your audience will come expecting a predominance of horse jokes. Usually enough people come just expecting a laugh that it’s okay if the horses remain in the stable. However, the comedian is then under greater pressure to be funny: it’s a trade off.

Hayley Brennan’s strongest feature is her affable girlish charm. Her performance sparkles whenever she smiles in enjoyment with her audience. This is where she already stretches to stage three. She shows real promise and her show Off and Running is a fun one.


Peace and kindness,


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