Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow

Melbourne International Comedy Festival RoadshowMC - Jeff Green

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) Roadshow is a trip for the audience, to be driven around the bend around bizarre forests and into tunnels as a journey into an evening of entertainment - though some might have preferred some shortcuts.

Do you remember the excitement of a road trip? The feeling of anticipation: what will you see, what will happen? The MICF Roadshow is the car trip of the entertainment world; not the first class of opera, nor the cargo plane of kindergarten recitals. With four different acts and an emcee, the full house at the Canberra Theatre could be assured of some varied terrain.

While Canberra has a comedy scene, we rarely get to see international acts as seen in Sydney and Melbourne, the latter recently hosting a festival in April with hundreds of acts. For the past few years, Canberra has been a pit stop on the way around Australia for the Roadshow, and this year brought us Aussie acts Felicity Ward, Sam Simmons, and Smart Casual. The international flavour added was Andrew Stanley and emcee Jeff Green, whose wife is an Australian.

The car leaves home with the radio blaring - or as at Canberra Theatre - the youth radio station Triple J-type soundtrack blaring in the speakers. At the wheel is the driver between highways and byways, emcee Jeff Green. A seasoned comedian from the UK, he has recently called Australia home. He fulfilled his role, geeing up the audience between acts and segueing between what is chalk and cheese of comedy styles. Upon the minimalist stage set of a couple of banners, Green used the area to track audience attention, adding improvisation to bring originality to his time, even with the usual ‘throw in a joke about the locals and where we've just been.’

After the laughs and warm fuzzy feeling from Green, the trip took a turn to the wild world of NSW central coast local Felicity Ward. Maybe it’s a Canberra thing, but comedy acts always seem to pay out bogans. Sometimes this can go down like a wolf whistle at a Country Women’s Association morning tea, but Ward kept within the bounds of bogan-bashing with some witty observations of hybrid names. She also does a wicked impersonation of a notable elderly actor - but I won’t spoil it. For a 28-year-old, she’ll be well prepared for her geriatric years. Ward’s material encompassed longer personal insights that went a bit too long, but came good in the end. Also slowing the pace was stuttering and tongue twistedness, but she made this into an act itself - overall a polished performance and a good rolling hills type of drive, with ups and downs, slows and stops.

The journey took a spin into patches of forest, decelerating occasionally for some road works with music duo Smart Casual. The odd couple routine is common in comedy, but these two carried enough originality to distinguish them from the Lano and Woodley and Penn and Teller types. Their immobility contrasted Ward’s hyperactivity, in an ultra-cool ‘don’t give a rats’ way. Even today I still have one of their songs in my head. The pauses between and within songs slowed their momentum a bit, leading the audience attention wandering, and the intermission was just the right timing to recharge for acts 3 and 4.

Freshened up with Magnums and champers, the journey continued - except this time into the darkened twists and turns of the tunnel: Sam Simmons. If you imagine anti-art as being a vacuum cleaner in a glass cabinet, then Simmons is anti-comedy. Perhaps though his style is suited to the Triple J scene, as he does indeed appear on J TV and radio.  Humour bounces within his own head like a spitting spectrum; reflecting internalised in-jokes, expressed in a multimedia affair of hand drawn sketches and smart-arse song adaptations. The narcissistic angle was self-aggrandising instead of self-deprecating, and this does not do well with Aussie audiences. Yes, there were some gems, but mostly the act was a stream of non-sequiturs. Oh, and gratuitous nanna insults. If there had been tomatoes, the back rows of the theatre would have made the stage into cacciatore, and to his credit, Simmons bypassed corners of his tunnel until light again returned.

And did it ever - Andrew Stanley from Ireland took us on the wind-in-your-hair stretch, maintaining momentum with clever audience interaction and ‘yes that is sooo true’ observances. Pacing about the stage, he was the buoyancy of the evening, bringing us to the destination of overall satisfaction. Even for the hapless couples of the front row - who got some free relationship advice that was more realistic than any Cosmo magazine quiz.

The ultimate experience for most drivers is the road with wide-open plains, where you can see everything, and sing ABBA at full voice with the exhilaration of freedom. This is when comedy is steady in momentum; witty and original to stroke everyone’s funny bone. The MICF in Canberra had that, but be aware of dark tunnels, causing confusion for those who prefer their comedy comprehendible.

A-List Entertainment presents
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow

Venue: Canberra Theatre
Date/Times: 8:00pm, 22 - 23 May 2009
Duration: 140 minutes including interval
Prices: Adult $39.90, Concession $36.90

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