Headliners [Melbourne 2013]

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

The rather sluggish midweek, late-night crowd for this trio of much-tipped American club favourites was clearly something of a concern for opening act Jessica Kirson.

Though she reassured us ‘I like you guys’ after almost every joke, her constant commentary, sometimes adopting a Jim Gaffigan-style voice of a disgruntled and bewildered audience member, made it clear she wasn’t too happy with the size of the audience – or our reaction.

Such a judgmental, stop-start style made it difficult to relax into her set, as every time a little momentum was built up, she dissipated it. But maybe it was a necessary buffer between her bursts of aggressive, in-your-face, and – on one occasion – racist material.

Adopting the persona of a large black woman might be forgivable characterisation, but putting on a stereotypical Chinese voice and singing a ‘ching-chong’ refrain – and that being the entire extent of your joke –  is just horrific. No wonder the audience were struck dumb; and telling us ‘Asian people love that shit’ just doesn’t make it better.

She has better material about her strange mum or the dreariness of Happy Birthday song, and can contort her face into hilarious grotesques, but overall she’s hard to like.

James Adomian, on the other hand, had likability by the bucket. Impressions and vocal caricatures are his forte – even though, as a subject, Lewis Black is almost certainly less internationally famous than Adomian thinks he is.

Otherwise he expertly recreates anything from a fat, old gentleman of the Deep South to grouchy workers at an imagined Disneyland New York. This is backed with some good routines – gay movie villains and ‘in-the-closet’ pride being highlights. Did I mention he was gay? Don’t worry he’ll remind you of the fact every 47 seconds – and it would have been good to have seen his 20 minutes cover more material ranging beyond that.

Headlining the Headliners was Brandon Walsh, a former opening act for Doug Stanhope who isn’t bashful about heading below the belt. But he does so with a playfulness, rather than any huge intent to offend, that makes him endearing.

Pranks are his other big thing, and he describes the fun he has in getting inappropriate messages iced on to birthday cakes, or fooling around with fake moustaches, to great effect.

There’s an refreshing off-kilter sensibility to all his routines, which are delivered with the relaxed but relentless pace of a metronome, forcing laughs to fit around his rhythm. Of the three on this bill, this devilish japester is the one to watch.

Review date: 12 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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