I don’t know how I feel about the increasing presence of stand-up in the Fringe festival – which to me seems the preserve of more outrageous forms of theatrical experimentation than telling jokes into a microphone – but when it’s two young comics performing a new act in a tiny pub room it’s easy to make an exception. Especially when they’re so damn talented.
Meet Max Attwood and Paul Culliver, performing In No Particular Order at the Portland. Two early twenty-somethings so fresh faced it looks like they’ve dropped in between their last tutorial of the day and being picked up by their parents, these two are shaping up to be a dangerous new force in comedy. They’ve already shown off their talents on Channel 31’s news satire The Inquiry, in which they displayed both off-the-wall humour and the ability to be smart with it. In No Particular Order is their first live headline show.
They’re not performing as a double act but rather delivering one stand-up set each. This is almost a shame, as the incidental banter between them as they welcome the audience in shows that they play off each other very well. Each is more than capable of holding his own on stage however.
Attwood’s humour is perhaps a little brainier, while Culliver plays more to the brash young thing image, but both present an engaging mix of observational comedy, one liners and wordplay, scattered with bursts of whimsy. They keep their topic material close to home – growing pains, parents, crappy first jobs, dating – and both are very easy to relate to. They don’t come across as young guys chest-beating their comic talents and, as a lot of young male standups do, trying to sell themselves as cooler/edgier/wackier than they are. They’re young guys talking about being young and almost incidentally making it extremely funny.
They’re still relatively new to the standup game and the show isn’t without a few rough edges, especially with mic technique, but their natural ability as performers enables them to recover from technical hiccoughs and incorporate them as sources of humour. These guys are making the audience laugh before the show’s even officially begun and the good humour stays with you long after it’s over. In fact, I’m working up a bit of a snicker just writing about them now.
So OK it isn’t the kind of genre-busting experimental frontier art piece that I’d normally think of as a true Fringe show but it is high quality comedy that works on wit, charm and intelligence. Actually, come to think of it, in the world of stand-up perhaps that makes it a little “fringe” after all.
2011 Melbourne Fringe
In No Particular Order
Max Atwood and Paul Culliver
Venue: Portland Hotel | Cnr Russell & Little Collins St, Melbourne
Dates: Sep 21 – Oct 9, 2011
Tickets: $17.00 – $13.00