How to be a Cloud and other life lessons‘At a time when topical stand-up humor (sic) is a glut on the entertainment market, [this pair] offer a reassuring reminder that there is still such a thing as classic comedy. … one happy discovery of seeing the show is that their brand of comedy is immune to age and time.‘ It was said of the reunion show of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca's at Michael's Pub in New York in 1990. Still it could well be said of the comedy duo Jennifer Carnovale (Chrysanthemum) and Madeleine Culp (Hydrangea), at the other end of the age scale, two ‘life coaches’ whose aim it is to assist their audience find inner peace and so much more in ‘How to be a Cloud and Other Life Lessons’. This delightful pair performing at the Tap Gallery on the sparest of sets makes for a rewarding change to the consistent politically and socially topical comment that seems standard fare in today’s comedy delivered to shock and perhaps incense. It will make you laugh, not all the time nor all at once but you will laugh.

They have opted to base their serialised skits on images that are so commonplace we don’t think of them as funny. According to Carnovale they’re designed to ‘jog a memory that gels in some and causes them to fall about. Not everyone gets it straight off you know, but then they do.’

The humour is as much in their reactions and their body language as the words they speak which is as well because diction is at time muffled which may have been the clouds. It’s the sort of humour which when delivered in a natural style is apt to catch you unawares, sneaks up and leaves you laughing when they and the other members of the audience have moved on. The skits themselves were snappily structured moving fluidly from one into the next. The nature of the genre doesn’t tolerate holes and few were evident even though it was the first run through sans dress rehearsal and preview. One might expect an even tighter run by week’s end. The contrast between the combative characters could also have been heightened to underline their situations.

The two paired up in Drama at The McDonald College of the Performing Arts in Sydney. This is their first Sydney run after a short season in the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The two compose their own material with Three nights of HaHa and The Perfect Corner scheduled for later in the year. The skits themselves are actually unrelated despite the bookend pair of life coaches. This was the only point at which the thread became a little frayed but a coherent line was then established with such odd-ball duos as Janice and Janelle, dancers in ‘The Cloud’ course who are challenged in their conflict resolution. There’s ‘Singin Sam’ and ‘Honkey Lou’ who like all kinds of ‘jerky’, God willin’. The two most developed skits were probably predictably comments on the respective styles of television news coverage and the standard types that populate reality TV but even here the swipe, though telling, wasn’t bitter. A very significant slab of content is based on observation of television not life implying intentionally or otherwise that they may have well become synonymous.

The pair bought to mind the quirky humour of Pam Ayers but with the respite of being shown the humour not having it related. They certainly covered a multitude of characters and styles and perhaps the canvas was too detailed for such a format. The bookend pieces that give the show its name served least in terms of both humour and the structure. While the significance of the two flower names drew a blank the symbol of the fluffy indication of a future condensation was much closer to the mark.

How to be a Cloud and other life lessons
Madeleine Culp and Jennifer Carnovale   

Tap Gallery Theatre, Level 1/ 278 Palmer Street Darlinghurst, Sydney
10th to the 22nd July 2007
Tuesdays to Saturday 8pm, Sundays 5pm
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