Rich Hall is one of those comedy acts that really doesn't need to be labelled. He's Rich Hall, and that's that. And he's just about the funniest guy you're likely to see on stage so basically just buy a ticket and know that you will laugh your arse off. I'm a reviewer and I'm going to spend some of my own cash to see the show again, and I think that's a bigger endorsement than any shitty little five star deal.
Rich gives himself an off-stage introduction, then wanders on-stage looking like he just woke up 10 minutes ago and really couldn't care less. He tells us he is glad to be back in Melbourne and gets on with some of his observations of the differences between Australians and Americans. In politics, it seems, the concept of a coalition is head-bending to Americans. And maybe he has a point – just look at the coalition of shoe repairers and key cutters. I for one had never considered how odd this coupling was, but now that this outsider had pointed it out, why shoe repairs and key-cutting?
For some reason – something to do with the various Bush politicians being exactly the same – the comedian needed to do an impressively awful impersonation of one of the impressively awful Baldwin brothers which lead to Hall wandering slouch-shouldered off stage and into the audience to heckle himself. Back up on stage he did another of the Baldwin brothers (pretty much the same as the first), to come back down into the audience to harangue himself with even harsher abuse. This turned into him being an imaginary audience member heckling the heckler... you've got to love a valid point wrapped up in warped silliness.
And he is very good at verbal abuse, too. His banter with audience members frequently involves comically vehement insults which he totally dead-pans to hilarious effect. On this night he did an admirable job of not turning his ability to insult on a couple of particularly annoying “hecklers”. (I rabbit-ear the word hecklers because it was the lamest version of heckling ever. Drunk idiots incapable of stringing a sentence together, they shouted idiotic monosyllabic grunts far too frequently throughout the show). Where most of the audience were on the verge of telling these incoherent retards incapable of handling their booze to STFU, Hall engaged somewhat and even made one the star of an improv song, showing that this gruff, thunderous looking personification of a hangover has a degree of finesse about him.
The music is a lot of fun. He talks with someone in the audience and builds an improv song out of the snippets of their life he has extracted from them. It's clever and funny when it works, and just plain funny when he struggles to make it work.
The highlight of the show for me was his ode to Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan Is Getting Back Together. I hadn't heard it or heard of it before and as a result it was kind of... astonishing. I won't spoil it here by describing it, but it is one of the funniest things I've seen. The build up to it is perfect and... I really want to describe it here but will resist.
The bit when the harmonica blares out klaxon-like... no. I really must resist. Just go see it. This piece is almost the sole reason for me going back for more.
But outside of the songs, he has more stories and they are just priceless. As well as the observational stuff (politics, marriage, America's idiotic love affair with guns... lots of stuff with a message as well as just being funny), he has been the guest on many, many television shows and has a vast store of anecdotes to draw upon. His experience with the little guy on car show Top Gear is brilliant.
In short, I think a certain reviewer has a bit of a man crush on a certain dishevelled comedian and he is looking forward to their next date.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival presents
3:10 to Humour
Venue: Melb Town Hall - Lower Town Hall | Cnr Swanston & Collins Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 9 – 19 April 2015
Tickets: $39 – $30
Bookings: 1300 660 013