Rich Hall: 3:10 To Humour

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Rich Hall is back with a new tour, obscurely titled after a 2007 Russell Crowe remake of a half-century old Western.

Whether it needs such a monicker is a moot point, as Hall does not go in for heavily authored shows. Comedy’s favourite curmudgeon is always gigging and his material evolves on the road, so you’d be hard-pressed to know where one tour ends and another starts.

Certainly there are elements of this performance that have been in his repertoire for a while, such as the improvised song asking what ‘Big Bad Richard’, selected from the from row, would do to save a poor boy stuck down a well. And towards the end we get a rendition of Bob Dylan Is Getting Back Together, which is a couple of years old, but remains a fine example of how to tszuj up a comedy song, thanks to his unique harmonica technique.

Yet other routines are peculiar to this specific gig, whether emerging from audience banter or giving him the chance to show off local references, such as Melbourne’s not-exactly-classy Exford pub.

A great new set piece revolves around the next US Presidential election, which he depressing envisages as a sequel to the last Clinton vs Bush showdown. His analogy for the seemingly endless supply of Bushes making their unwelcome entrance on to he political stage is especially strong, playfully testing the audience’s tolerance for his ever-escalating idea, and becoming hilariously ‘meta’ as he strides into the audience to heckle his own piss-poor characterisations. It is an absurd reaction to absurd politics, and wonderfully done.

What supercharges all his material is that distinctively growly, grumpy delivery, barking out his observations with a disillusioned incomprehension that no one else has seen through this bullshit. His attitude is like the landscape of his native Montana: unchanging, craggy, impressive.

It gives comments about dumb Americans, the Tesco horsemeat scandal of 2013 and the gun-toting NRA a pointed edge, even if they are based on thoughts any sane person might have had themselves. Plus the fact that he’s one of their own provides added bite to the Yank-bashing – and who doesn’t enjoy that?

Review date: 20 Apr 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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