Headliners [2011]

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

The second tranche of American imports in the Headliners showcase offered a very mixed bag, both in style and effectiveness.

Opening act Marina Franklin made no secret of the fact that the audience simply wasn’t good enough for her. Sure, 150 or so people feels a little thin in the Lower Town Hall, but they paid their $30 and wanted a laugh. You might have thought she would have had the experience to know that constantly complaining about the number of people here, and the fact we didn’t laugh as often, or for as long, as she would have liked is ever going to change the situation, but the references kept coming.

Admittedly, she is a low-energy act, on the verge of being anaesthetising, which means every silence is felt – and some of her material deservedly elicited that response; confusing the film Monster’s Ball with Monster Balls, for instance, or a stereotypical description of the Irish as tiddly-eye-singing alcoholics.

Where she excels, though, is in recreating instant characters to enliven her material, as she expertly and momentarily morphs into someone else. When that is used to illustrate more personal tales, such as a great one about her returning to her ‘roots’ in Africa, the laughs start to flow. And her depiction of the sassy all-attitude Def Comedy Jam style of black female comedian that she is determined not to be is hilarious in its accuracy, only mildly exaggerated from the real thing.

But you can put some effort into a performance without turning into that monstrosity – and when Franklin does turn it on, her set really kicks off. More of that, and less blaming the audience for being understandably quiet in the face of a soporific delivery, would make the world of difference.

Proof, as if it were needed, came in the shape Matt Braunger, who bounced on to the stage, spewing likeable energy. In what must have been a reference to Franklin, he had a gag about not blaming those who come to a poorly-attended gig, but those who don’t – simultaneously referencing the situation, and making the audience feel good about themselves. Job done.

He’s jolly and animated, and while his material has its ups and downs, his unthreatening affability and underlying sense of juvenile silliness means we’re always chuckling. He has a quirky world view which he applies to a broad range of topics from his hatred of Cadbury Crème eggs to strip club etiquette, or an entertaining and well-told yarn about a clown-based bar crawl. Little is truly memorable, but you have a good time while consuming his affable act.

Finally, Sean Patton, the most intriguing of the trio, with some beautifully offbeat gags and a deliciously twisted outlook, but delivered with a festive tone, rather than a deliberate weirdness. The result is precise, imaginative lines and creative imagery.

At least that’s true of the first half of his set. The second, following a discourse about masturbation, is dedicated to cunnilingus and how good he is at it. That charm is still there, but the underlying creepiness of the desperate, extended boast and obsession with the subject makes for a strange atmosphere. So while there are good jokes here, you’re not entirely comfortable in his company. An interesting one, that’s for sure

Reviewed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, April 2011

Review date: 1 Jan 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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