Left – Michael Che
Performing a short timeslot in a foreign country must be a hard gig for a comic, since they don't have much time to feel out the audience and adjust their routine to suit. And Aussies, as a bunch, are not easy to win over. Our laughs are earned, not given away. Headliners is a rotating roster of current US stand up comedians, three performing in a single show from a pool of seven performers. On the night of this review Michael Che, Iliza Shlesinger and Pete Holmes each did a set about 30 minutes long.
Michael Che had an easy time of it, it seemed. Slouching comfortably on a stool, he slipped into a casual, droll patter about differences he's noticed between the US and Australia, and about touring internationally (a visit to Egypt prompted him to decide that while some people won't eat bacon for religious reasons, he won't try religion for bacon reasons).
Iliza Shlesinger has a distinctive style, but it's one that's probably better suited to a longer show, where her persona has time to grow on an audience. She's engaging, often slipping into a caricatured American girly accent complete with verbal ticks and a restless wandering of the stage, but it's a hard style to warm to quickly. She also seems great at physical comedy, so is no doubt worth checking out in her own longer show.
It's fair to say that Pete Holmes struggled. He said so often enough during his set. Taking a cue from Shlesinger, he attempted a bad Australian accent before settling on a more passable English accent (why?), and chided the audience several times for not laughing loud enough (and not necessarily at punch lines, just turns of phrase along the way). He encouraged us to "cash in our happy cheques" and join in on the fun, but the stop-start way of his performance meant there was never the momentum to carry the audience, the low point coming when he had to stop and consult his notes to decide what joke to tell next. The one time where he did stop checking how he was doing and just work through a routine was the one time he got a genuine laugh out of me. Again, he's potentially someone who's more entertaining in his own show.
Still, just for variety’s sake, Headliners is worth checking out. It's a good way to sample different comedians to decide who's show to see, or to take a break for a quick laugh. Note that Michael Che and Pete Holmes continue performing this show for another week, with Eddie Pepitone replacing Shlesinger. The whole line up then changes on April 9 and sees out the end of the Comedy Festival.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival proudly presents
Venue: Melbourne Town Hall – Lower Town Hall | Cnr Swanston & Collins Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 28 Mar – 21 Apr, 2013
Tickets: $26.50 – $35
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 660 013
Part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival