Mike Wilmot - the self-described pot-smoking, beer-swilling, breasts-obsessed 46-year-old Canadian - seems genuinely thankful we've attended this minor comedy gala. "We're not really famous," he says of the rag-tag comedic line-up. "It's brave of you to come out."
Indeed, most in the Playhouse audience wouldn't have heard of Wilmot, Russell Kane, Felicity Ward, Dave Thornton and musical duo Smart Casual. And while the motley crew had little in common, they all delivered laughs in a thoroughly entertaining two-hour gig as part of the recession-busting In Stiches festival at the Queensland Performance Arts Centre.
Wilmot is not self-deprecating in his description as "just a dirty, fat, old man." His voice is gravelly and the words that come out are at least as dirty. He spots a 13-year-old boy in the front row of the audience - and hard to disagree with the assessment that Mum's decision to bring him was "a terrible mistake" - and seems to set the challenge of teaching the embarrassed pubertal everything he needs to know about the world, much earlier than he should. Stories of middle-aged lovemaking (and you just know that wasn't the phrase used) were excruciating for adults let alone those of illegal age.
But Wilmot has more than swear words and shock value. He's the rowdy drunk at the pub still coherent enough to spin a great yarn. He pushes most stories too far, but the constant need to test his audience is great fun to watch. It's a frequently hilarious set.
Fletcher Jones and Roger David are, naturally, Smart Casual. The musical siblings (real names Nick and Ben Mattick) were plucked from the obscurity of life as teacher aides a couple of years ago to become one of the most talked-about new acts at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. There's a lot of Flight of the Concords about the geeky crooners. While their brand of awkward banter is more downright uncomfortable than funny, the songs are bittersweet and annoyingly catchy. The tale of Hawk Hawkings - the love child of Jennifer Hawkins and Stephen Hawkings - is still in my head.
Felicity Ward is an all-Aussie chick able to laugh at herself and her thoroughly bogan upbringing. The "28-year-old nanna" does a hilariously flawless impersonation of Ruth Cracknell, in a set that starts a little awkwardly but quickly wins you over.
Dave Thorton, meanwhile, reminds us the word ‘phonetic' is spelt with a ‘ph' (think about it). He has a great ability to spot life's little oddities, with some very funny stories of growing up in the Aussie backyard. The Will Anderson lookalike seems to have modelled himself on the star comedian, with the same manic boyishness and verbal athleticism. No reason he can't find the same level of success as Anderson, too.
Wilmot acknowledges Russell Kane as the headline act, and there's no doubting he is an exceptional stand-up. The young Brit with "Lego man hair" and "is he or isn't he?" sexuality gleefully skips on stage and sprays the audience with rapid-fire quips on cultural difference. For a Pom he has a finely-tuned sense for Australians, avoiding the usual clichés to offer some unique and very sharp observations on our character. Kane rarely draws breath in a smart and seriously funny set, with non-stop laughs if you can keep up. Brilliant stuff.
After two hours of this the sides really do hurt. "Didn't we grow?" Wilmot asks in farewelling the crowd. Perhaps not, but oh how we laughed...
Mike Wilmot And Friends. And Enemies.
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Dates/Times: Wed 1 July - Sat 4 July 7.30pm
Tickets: ALL TIX $25