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Show type: Melbourne 2008
Raw Comedy Final 2008
Australia’s biggest – most rockin’ – open mic comedy competition has seen hundreds of jive bunnies all over the nation grabbing the spotlight and giving us their best five minutes. Now we’re gonna work out who’s got the right stuff to make Australia shake, rattle and roll with laughter…
Come April, the question on everyone’s lips: who will be comedy’s Big Bopper? Head along to the final showdown where the 12 or so leaders of the pack battle it out in the ultimate comedy showdown: the Raw Comedy National Grand Final.
Original Review:Two things separate the Raw competition from similar new act nights in the UK. First is the size of the final – in the massive main room of Melbourne’s town hall and televised on the ABC network – and second is the relative inexperience of those taking part.
‘Some of them are quite experienced,’ the producer told me, ‘with more than 40 gigs under their belt.’ 40 gigs? In comedy-saturated Britain it should be the work of just a couple of months to reach that tally – and this is a competition that has no upper limit on the time an act can have be performing.
Nonetheless, the 12 finalists here – pared down from an original field of 542 - achieved a quality every British new act final would be proud of. In the final reckoning, there was one clear winner, but the average standard of the pack was high.
Ironically, that winner was a Brit expat – Neil Sinclair – albeit one who never took up comedy until moving down under. He’s an inventive writer of fresh one-liners, each with an unpredictable twist in the tail. The style’s quirky and the delivery engaging, if a little affected with the deliberate pauses and his bouncing on his heel with every punchline. But those lines were mostly sharp and offbeat, as anyone who attends the final of So You Think You’re Funny in Edinburgh this August will discover, since a trip to compete there is his prize.
Less fully developed, but possibly an even more promising discovery, was Laura Davis, who won the prize for the best first-time entrant to the competition. Performing barefoot, she served up a mixture of cute scenarios and killer gags – including the one that was easily best of the night, about a 40ft shark. Many of the gags still need retooling, but the imagination and the craft is evident, even in such a newcomer.
Daring to be different also paid off for runner-up David Cunningham, who delivered a dry lecture on the ancient tale of Croesus and the Oracle. Other acts probably got more laughs, but his held the audience despite the potentially obscure subject matter, and still scored some bullseyes.
The night had started with Michelle Fryer, an 18-year-old who didn’t sound like one – serving up off-the-shelf material about porn that barely suited her, where she should be talking about her actual life. But there were signs of promise if and when she develops her own voice.
Next, John Conway had a natural, casual delivery but his material, too, stuck firmly to the obvious, such as hard-to-assemble Ikea products with silly names, which will never stand out.
Scott McGowan had a more interesting persona, of a low-paid shop worker frustrated with the idiots he has to deal with day-to-day, but found it a struggle to convert this into actual jokes. But on the odd occasion he did, they hit home.
Ryan Coffey, who’s a dead ringer for fellow Aussie comic Charlie Pickering, offered a slick, polished act, comprising a few good lines in a preamble to a crowdpleasing song of fairly straightforward observational and pull-back-and-reveal material, but expertly presented. And the routine had a neat, satisfying payoff that went in his favour.
Louise Sanz adopted the fairly standard comic standpoint of the scary stalker – although it didn’t seem all that credible. She didn’t project a particularly scary image, so instead the pose just seemed a convenience to hang jokes on. That said, her writing was decent, it just didn’t gel with the unconvincing persona.
Smart Casual are a skilful musical double-act, whose ditties initially seem straightforward and unimpressive – although it transpires those first impressions are merely a decoy for impressive payoffs. Five minutes wasn’t enough for more than a couple of songs, but it provided an intriguing hint of what a longer set might hold.
Luke McGregor had an impressive delivery, relaxed but with perfect phrasing and timing. His theory of why gay nightclubs are better than straight ones – even for heterosexual men like himself – was rather too simplistic, but he certainly got the laughs. When his writing matures, he’ll be another one to watch.
Melinda Buttle was disappointing. Although, again, she can talk casually to a big crowd, the whines about ex-boyfriends and the pubic hair gags proved nondescript. There’s a hint of Kath And Kim in the style, but it isn’t flattered by comparison to the established stars.
Jay Sullivan, looking like an accountant after work, was a mixed bag, starting with some obvious gags before a glimpse into his hardcore Christian past offered the prospect of some interesting material, that went mostly untapped. He then performed an impressive set piece of visual comedy, eating a banana to two contrasting musical tracks, with all the expertise of a silent-movie clown, getting a lot of laughs from apparently very little. Now that’s a skill.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
I found much of the comedy was "old hat" - recycled, if you will. Even the host, Adam Hills revived some of his material - Misty Hymen, American optimists and Candy The Diabetic. I remain a devoted fan of Adam, though. Of the finalists, I did like David Cunningham (I did get his humour), Luke McGregor's straight vs gay nightclubs, and Laura Davis was on song until the "emo chicken" at the end. I was fairly unimpressed by most of the others - even the winner Neil Sinclair. Jay Sullivan's finale was a highlight that rounded out the evening. (He's no relation to the producer, by the way).