Lawrence Mooney: Surely Not | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Lawrence Mooney: Surely Not

Note: This review is from 2015

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Relentless is the word for it. Lawrence Mooney batters his audience with an onslaught of proven, polished, everyman stand-up, driven home with a commanding delivery.

Many routines in this Barry-nominated show don’t venture far from subject areas that have been funny since the beginning of time: death, decay and sex. Personal but widely identifiable observations provide a bedrock on which he adds dick jokes galore, flirtations with bad taste and a few political gags.

The hour is inspired by the death of his Uncle Harry, and the subsequent trip Mooney and his two brothers took to England to tie up his affairs. That’s a simple sentence, but every component of it spins off into separate routines, pondering the fragile legacies of our possessions, cruelly impersonating the ugliness of Harry’s neighbours on The Wirral, and examining the dynamic between older, middle and younger child. This routine is one of his best, sparking hearty laughs of recognition as everyone recognises their place in the family hierarchy as parents, offspring or both.

Thoughts of grief lead him to impersonate various tribes of Aussie blokes choking back the tears, lest they be considered weak, the first of several times he breaks out into an impression, including a reptilian Tony Abbott and a very precise Malcolm Turnbull. Mooney has got a distinctive, very radio-friendly, baritone - but he can disguise it when needs be.

With the overarching theme of death, Mooney can provocatively tease the audience with the fringes of bad taste. His opening gambit is to brutally remind the audience of their own mortality, while he later discusses ebola, Islamic State beheadings and airline disasters – the remnants of the topical show he intended to do before poor Uncle Harry kicked the bucket. He flirts with the sickest humour, yet keeps a tone that we all identify with.

He has a tricksy side, too, playing with expectations. When he launches into a funny but unflattering impersonation of a feckless working class bloke, you might wonder how that fits in with his stated progressive politics – but then neatly flips the archetype on his head. On the other side of the coin, a ‘smash the patriarchy’ rallying cry becomes a slightly less feminist routine about beauty products and, once again, cock.

This is not experimental comedy pushing at the limits of the art form, although he has more ambition than hitting the lowest common denominator (even if a couple of times that temptation proves too great). With one dependable punchline after another, Mooney offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Review date: 16 Apr 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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