You can't go to a gig in this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival that doesn't mention COVID. Which makes sense, given that it's inspired or broken every comedian that is back on stage after two untethered years.
UK comic Gordon Southern goes one step further and manages an entire show around COVID. And it's a pretty good show. Granted, he was stuck in Australia (Adelaide, to be precise) for the past two years so there's a treasure trove of material for the Brit waylaid down under. Adding more bang for buck, he started a new relationship at the beginning of lockdown. It's well-trodden fare, but Southern's commitment to staying the course, and keeping the momentum makes for an hour that breezes by.
Southern is one of those solid comedians who has been at his craft long enough to take whatever comes his way. Upstairs at the Elephant & Wheelbarrow, a British pub hosting a slew of British comics, it's pretty low-fi, with Southern introducing himself in plain sight, then bounding from behind the bar, plugging in his own mic and tinkering with his sound effects.
In a half-full crowd, punters settled themselves on the peripheries, leaving Southern with empty seats through the middle of the audience. He ad-libbed his way through this like a pro and had most of the crowd on board, although he couldn't break a couple of stony-faced blokes.
Anti-vaxxer's, gaming-obsessed lockdown housemates, pivoting to online gigs and teaching comedy, even a stint at playing Santa ... Southern covers a lot and gets riled up to a crescendo thinking about the COVID press conferences that became the highlight of his day and RATs that simulated a g spot in his nose.
He compliments his own jokes (he's a got a lot of one-line zingers) and equally takes it on the chin when he realises he repeated a joke from earlier in the hour.
It begs the question why such an experienced comedian isn't playing bigger rooms. As he said to a guy who still hadn't cracked a smile over half way in, "$20 more and you could have seen Hughesy".
For an entertaining and easy pub-style comedy experience, Southern is good value.
2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Waiting for Gordo
Venue: Elephant and Wheelbarrow | 96 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 30 March – 24 April 2022
Tickets: $20 – $30