Adam Hills: Happyism | Review by Steve Bennett
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Adam Hills: Happyism

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

One of the most widely-reported highlights of The Last Leg with Adam Hills was his monologue berating Joan Rivers for making fat jokes at Adele’s expense.

Publicly urging Rivers to curb decades of meanness further cemented the Australian stand-up’s reputation as the nicest man in comedy, standing up for civility and the gags’ victim.

But, as he discusses in Happyism, he fell into the same trap of cruelty himself, when he was invited on to Chelsea Handler’s chat show. The producers told him to be as nasty as he could, to fit the style of the show. He did just that... and bombed terribly with out-of-character jokes about Megan Fox and Charlie Sheen. Turns out that in comedy trying to do what you think other people want, rather than what you want, usually doesn’t work.

Perhaps that’s why he almost threw away his chance to appear with his childhood heroes The Muppets last year, when he was told he’d have to drop an unsuitable gag. He threw a hissy fit, and it was only the common-sense advice of fellow comics that persuaded him that when there’s a felt frog involved, it’s no time to be standing on artistic principle.

Oh, and did Hills mention he met the Dalai Lama, too?

Yes, Happyness is a show all about the big stars he got to hang out with over the last couple of years as international career has soared. Yet it’s done with neither arrogance nor boastfulness – if anything it’s mildly self-deprecating as he’s humbled in the presence of those he admires.

But niceness need not equal toothless, as his message to Rivers proved; and across this feelgood hour Hills has some points to make as he builds towards the irresistible, uplifting ending that has become his trademark.

He belatedly takes Handler to task for bringing American racist baggage with her when she came to Australia, a country which has got plenty of its own, thank you very much. He mulls over offensive language and the purpose of his own existence as a comic. And he ascertains #isitok to take the mickey out of disabled audience members that other comics might pussyfoot around? The answer is yes, when it’s done with the affection that Hills displays in his playful, improvised opening banter, performed from in among the stalls, which perfectly sets the jovial spirits up from the start.

In this, and his prepared material, Hills makes it all look so easy, but this is a show that’s sharp in both thought and wit behind the good-natured, jokey badinage.

He has the charisma to lead a cult... which is exactly what it turns out he wants Happyism to be. Of course that’s pie in the sky, but you are guaranteed to leave the theatre with joy in your heart, a smile on your face, and a more positive attitude to life than when you went in. Now that’s good use of a microphone: the Muppets – and the Dalai Lama – would be proud.

Review date: 14 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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