Late Nite Down Under 2007

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Directly after the O’Comics and in the very same venue comes another of Montreal’s strictly segregated nights, this one dedicated to acts half a world away.

For a compere, you can’t get much better than Adam Hills, whose generous, open nature and instinctive ‘people skills’ always sets a warm and friendly tone.

Tonight was no exception, and Mickey D made the most of the inviting atmosphere Hills created. He plays the loveable loser to great effect, telling us of the scrapes he gets into and the bad hands life deals him with a winning mixture of naïve confusion and excitable high spirits.

He is engagingly immature: when things go wrong he’s exasperated at the unfairness of it all, yet something as simple and juvenile as a well-placed fart he finds a thing of great joy. Such is his sterling delivery that he easily persuades the audience to share in such childish pleasures.

Sometimes, under anything but the most casual examination, his anecdotes don’t amount to much – although at other times there is more substance to them. However, it’s testament to his skill as a storyteller that we don’t particularly mind either way – it’s just a fun ride.

Frighteningly young Josh Thomas won his place at Just for Laughs via the new act competition at the Melbourne comedy festival, and despite his relative inexperience looked perfectly at home among his more battle-hardened compatriots.

At 20, he is only just embarking on adulthood – and is already disappointed by the results. The weedy-looking misfit is concerned that puberty didn’t give him the body he wanted, fearful that he can’t convince anyone of his heterosexuality, and worried he’ll never get a date. With a sackful of insecurities like that, now wonder he’s turned to comedy – and he’s turning out to be pretty darn good at it too, his vulnerability only endearing him to an audience all the more.

His unpersuasive attempts at street slang are funny, too, even if he does overuse this trick once or twice too often. But that’s a minor gripe: Thomas has funny bones and will go far.

Kiwi act Al Pitcher’s an accomplished comic with bags of great method who knows how to get an audience laughing. But, personally, I find there’s something intangible missing, and whatever the effect on the rest of the room, he left me cold.

His style is very conversational, and he has the perfect rhythms and energy for stand-up, acting out his observations in animated style. But there’s not actually all that much depth behind this polished technique, just a few modest anecdotes. A routine about the prevalence of the quantity ‘shitloads’ in our speech lifted his average, but only after prancing around like a demented leprechaun after asking if anyone was in from Ireland smashed it downwards.

Pitcher’s good on paper – and to certain extent in practice – but his material is rather too slight to really make an impact, on me at least.

Daniel Townes is right charmer, another lively Australian full of wide-eyed energy and a thoroughly likeable style. What’s more he has a great tale on which to use these skills; his deportation from America when he was discovered not to have the required visa for a two-hour stopover en route to Canada.

You know any such story is going to have a gag about cavity searches, and true enough, Townes obliges. But it’s when he gets on to the smartarse replies he gave to the immigration officials once he realised he was going to be put on the first plane back home anyway that really raised the routine to a higher level. This escapade took up most of Townes’s set, but it’s a good yarn, and worth the time.

Jim Short is Australian, but has been based in the US for most his life. He seems to have picked up some bad habits there, with a chunk of hacky subjects: Americans pretending to be Canadians abroad, are terrorists really trying to bring down planes with toiletries? and so forth. It was very well told, just not fundamentally original.

Yet he also has some more decent material to lift his set out of the ordinary, such as gags about a gay werewolf movie and a nice line about pre-cellphone days.

For the most part, he seemed to be telling the audience exactly what jokes they wanted to hear, rather than what jokes he wanted to tell. When that situation was reversed, the set improved noticeably; though his skill at delivery ensured a good reception.

The night should have been closed by physical New Zealander Rhys Darby, but an airport delay en route left him stranded in Johannesburg. Not that this was a complete disaster, as it left time for an extra dose of Adam Hills, with a typically uplifting tale of bureaucracy and humanity as he recalled the confusion that reigned when he mentioned his artificial right foot on a driving licence application, giving the antipodean showcase a proper feelgood ending.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, July 17, 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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