Charlie Pickering is probably best known for comedy news discussion show The Project. For some reason I was never a big fan of the show. He has, however, always stuck in my mind after seeing him live years ago in Sydney. I was struck by his relaxed and inventive story-telling, at his ability to make the most absurd circumstances sound completely believable; he was a natural comedic story-teller with a knack for all the elements required of a good comedian.
It was based on this memory and not his TV show that made me go along to the absurdly titled How To Tame A Wild Squirrel. Short review: He got me again. Very good show, very worth seeing.
I actually hate reviewing this kind of show. I mean, it's just a guy with a mic telling funny stories... what do you say about that?
The start of the show was pretty stock-standard. The comedian starts the show, perhaps with a bit of banter with the audience and then WHOA! Late arrivals! Who saw that coming? Is he just going to let them sit down or is he going to rip the piss out of them? The suspense! Oh no – he's engaging with them and they are becoming part of the show! Holy shit!
Thing is, it was all actually pretty funny. Cynical me has no faith in absolutely nothing being orchestrated these days and a few things really didn't add up here, but it was still pretty funny.
On with the show proper. Charlie's interests seem to be mainly about media and current affairs, social media and the internet and, eventually, yes, taming wild squirrels.
As the comedian starts to lament the loss of Tony Abbott from all of our lives, you start to see why Pickering's comedy works so well. He is well aware of the fact that there is a contract between the comedian and the audience, and that both parties have certain expectations of the other. He plays on this to subtle perfection.
He analyses one of the many bizarre episodes in Abbott's long history of bizarre episodes – The Shirt Fronting Of Vladmir Putin You Bet You Are You Bet I Am. Something we have all wondered is seriously, what was going on in Abbott's head with that now eternal gem? Mr Pickering has a theory, and it is very funny, very plausible and segues nicely into a quite hilarious scene with Putin, Abbott and that other Australian much adored icon Gina Reinhart.
This is followed by Charlie's views on The News. Why do we watch it? What's the point when it's all the same, all delivered by the same vacuous stereotypes? He reduces a news episode down to all these basic elements and stereotypes and kind of nails it. I'm not going to say I'll never watch the news again, but I'm probably going to see it in a slightly different way.
Life Pre-Internet and Post is a fascinating concept. It seemed the audience demographic was almost evenly divided between those old enough to remember what life was like before the internet and those for whom the internet has always existed. Fascinating times, fascinating concept, and Charlie had much fun with this one. I don't want to spoil it but it really was a wonderfully funny – and truthful – segment. Don Burke and Shih Tzus to demonstrate the efficiency of the internet. Yup, all makes sense when you see the show. Really fun stuff. Kids born into the internet will be thinking no way... those of us old enough to to remember life before the internet will be going yeah no yeah, actually.
And it's around here (or maybe around the telling of the Lionel Richie/Billy Ocean/Paris bombing story – which as unlikely as it seems is very, very funny) you start to wonder what the hell does any of this have to do with the title of the show?
Right on cue, because Charlie Pickering knows about such things, his perfectly timed, perfectly told and perfectly hilarious story about taming a wild squirrel unfolds.
Trust me – it's totally worth sitting through all the other funny stuff to hear this delightful finale.
A Token Event
How To Tame A Wild Squirrel
Venue: The Comedy Theatre | Cnr Exhibition & Lonsdale Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 31 March – 14 April 2016