Wil Anderson: GoodWil

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

This is Wil Anderson’s 18th consecutive festival appearance, and he’ll probably keep coming back as long as there are enough puns on his first name to generate new titles.

Comics don’t fill a 1,500-seat venue for a month, without a) knowing what they are doing and b) giving the people what they want, and Anderson is, indeed, the epitome of relaxed, everyman charm, with an arsenal of good jokes – although when it comes to subject matter, he doesn’t want to scare the horses.

He mentions political ideas, but seems to rein them in, perhaps for fear of alienating an audience who are more than happy to laugh along at his thoughts on the difference between cats and dogs (a genuine routine) without being troubled by his concerns about global inequity.

It’s to his credit that he covers social politics at all, in a comedy landscape that tends to ignore the big picture, but Anderson is at pains to point out that even having his beloved 1966 Fort Mustang stolen is a first-world problem.

He berates Australians for complaining about their lot, when the nation has the world’s second best quality of life; attacks the media for replacing real news with click-friendly mock outrage (of which he was a victim, thanks to a drunken joke tweet taken far too seriously); and in a routine redolent of one of Doug Stanhope’s, tells those who fear newly-arrived ‘boat people’ will steal their jobs that it doesn’t say much about their competence at work if they are so easily replaced.

The most passionate subject of the many he touches upon, is gay marriage, which is something of a no-brainer for a relatively liberal comedy crowd, but even if attacking the opponents of equality is like shooting bigoted fish in a barrel of their own prejudice, he gets them between the eyes.

Anderson can be a bigot himself, having no time for those who break his rules of civil behavior, which he reveals in a routine exposing petty selfishness that really hits the mark. In fact, he seems more angry at arrogant mobile-phone users than whoever stole his car.

That was just one mishap that befell him in the last year, which included the flaring up of health problems including his osteo-arthritis and a weird lump on his neck. Thank god for his doctor... not so much for his medical knowledge, but for giving Anderson some great lines to go into his set.

Despite his misadventures, Anderson remains an optimist, and by accentuating the positive naturally cheers the audience. His banter with them is effortless and quick-witted, in keeping with the breezy but tight nature of his writing, with the detective in the front row of tonight’s show sparking some priceless lines.

He has a rock-star swagger, that teeters on arrogance, but is largely stays on the side of reassuring confidence – although appearing in front of a backdrop featuring around 100 images of your own face, like a personalised Being John Malkovich poster, is not for the shrinking violet.

But while he’s mostly very slick, there’s an inelegance to his ending, in which he back-references almost every prior routine he can by way of callback, which seems an artificial substitute for a real conclusion, especially for a man who clearly has opinions about a better world.

One further, very specific, complaint is about the lighting. Mostly stand-ups need just an unchanging wash of light, however boring it might be for the technician. But someone decided to put the background lights on a slow pulsate, ebbing in and out... meaning that whenever they dimmed it suggested some dramatic moment, regardless of whatever Anderson was saying.

Review date: 21 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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