Rich Hall in Melbourne | Review by Steve Bennett

Rich Hall in Melbourne

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

He’s has been coming to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for more than 20 years. Yet because Rich Hall is such a familiar face, and because his shows rarely have big themes, or even titles, to draw the attention, he’s easily overlooked by all those critical radars seeking the next big thing.

Audiences are not so fickle, though, and he’s doing great business at the striking 600-capacity Capitol Theatre. And great work, come to mention it, too.

The highlights of his show are his mini-rants, as he gruffly barks out lyric insults against greed and stupidity, meaning he’s never short of source material. Each time his bitter adjectives and vitriolic insults build up a powerful momentum through their pounding rhythm, as Hall applies his musical ability to his words, creating beautiful crescendos of cantankerousness.

His native America provides an almost bottomless pit of material. In his firing line are rampant gun ownership; the hostile takeover of Cadbury’s by the culinary vandals at Kraft, and far-right fundamentalist politicians. Possibly easy targets, but he destroys them with simple common sense, absurd extrapolation, pitch-perfect metaphor and poetic language. A phrase such as ‘Moses is your meat thermometer,’ somehow has meaning, when in context.

Neither Britain nor Australia are off the hook, either. A highlight is his routine on the UK’s not entirely unexpected horsemeat scandal. But while lesser comics are content with sub-Twitter equine puns, he fires up yet another blistering diatribe of plain thinking, deliciously put. He is the gourmet, organic meat patty to the 10p-a-burger rivals.

His rants are punctuated with semi-improvised songs, such as the now-familiar tale of poor little Tommy trapped down a well, with only the ingenuity of one front-row punter to save him. Sadly, tonight’s real estate agent searched for the hero inside himself and came up empty-handed  – but still Hall developed his own, rather unlikely, rescue plan based on the chap’s occupation. More crowd-pleasing was a fast-paced musical tribute to Australian towns, somewhat akin in rhythm to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire.

This grizzled Montanan finds joy in the wide-open spaces of this land; but on humanity he’s getting grumpier as he ages. And funnier with it. Here’s to 20 more years...

Edited 9/3/13 to correct capacity of the Capitol

Review date: 8 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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