Richard Stubbs: In Full Flight | Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Richard Stubbs: In Full Flight

Review by Steve Bennett at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Richard Stubbs is a shouty, emphatic comic. But his volume and aggression are a fig-leaf for a paucity of writing, as he delivers a one-note performance that tires quickly.

He generally repeats news stories with a lot of ‘what the fuck!’-type interjections, all sweary attitude, but little else besides. Dramatic repetition is used to further drive home simple points.

When he recounts former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser wandering into foyer of a seedy Memphis hotel wearing nothing but a towel, he admits he has ‘no fucking tag’ that can beat the oddness of the story, from 1986. Why repeat it then? 

Extending this, a frequent trick is to half-explain a months-old news story, then act exasperated, with an arsenal of F-bombs, that the audience aren’t picking up on what he’s alluding to. ‘The Tromps! Remember the Tromps? The fucking Tromps. Not the Trumps. The Tromps. Fuck. The Tromps…’ and so on before eventually reminding the audience of the disturbing story of how the family who went on an ill-fated road trip from their Melbourne home. 

While he was blithering around with another over-extended set-up on the drowning of 1960s Prime Minister Harold Holt, a man near me whispered to his partner: ‘And they named a swimming pool after him’, surely one of the best-known ironies in Australian history. Stubbs’ punchline? And they named a swimming pool after him! 

A comic really shouldn’t be that far behind the audience.  One of Stubbs’ threads is that he is a man a lot of time on his hands. Well, maybe he could use that to write more incisive material?

That time comes as he recently quit his daily radio job after 11 years. That profile has given him a sizeable audience for his comedy festival show, some of whom clearly love him on stage, but he’s been away from stand-up too long. He seems like a newbie, overcompensating his weak observations with a loud performance – a Lewis Black wannabe with no depth to his anger, no pent-up frustration, no light and shade, just shouting at the outside world.

Ironically the 60-year-old comic’s other targets include the disgruntled old coots who live near him and grumble all the time. He says he doesn’t want to be like them, but he’s closer than he thinks, self-awareness not being a strong point in material that is always lashing outwards.

His dad, too, was a yeller, as he tells us when he recounts his own memories of family road trips. This is a solid routine, but feels like all the observations have been done before – not least the comments about being beaten with a slap being delivered on each syllable of the admonishment.

Stubbs occasionally serves up some nice ideas – the image of a garbage truck ‘skulling’ a bin has an especially pleasing whimsy – but these are always undeveloped. Add in the old-hat routines and the unrefined fury, and the disappointing result is not worth tuning in for.

Review date: 31 Mar 2017
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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