Adam Hills: Characterful

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

A strange thing happens to comedians when they acquire some degree of fame – and that’s that the audience they attract is no longer drawn by their reputation as a stand-up, merely by the fact they have a whiff of celebrity.

So it is with Adam Hills. A long-term stalwart – indeed, highlight – of the international festival circuit, in the past few months he’s finally become familiar to a greater constituency in Australia as the host of TV pop quiz Spicks And Specks.

It’s on the normally staid ABC network, which traditionally attracts an older, conservative audience, who are consequently turning up to Hills’ Melbourne show Characterful - only to become offended by his swearing and his touching upon what might euphemistically be called ‘adult themes’.

But, in truth, it’s hard to see anybody genuinely taking umbrage at Hills’ work. With a well-deserved reputation as the nicest man in comedy, his shows are unfailingly positive, uplifting celebrations of life. This show is no exception, being a salute to individual, passionate and quirky people who exhibit the same sort of joi de vivre he hopes to engender in his new godson. He wants the world to be more characterful.

Don’t mistake this sort of upbeat, inspirational style for blandness, mind, as Hills is a sharp operator with a quick wit and an ear for a good story. His forte will probably always be inclusive audience interaction, and here he demonstrates why – starting from nothing more than the usual ‘anyone in from overseas’ line, he starts enough threads from which to hang his warm and witty anecdotes – combining the spontaneity of banter with the craft of a well-constructed story.

He starts by recounting some playful English-Aussie taunting from recent sporting contests, admiring the creativity, the teasing and the passion that makes the chants so effective. Like his own comedy, it’s funny and with the intent to tease, not to cause malice, a way of celebrating diversity by acknowledging differences and enjoying them.

Hills’ routines always have a point which fits in with the liberal agenda of tolerance and acceptance you’d think it’s hard for anyone to argue with, though clearly many do. Typical is his tale of a flamboyant gay wedding of they type outlawed in Australia – surely only a mean-spirited killjoy would want to stop that sort of fun celebration

And only a mean-spirited killjoy would fail to come out of Hills’ exuberant show with a smile in their heart. The cynical comedy that dominates stand-up can be wickedly funny, but this is a show with a good soul – and that’s a rarity to be treasured.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
May 2006

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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