Category: Noted


Charlie Pickering: Rodeo, Burqa, Circumcision

20110406-003611.jpg9:45 pm 5 April, The Quilt Room, Trades Hall

I've known Charlie for a very long time and I've seen him do some great comedy festival shows. Unfortunately this was little more than a lazy hour of stand up. He can do better and I hope he knows it.

So, in the spirit of that laziness, for the rest of this review I'll just put up some of my mnemonic-style notes and you can imagine what you want.

  • No offense work harder.
  • Hindenburg
  • Hoddle St
  • Floods
  • Christchurch
  • Japan
  • 5 year old rope
  • I wish the show was called "what's your name captain"
  • N word
  • N bomb
  • Attempts at connecting
  • Entertaining the troops

Barely written, while in bed, having seen three shows in one night and not able to be bothered any more.

Lawrence Leung: Wants a Jet Pack


8:15 pm 5 April, New Ballrom, Trades Hall

Lawrence Leung has always wanted to fly with a jet pack. This is the story of him trying to do that.

Leung has always had great ideas for his live shows and this is no exception. It's a fun exploration into the world of the rocketeer, inventions and chasing childhood dreams. He knows how to get a nerd audience excited. I just wish he was a better performer. That's kind of the sacrifice he makes for having such brilliant ideas. His stage presence needs directions.

LL has always been a little stagey, a little forced. If he managed to come across a bit more naturalistic and comfortable, he'd be an unstoppable force. So maybe having that flaw isn't so bad after all.

Maybe the lesson here is to be content with a guy who puts a lot of effort into his shows and ends up with a really enjoyable hour of entertainment. What he loses with lack of stagecraft he more than makes up for with gutsy concepts and big ideas.

Fumbled out of my hands during what remained of the 219 bus rode home, a couple of hours after seeing the show (including seeing another show in between).

Josh Earl: Love Songs and Dedications

20110406-004215.jpg7:00pm 5 April, New Ballroom, Trades Hall

The title itself sets up the audience for the sentimentality of Josh Earl's show.

For those who have never seen him, he sometimes sings songs, and they're funny. Other times he tells some great long ranty bits that are also funny.

He looks like a 14 year-old which can sometimes serve to make his jokes about sex dirtier than they are.

The show holds with a device of a radio call in show during which listeners can dedicate love songs to one another. Earl's message is that romance is not found in the love songs, sunsets and flowers but in action and the smaller moments.

It's sweet and sentimental but it's also funny. That's important. What's also important is that Earl tackles subject matter that comedians often shy away from. Emotions and abstract concepts like love and romance represent larger hurdles than concrete topics like current events. For that alone he should be applauded. It takes courage and conviction to stick with romance as a topic for an hour.

It's cute, it's sweet, it's funny and it's over in time for your 8pm dinner reservation in Lygon St. What's not to like?

Written on my iPhone while waiting for the 219 bus with a full bladder having also seen two other shows and just wanting to get home already.

DISCLAIMER: Josh Earl occupies studio 2 at 3RRR while we record Boxcutters in studio 1 on a Monday night. Also, his management are clients of Soupgiant.

Paul F Tompkins: Life’s Work

20110402-222613.jpg 8:30pm 3 April, Powder Room, Melbourne Town Hall

The perfect combination of jokes about language and cringey stories about social awkwardness and a fear of yelling, make Paul F Tompkins a bit of a story-telling delight.

Note: on the poster he looks a lot more like Kevin Kline than in real life.

I have to say I'm really enjoying going into these shows not knowing a damn thing about the performers. I haven't read the festival guide and it's almost like I just ticked some boxes on a list.

So we wandered into the show tonight with the casual nature of people who despise queuing. This means that we sat right at the front. I like doing that. It kinda feels like the comedian's performing just for me.

So this was like an hour of a very personable fellow trying a bit too hard to impress me by telling me a story about his life and it's obscure brushes with the rich and famous. Ordinarily, say at a dinner party, I'd find this behaviour extraordinarily tedious. With the artifice of a raised platform, however, it meant I could drop my cool man facade and just laugh and cringe with abandon at this legitimately funny story telling.

Paul F Tompkins is hilarious almost despite my eye-rolling at his three piece suit style affectations and that somehow makes his show even funnier.

I bashed out this review on my iPhone using the WordPress app, immediately after seeing the show, while at dinner at China Bar.

Roisin Conaty: Hero, Warrior, Fireman, Liar

Roisin Conaty from the back of the room8:15, 31 March, Cloak Room, Melbourne Town Hall

Zoe Lyons went over time despite the giant green watch offending her wrist. So some of us missed the start of Roisin Conaty's show until there was an appropriate set of applause for us to sneak in up the back.

When we did finally enter there was a woman on stage in a terrible frock and even more outrageous wig spouting some craziness on stage. I wish I saw the set-up because the audience was really into the insanity. By the time we sat down, this character had gone into a terrible song about relationships being like Monopoly. It was a pretty funny parody of the pretentious art-cabaret performers who are so sincere in their literal "poetry" they fail to notice their own irrelevance.

