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Show type: Melbourne 2010
Raw Comedy National Grand Final
The heats held nationwide have been hotter than hot – and now we’re ready to put the pedal to the metal for a nerve-wracking Grand Final of Australia’s biggest comedy talent search, RAW Comedy.
After considerable razzle-dazzle displays of blatant idiocy cloaked in heroicism, those competitors willing and able to make the bravest of comedy leaps get to battle it out for the crown of 2010 RAW Comedy Winner at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
So, who’s going to be the greatest unknown Daredevil of Funny? Come and see them now so you can say you saw them then.
Warning: While no bones will be broken, some sides may split.
MC Cal Wilson
Raw comedy final 2010
‘Some of these acts have only been on stage three or four times,’ host Cal Wilson kept reminding the 2,000-strong audience at the final of the Raw national talent hunt – enough to daunt far more seasoned performers, without even considering the unseen hordes at home. Yet even the most experienced contenders here measure their career in months, not years, and if there were nerves backstage, none showed under the unforgiving eye of the ABC cameras.
First under scrutiny was James Mullany, an interesting performer bringing a lively energy to routines about iPods and being jacked up on coffee. But the punchlines were weak and the five-minute set lost its way as he recreated dancing lessons and suggested the World Vision ads employ rappers to convey their message. With style trumping substance, it seems this stage-school kid is more a frustrated rapper than a would-be comedian at this stage.
The commended Geoffrey Windle was a more finished article, despite being just 21. His mature set covered a broad agenda, leaping from armpit hair to avant garde composers, without missing a beat, while his original observations were more often than not followed by witty taglines to add flourish to his already poised routine. Enjoyably dismissive comments on precious parents were the icing on a rich comedy cake.
A forthright opening line from Catherine Hall, baldy stating: ‘I kissed a girl’ grabbed the attention, but she unfortunately couldn’t quite hold it – a shame, as her chatty delivery is effortlessly likable. Some nice lines adorn her set, certainly enough to be encouraged, but she couldn’t build on such straightforward premises as the mundanity of small town life, or drawing analogies between sex and eating.
Callan Durlick’s opening routine, imagining the Spartan army of 300 speaking with lisps, probably owes more than a nod to Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and overstayed its welcome, a common complaint in even this short set. He has an engaging delivery and notable presence, but his writing needs ruthless editing.
Overly-sweary Northern Territories teenager Levi Dobson was yet another of the finalists who had moments of brilliance, but far too few to truly impress. Introducing his material about SMS messaging as if this was a hugely advanced technology was very nice – but the tedious predictive text routine that followed has been told so often, that it could have been delivered by predictive punchline.
James McCann’s approach couldn’t have been more different, with a set based largely around existential philosophy and namechecking Nietzsche, Freud and Rosseau. With a weariness beyond his years, his often bleak set was both clever and funny, and characterised by a smart way with words. He’s not the finished product yet – the performance seems too rehearsed and a few more gags wouldn’t go amiss – but he’s certainly an intriguing prospect for the future.
Melburnian Ronny Chieng, who also earned a special mention, proved a powerful force, with an uncompromising delivery and plenty of sharp, effective gags that the home-town audience lapped up, chalking up possibly the highest number of applause breaks of the night. He is badly let down, however, by the weakest 15 per cent of his material; generic ethnic gags and variants of such ancient lines as ‘Have you got any Chinese in you? Do you want some?’ do him a huge disservice – he’s far better than that, as evidenced by the rest of his convincing set. He will be a pro before too long.
After the break came the night’s eventual winner, Luke Heggie, performing that most exposed of genres – the deadpan one-liner. But in a field where you live or die on the strength of your writing, Heggie thrived with no duds, some exquisite flourishes and an engaging slice of audience involvement. Nor was his unemotional façade simply a sign of newbie lack of commitment, as personality peaked through too. Learning that he only has a tiny handful of gigs under his belt only reinforces the potential of this impressive debutant.
David Bakker spent his five minutes singing a song about getting aroused in a stationery store, extending the analogy beyond breaking point. Once you’ve got past simple double entendres such as asking a biro to ‘take your top off’, there’s nowhere left to go. He’d have probably got away with it for a minute, but this long track just drained the interest.
Sam Radford picked off a few low-hanging ideas on ‘black people vs white people’ and speaking like a gangsta rapper and, although he tried, failed to take such subjects in any new direction, while an easy tirade against ginger people just came across as unpleasant. He pulled off something of a save with his enjoyable take on the ‘masturbation makes you go blind’ myth – but it came just a little too late.
Anne Edmonds produced an underpowered five-minute musical about the housing market, using her singing abilities to try to disguise the fact there was little humour behind her whinging about estate agents and property prices. Relatively likeable, but nothing really to see here…
The unusually named Mo-Taz – it’s from Egypt, apparently – offered a wildly inconsistent set. Seeing racism in terms like ‘white goods’ and washing instructions ‘don’t mix whites with colours’ is unimaginative and unfunny, although some of the other lines proved much more engaging. Yet another raft of boring anti-ginger gags brought it back down again, only to recover with a well-judged few seconds of visual comedy involving roadsigns. More ups and downs than a bungee jumper.
Tasmanian Pete Escott was probably the most intriguing act on the bill, with a compelling and unique delivery, tangentially approaching an subject by goading the audience, tongue-in-cheek, about their street smarts. It’s a tantalising performance, but needs developing, as just when the routine needs a solid gag to underpin the teasing, it comes up short. He can come up with the goods – as his closing suggestions of unusual sexual fetishes amply demonstrate – but needs to deploy the strong writing more often. But give him a couple of years, he could be something distinctive and special.
Not that he will be the only one of these confident finalists to still be making their mark on the comedy world in the years to come. Their journey starts here…
|Date of live review: Monday 12th Apr, '10|
Review by Steve Bennett
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