By Ron Lee
15 January to March 1
Being a professional speaker, I have asked many of my cohorts about stand-up comedy and all but a small handful said that they wouldn’t have the courage to do it. Many claim that it’s by far the most difficult form of public speaking.
Having performed at the original Sydney Comedy Store in Margaret Lane in the 1980s, I still have a warm appreciation of the art of stand-up comedy and fondness for those who dare to let go and enjoy an experience that can’t come through any other means.
Until the state final on March 19, The Comedy Store at The Entertainment Quarter, formerly Fox Studios, is hosting Summer Comedy Smackdown in which young comedians I’ve never heard of will compete for recognition, fame, glory, and most importantly, validation.
On the night that I attended, there were seven comedians as well as MC Andrew Barnett who looked a bit like a young Dick York, Darren from Bewitched. As well as being funny in his own right, he was the perfect link between the acts.
First up was Sam Campbell, who appeared to be about twelve years old. His act was devoid of tag lines but somehow his sense of innocence and boyish charm made him a crowd favourite. I found myself laughing without knowing why.
Michael Hing looked like a Chinese version of Where’s Wally? The best comedians are deep thinkers who possess a degree of intelligence and Hing’s rapid-fire, almost neurotic delivery demonstrated that. It was a really enjoyable set and it was great to see an Asian comedian doing so well.
After the break came the amazing Ray Badran. His routine was of self-effacement, and drawing attention to flaws in his character made him a highlight of the night. I normally have a short attention span, and the eight-minute sets were about the right length, but I wanted him to keep going.
Then there was Tien Tran, an Australian-born Vietnamese comedian who does the Asian-assimilating-to-the-Australian-way-of-life thing through the story of a visit from a relative. It’s the first time I’d seen two good Asian comics on the same programme. Excellent!
The headliner was Rhys Nicholson, an unusual act if there ever was one. He entered immaculately groomed, fastidiously dressed, was extremely thin, neat and tidy and wore make-up pale enough to rival Marcel Marceau. Gay perhaps?Well, it took him nearly thirty seconds to establish the fact. His appearance reminded me of a cross between the grooming of PeeWee Herman and the looks of a female friend of mine in younger years. Nicholson’s humour is slightly confronting, uninhibited and uniquely funny, and his attire was a refreshing change from the normal stand-up comedian uniform of blue jeans and t- shirt.
Summer Comedy Smackdown at The Comedy Store is well worth catching. It shows that the next generation of comics will ensure that the scene is in good hands.