Sydney Comedy Festival
At various venues in Sydney until May 21
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
In the 1980s The Sydney Comedy Store in Margaret Lane was the only game in town for stand-up comedians. Then came the Harold Park Hotel with Comics in the Park on a Monday night. I was fortunate to have twice seen the great Robin Williams make surprise appearances there.
In the mean time, Melbourne was already the comedy capital of Australia.
Now the Sydney Comedy Festival has come of age, with a choice of more than 220 shows from all over the globe, and it’s possible to see three in one night.
That’s what I did at The Comedy Store. On the that occasion, there was Des Bishop, Troy Kinne and a showcase, which was a sampling of the shows on offer during the festival.
The Showcase was MC’d by Justin Hamilton, an experienced comedian who at times skilfully performed some great comedy and at others, appeared to be trying out new material. Hamilton looks like he could be the illegitimate father of Leonard from The Big Bang Theory.The first act was Suren Jayemanne, a Sri Lankan/Indian who played on racial stereotypes; funny and intelligent without being clichéd. His show, Deus Eczemachina, could be worth seeing.
Then came Larry Dean, who looked like a young, wiry, tough bovver boy from the mean streets of Glasgow, only to declare that he’s in Australia with his boyfriend, not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I didn’t see that one coming. His show, Farcissist, will be definitely worth catching.
Canadian Mae Martin has variously described herself as looking like Justin Bieber and a member of One Direction. Her boyish vulnerability is endearing and her show, Dope, could be interesting.
Another Scotsman, Craig Hill, wearing a kilt and sporran and having a penchant for pelvic thrusts, is more obviously gay and he serenaded an audience member, a young man in who might or might not have been homophobic. You can be assured that his show, Up and Coming!, is going to be outrageous. Hill doesn’t hold back.
Other showcase performers were Luke Ryan (Merry Christmas ISIS) and Dane Baptiste (Gold. Oil. Drugs.)
The middle show was #Nofilter. I hadn’t heard of Troy Kinne and had no idea about the show. Kinne talked about drinking, drinking and driving and performed rap music in a very Australian style. If you’re the type of person who wouldn’t miss The Footy Show, this one could be for you.
In contrast, Des Bishop performed Grey Matters, which didn’t adequately reflect the appeal of the show. Bishop’s story is that he was born in New York and at age 14, had alcohol issues, so he was sent to Ireland. Huh? Bishop enters and we straight away see that he’s different. He’s in a tailored suit with a pocket handkerchief and a shirt with a tie and French cuffs; not the usual stand-up comics’ uniform of t-shirt and jeans.
I’m a tough audience when it comes to stand-up comedy and usually don’t find indulgent talks about children all that amusing, but Bishop’s chat about his two nephews, brother and sister-in-law was compelling and very funny. Impressive was his local knowledge that not only came out in his routine, but also in ad libs with the audience. He asked if there were any Chinese in the room and a young woman yelled out that she’s an “ABC”. Bishop then explained to the audience that an “ABC” is an Australian-born Chinese. He picked up on the fact that the Entertainment Quarter is a bit of a commercial wasteland and that Pauline Hanson might not be sexually desirable. There was also a topic on which you might not expect him to do a “bit”, and it’s hilarious. On the night, Des Bishop was by far the stand-out. His levels of observation, expression, stage presence, delivery and detailed professionalism were way above anyone else on the night.