Adam Hills: Clown Heart | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett
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Adam Hills: Clown Heart

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Adam Hills’s Clown Heart oozes confidence. A confidence in his ability to improvise a memorable happening, a confidence to inject some politics because he thinks it needs saying, and a confidence that comes from knowing he has an inspiring, sincere story to tell.

Where his crowd work once centred on a few prepared set-pieces – forming a boy-band for instance – he now goes where the circumstances guide him. Pouncing on three latecomers, he thinks they could recreate the Charlie’s Angels pose, but on discovering they are from the UK, the US and Australia has some fun with national stereotypes – and national anthems. His own off-key rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner may have been inspired by Roseanne Barr’s Superbowl appearance. He ad libs a couple of great jokes out of this playful nonsense – but more importantly it bonds the audience around the idea that we’re all witness to a unique stunt.

This preamble segues into an attack on the racists of the hypocritical Reclaim Australian movement, and the nonsense that there’s a ‘halal tax’ on the likes of Vegemite that funds terrorism. (This preposterous notion reached absurd levels this week when the idiots somehow got the idea that Jacob’s Creek would be paying for the halal accreditation to make it acceptable to devout Muslims. That’s Jacob’s Creek the wine-makers.)

Hills can’t do much better that the good-natured comebacks of the Vegemite social media account, but sharing their subtly pointed comments – and rightly berating the Herald-Sun’s disgraceful coverage of protests about the forced closure of indigenous communities – wins him copious applause. Hopefully his message is getting through to those who don’t already agree with it, too, given his celebrity is likely to attract a politically diverse audience.

He teases fellow liberals as well, with the suggestion that gay adoption is ‘not natural’ – a tongue-in-cheek comment that comes as he gets to the meat of his show, about the travails of bringing up two small children, the stresses that it puts on a relationship, and the difficulties in teaching the youngsters about life and, more uncomfortably, death.

While there’s a slight encroachment on ‘kids say the cutest things…’ territory, Hills’s skill is to peddle a paradoxically unsentimental sentimentality. There’s a strong emotional tow to his stand-up, strengthened by heartfelt sections about his ailing father. Yet Hills practises what he preaches about laughing in the face of adversity, culminating in an uplifting screen appearance of cancer patient Craig Coombs who has embraced that philosophy through the medium of getting his kit off.

The anecdotes that emphasise this ‘positive mental attitude’ message could teeter on the precipice of schmaltziness, but you’d have to be a special type of hard-hearted cynic to come away feeling he’d succumbed to this. With a positivity that could move mountains, his feelgood vibe is as inspirational as it is fun.

Review date: 15 Apr 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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