That song was her finale. She left the stage and we were only 5 minutes into the show. For a moment I thought we were going to get another character but Conaty entered as herself and explained to the audience that she loves to scare them with that character. That's a bit of a shame. I would have applauded the commitment to the insanity.

Still, the next 40 or so minutes had some great moments. She involves the audience and makes the show more of a one-sided conversation with the occasionally required affirmation from the audience.

While the laughs were decent, it was hard to not compare Conaty's self-effacement and tales of living in a kind of social limbo with Zoe Lyons's similarly themed material. It's one of the disadvantages of the back-to-back comedy shows.

In the comparison, Conaty comes off second-best. Her bubbly energy might work in isolation or really shine in a 15 minute spot, but after half an hour it starts to feel more and more unpolished. Fumbling through a song from which the show's title comes, Conaty ended the whole affair abruptly and disingenuously apologised for not having done the song since last August; The audience left, covered in the anticlimactic slop of confused disappointment.

I wrote this review on my MacBook Pro laptop, while at work the next morning.

Zoe Lyons: Clownbusting

20110331-223719.jpg 7:15pm, 31 March, Powder Room, Melbourne Town Hall

First night of the Festival is a trial for any comedian but for someone who's never performed in Melbourne before I can only assume it's a bit terrifying. We can be a harsh audience but we can also be incredibly forgiving. The thing is, we don't even know what we're going to be like until confronted with some poor victim on stage, suffering from jet lag and unsure why this room that seemed so very roomy moments ago is now an airless sweat-pit.

Zoe Lyons did a couple of things to get us onside early. She wore all black and displayed a knowledge of tram lines that would rival many locals.

It's a cheap trick and we fell for it. Just as well too because she has a terrible poster and a worse show title. Putting the word "clown" in the title is like polar rejection to a city populated by citizens afeared of juggling.

So, audience on-side, Lyons moved into a series of stories about failing to overcome issues of low self-esteem. By way of snuggies, Van de Graaff generators and nudist beaches.

The details make all the difference in Lyon's delivery. Whether she uses the whole stage to set a scene or just a tiny hand gesture, the audience is with her. She's a great performer with some solid material but we've been spoilt in the past and I just wish she had pulled out something amazing because I left wishing to be more enthusiastic than I was and that's not fair to anyone.

Someone understands what I mean by that but probably not you.

I wrote this review on my iPhone using the WordPress app, while on the train home from seeing this show followed by Roisin Conaty.

Songs of 2010

My friend, Dr Patrick, introduced me to this challenge / mindfulness system he has. Every year he picks 100 songs that have had some impact on him. No two songs can be by the same artists.

The way he does it is to just drag a song into a playlist for that year when he hears it and it strikes something in him. It sounds simple enough.

I'm often driving when listening to music and I found myself repeating the name of the song I wanted to add to my list until I got to traffic lights and then scribbling it into my Moleskine to be added later.

I have the added problem of having different sets of music on my desktop at home and my laptop. So I started just placing the songs in Evernote and tagging them for the list.

I've just finished putting it all together. I didn't get to 100. I only got as far as 20. Each to their own, I suppose. The list is in no particular order, or maybe it's in chronological order. Who can remember?

Name Artist Album
"Academy Fight Song" Mission Of Burma Signals, Calls, And Marches
"Keep the Streets Empty For Me" Fever Ray Fever Ray
"Must Be Bobby" RZA Digital Bullet
"The Whistling Song" Meat Puppets II
"Lights in the Sky" Nine Inch Nails The Slip
"Kim & Jessie" M83 Saturdays = Youth
"Fall Of Night" P.K. 14 SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
"Bucket Song" Psalm One SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
"004" The Good The Bad SXSW 2010 Showcasing Artists
"Breakfast" Le Le SXSW 2009 Showcasing Artists
"Time Is Tight" Booker T. & The MG's Up Tight
"Perfect Skin" Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Rattlesnakes
"Red Dress" The Ferocious Few The Ferocious Few
"I Am Hip Hop (Move The Crowd)" Deep Puddle Dynamics The Taste Of Rain... Why Kneel
"Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe" Okkervil River The Stage Names
"Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Shipbuilding Elvis Costello & The Attractions Punch The Clock
Fountain And Fairfax The Afghan Whigs Gentlemen
No Way Sonic Youth The Eternal (Bonus Track Version)
You'll Miss Me They Might Be Giants Lincoln

If you're wondering about the SXSW Showcasing Artists albums, every years the South by Southwest festival releases a sampler of hundreds of songs from artists appearing at that year's festival. It's a great and free way to get a whole bunch of new music. It's all released as torrents so you can usually find it around months after the festival.

GI Joe: The rise of something yada yada

There were these action figures when I was in grade 6. Called GI Joe, these were essentially military dolls with a hint of invented story behind them: nationally non-aligned villains; an endless supply of imagined weapons and vehicles.

Now they've made a film based on those action figures. The plot follows what you'd expect but just to spice it up a little, I'm going to program it in basic:
10 print 'exposition'
20 print 'explosions'
30 goto 10

Hit Break after about 110 minutes.

The thing is, though, with all those explosions and all that exposition there isn't any time left for character development. Actually one character does have some kind of emotional journey but he's a villain so it lasts about 5 minutes before he's stripped of anything resembling humanity including clothes.