Adam Hills: Inflatable

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

An Adam Hills show is always a festival highlight, and Inflatable might just be his best yet, with real weight, wit and purpose behind his contagious positivity.

Because he’s unashamedly a feelgood comic, it would be easy to dismiss Hills as a nice-guy lightweight, but there are routines and gags here that, with only the slightest change of packaging and emphasis, could sit happily in the sets of comedians hailed for their darkness and edginess. Yet it’s a much greater skill to present them to a mainstream audience without the easy refuge of supposed controversy.

His keynote routine, for example, is based around the Paralympics – and at its most basic involves poking fun at some of the disabled competitors. But he takes the piss with such matey affection and unstated admiration that no one could possibly take offence. This is the true measure of inclusiveness – that he makes gags about things he finds genuinely amusing without fear or favour, but equally not out of some compulsion to cause offence. In fact, he’s very keen not to.

Racist sign language, religion, drinking to the point of vomiting, prostate examinations are all made hilarious with his typically light touch. The pliant audience lap it up – even a routine about the over-polite Dutch which, it turns out, half of them have already seen on a televised gala last week. But it loses nothing in the retelling.

Hill bounces off his crowd, building the love, as he playfully persuades a teenager to pinpoint the clitoris or probes into why certain punters had weird weeks. Such easy banter extends the 70-minute show to beyond 90, yet it never for a moment seems overlong. We even sing Happy Birthday to a front-row fan, and somehow it doesn’t feel trite… or at least not too much.

After a year in which he has lost three friends, he understandably skirts close to the pitfall of sentimentality once or twice, but sidesteps it through good humour and sharp writing. He’s been in the business since he was 19, which is plenty long enough to know exactly what he’s doing, as evidenced by his gag about Starbucks which, unlikely as it may seem given the easy subject matter, is probably the finest one-liner of the festival so far.

At comedy festivals, it’s often the bigger names who provide the least satisfying shows, coasting on their celebrity and running shy of the inventive and original. But with his celebrity at a peak, Hills disproves that rule with yet another effortlessly hilarious show.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2009

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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