Mel Buttle: Bring A Plate | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Mel Buttle: Bring A Plate

Note: This review is from 2014

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Mel Buttle’s separated parents are the comedy gift that keeps on giving. The bizarre exploits of her ditzy mum and peculiar father provide so many of the best stories in this show that they deserve a joint writing credit.

Genetics has something to answer for as the comic is not exactly Ms Slick herself – appearing on stage tonight with a bashed-up face, after smashing herself in the head with a car door. If anything’s not working in her routine, blame the concussion, she says.

That could be why she got off to a fragmented start, with a couple of unlinked stories and some pedestrian observational material about television’s gift to stand-up, Embarrassing Bodies – a show you merely have to describe to get a laugh. Likewise tales of hummus-munching middle-class mums in cafes would do nothing to distinguish her from so many other comedians.

But once Barry Buttle and his paramour Pam are introduced (or ‘lady friend’ as he prefers for his own odd reasons), proceedings move up a gear. Buttle Sr seems like a sitcom character waiting to happen – for the elaborate ruses he comes up with to avoid minor embarrassment always make matters so much worse than they would otherwise be. In fact, TV writers might consider his real-life exploits too unbelievable for fiction.

He was a mainstay of last year’s show – and there are stories here, particularly the most memorable one about an ill-fated road trip from Brisbane to Sydney, that are so good you wonder why Buttle Jr has only got round to using them now. She tells the stories fairly straight, letting their idiocy speak for themselves, and speak volumes.

Her mother, meanwhile, provides the inspiration for another splendid piece of stand-up, based around daytime quizzes. With such unusual parents, is it any wonder Buttle adopts an effacing low-status persona on stage?

She has her detractors, as any performer does, and she rounds off the show by reading out some of the vile online abuse she’s received, and her responses too it, even reenacting as a little play her conversation with one troll. But this section is very badly judged; she doesn’t do much with the insults, and even the audience member selected to perform the dialogue is led to wonder: ‘There had better be a good punchline at the end of this.’ There wasn’t, and a solid, sometimes great, hour of storytelling ends with a needless damp squib.

Review date: 12 Apr 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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