Headliners: Tig Notaro, Mitch Fatel, Jeremy Hotz

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

Here’s an attractive proposition: three visiting North American comics, each of whom could easily sustain their own show, performing on a mixed bill. Demands of the US pilot season means few comics could commit to the month that doing the Melbourne festival would normally require – hence Janeane Garofalo’s withdrawal from the programme – hence this rotating line-up to allow for flying visits.

The draw for the final few days offered variety in both style and intent, kicking off with the supremely deadpan Tig Notaro, with an arid set full of torturous pauses and unspoken disdain.

Hers is a difficult approach to really love, because when you can see how a routine is going to play out, the wait for her to get to the punchline is agonising, an effect only amplified by the tendency for slow repetition that can have you silently screaming: ‘Get on with it!’ More obtuse routines are enhanced by her distinctive delivery, as you wonder just where she is going with her train of thought, but sadly the writing isn’t always that strong.

Where she does come into her own – and this came as quite a surprise – is when dealing with troublesome audience members. The composed silences allow the stupidity of an unwanted interjection to sink in, as well as festering some uncertainty as to how Notaro will handle it. The answer, at least in the case of a gobby woman in this audience, is: ‘with aplomb’.

Notaro ends her set with some tiresome audience participation, getting us to repeat sound effects she can do. If you like going ‘boiing’ like a spring because you’re told to, you might enjoy this.

Mitch Fatel is proudly introduced as the ‘most requested comedian on satellite radio’ – which sounds like a man trying too hard to find an accolade, and probably more likely to make you hate his desperate boastfulness than be impressed by the achievement.

He has the persona of a 12-year-old boy talking publicly about women for the first time. Creepy. The affected stance of a nervously self-conscious but uncontrollably lecherous pre-teen, combined with a pathetically juvenile obsession with breasts, does not make for an edifying prospect, and his shtick is liable to produce more cringes than laughs.

The ice cracks a little as he gets into his set, as a more of his tongue-in-cheek attitude leaches through, but we never get too far from the uncomfortably lascivious material.

Thank God, then, for Canadian Jeremy Hotz single-handedly ensuring this show lived up to the promise of its billing and unquestionably displaying why he is one of the global stars of stand-up.

Appealingly adaptable, he lightened up the stage the moment he strode on to it, commenting with a bemused laugh about the vagaries of Melburnian life. And it wasn’t just pandering to the locals with a few superficial references, but keenly observed and witty vignettes about his experiences here. Audience members are roped in to back him up, their answers to his questions often amusing him more, and providing running jokes for an already strong routine.

Such banter adds a fluidity to his performance to counter his theatrical afflictions of carefully placing his fist in front of his chin or over his right eye. These gimmicks can prove an annoyance, but here they’re used sparingly. Besides, if you’re laughing, as you’re sure to do, you’ll barely notice them.

He rattles through a list of life’s grievances, greeting each with an incredulous, semi-suppressed chuckle, his voice cracking up at the very thought. That feeling is infectious, and the grateful audience lapped it up.

Review date: 20 Apr 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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