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Wil Anderson: Wilarious

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

This is Wil Anderson’s 17th year at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, almost half his life. And for many of them he’s been a star, on the back of his undeniable enthusiasm and charm – even if his material has often been found wanting. Perhaps you need to have lived a little life outside comedy to nail that.

In his 2012 offering, he’s got a little more substance to back up that charisma. For although he still has a youthful air – and still does a rock-and-roll opening – at 38, he’s encroaching on middle age, which means has the medical problems to match. He’s not the first stand-up to mitigate the humiliation of clinical procedures and mortality wake-up calls with comedy, but here he does it with winning self-deprecation, some sharp lines, and an astute sense of how ridiculous the whole process is.

Anderson has trouble with his hips – osteoporosis as it turns out, which will require replacements soon – and the travails of X-rays at the hands of a brusque Russian radiologist and check-ups with a doctor who operates out of a shopping centre provide him with a lot of comic fodder.

This all makes for a long, winding anecdote with plenty of extended asides, such as an hilariously original description of why he’s a vegetarian and not a vegan, ensuring an almost faultlessly entertaining first half.

There’s no interval, but a definite change in focus for the second part of the show, which sees him coast a little more as he embraces the well-meaning but limp ‘let’s all be nice to each other’ philosophy – whether it’s advocating gay marriage, giving a few bucks to the homeless, or encouraging small random acts of kindness to make the world a nicer place.

Feelgood is the name of the game as he gets all Gandhi on the world – ‘be the change you want to see’ is his new philosophy, partly inspired by his young nephew – though his point of view is never trulycontentious. Only the most homophobic bigot could ever take exception to his charming liberalism.

There are some enjoyable anecdotes about things he’s done, or would like to do, to the grumps of the word; a brilliantly smart-arse response to the cabbies that insist he ‘tell us a joke, then’; a dismissal of the unachievable dreams the advertising industry impose on society (understandable from the host of The Gruen Transfer); and a few too many jokes about how he looks like Adam Hills.

This is all beautifully packaged in structure and presentation – though after 17 years and almost as many bad puns on the word ‘Wil’ for the title, you think he might have learned to Take The Mic out of its holder, rather than dancing around with the stand, foot on the base, hand halfway down the shaft, like a poseur.

Anderson is unapologetically mainstream, as proved by the adoration of this sold-out crowd. But Wilarious nonetheless has a little more bite, substance and attitude than that pejorative adjective would demand – and perhaps hints that after all this time, Anderson is finally starting to mature in his writing.

Review date: 13 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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