If you don’t watch Channel 31 you might not have heard of Simon Taylor, but you will have heard of some of the shows he’s written for: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell.
On Ch 31 he hosted Live on Bowen, a late night chat show, and Beat Streets, in which he’d bravely get out and about with microphone and camera in late-night, party-mode Melbourne capturing three-minute stories.
If he wasn’t good at ad-libbing before that gig, he was certainly a master of it by the end.
Nowadays he lives in Los Angeles but he’s back in Oz touring a show that could be best be described as modern-day vaudeville: he sings, almost dances, does some skits, drags in the audience like a comedy master and throws in some magic tricks for good measure.
The show opens with some spoof escapology that is so silly it’s funny and that pretty much sets the tone for the night.
Taylor is multi talented, super smart and quick-witted, has an easy style with working an audience but, above all, knows the value of silliness.
In a small, intimate space, he’s soon on first-name terms with half the audience, working their stories into the show and revealing a plant half way through (see if you can pick them early).
He hams up his magical pieces, pushing them almost to the point of ridicule, then pulls them from the precipice at the last moment with a redemptive show of skill.
With skinny black jeans and a neat hipster beard his humour is highly Melbourne – dry, observational, self deprecating – and there’s a touch of Tim Minchin about his smart use of language and musical talent that reaches a pinnacle in his Song of Songs, quite literally a song about songwriting. He also uses audience feedback to ‘make up’ a song on the spot, which ain’t half shabby.
It makes sense to discover the guy’s a poetry slam champ; he has the confident delivery of one who’s comfortable with words.
The slew of awards and backlist of gigs show how hard Taylor has worked to get this good and he has a casual style that seems unaffected but there's a sense he’s not as relaxed in himself as he could be.
And then there’s the weird ending when he breaks into song – easy listening songs and reasonably well delivered (a naturally good voice that could be excellent with training) … but you’re waiting for the gag that never comes.
Is he seriously going to end on a serious note? Apparently, yes. Seriously.
Taylor’s is a sensitive humour, when even the ribbing is done gently and he apologises profusely – and repeatedly – for rebuking a phone-toting audience member.
But he’s not yet 30 and I feel his best years – and work – are still to come.
Go see him while you can still afford it.
The Butterfly Club presents
Simon Taylor Does a Whole Bunch of Cool Stuff
Venue: The Butterfly Club, Carson Place, Off Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: 2 – 6 August, 2016
Tickets: $25 – $32