Wil Anderson: Wiluminati

Note: This review is from 2014

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Wil Anderson has been coming to this festival longer than some of his audience have been alive which, combined with his TV exposure, ensures a very healthy audience. He might be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but he hasn’t, and Wiluminati is one of his best shows yet.

That he continues to graft away may be because it was his childhood dream to be a stand-up – and to perform in New York in particular. A decade ago, inspired by the image of a drunken Matt Damon stumbling out of a cab, he achieved that, and he has spent much of the last year pursuing a career in the States.

It might be considered a risk talking about living the dream now he’s back in Australia, the nation which invented tall poppy syndrome. But Anderson retains a self-effacing everyman charm that keeps him connected to his audience. Sure he may get to fly business class now and again – but only because he gets upgraded out of ‘pity’, and even then he finds the free pyjamas hilarious. And when he gets hit on in an Alaskan bar, it’s by a very terrifying blonde.

Anderson’s health issues also mean he’ll always have underdog status. He’s previously talked frankly about the osteoarthritis of the hips from which he suffers – 35 years ahead of time – and here he gets more laughs from its effects on his sex life and ability to bend down. The routine is pitched perfectly, highlighting the ridiculousness and frustrations of a body that lets him down.

Being abroad also heightens his sense of Aussieness, so he finds himself offended by the near-racist stereotypes of his homeland with which he’s confronted. The observations may not be groundbreaking in themselves, but his outrage makes it funny. If nothing else, Anderson is a master of delivery: passionate, matey badinage with perfect timing and emphasis.

But there is plenty more. Wiluminati is well-constructed around an uplifting theme, but lightly applied. Brushes on political subjects like climate change, refugees religion are similarly light but effective, making a point but not labouring it – even if it’s a route he could venture further down.

Yet that’s Anderson’s strength: he gives a little something to delight everyone’s personal taste, while the whole is satisfying for everyone. He’s evidence that hard work – and no little talent – do pay off.

Review date: 8 Apr 2014
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