MICF: Wil Anderson – Wilegal | Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett
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MICF: Wil Anderson – Wilegal

Melbourne comedy festival review by Steve Bennett

After 21 festival shows on the bounce, Wil Anderson might have wondered what else he had to talk about. 

However on June 17 last year the topic for his 22nd show was suddenly obvious, when he was arrested over an alleged air rage incident on a flight from Sydney to the Wagga Wagga comedy festival.

The incident made the news, thanks to dramatic footage of the handcuffed comic being bundled into the back of a paddywagon for his trip to the cells.

As a vegetarian, middle-aged, bleeding-heart liberal with a bad back and osteoarthritis, Anderson is not an obvious hardened criminal – and he acknowledges he was well-treated by the cops who subsequently cleared him, although he wonders if the same would be true if he wasn’t white and middle-class.

The misunderstanding stemmed from his grumpiness when he was asked to move from his prime emergency exit seat by cabin crew who decided he wasn’t fit enough to operate the 20kg door. Initially, even in his telling, your sympathies might lie with the Qantas staff’s adherence to their safety rules.

But increasingly they become jobsworths, apparently getting officious over Anderson’s stretching in the aisles and of taking photos. And certainly sending six cops on to the tiny plane to arrest him when it landed seems like overkill.

It’s a strong story – if a little over-extended to fill 70 minutes – which Anderson tells with attention to detail and an openness about his emotional response, the escalation of this apparently minor incident leaving him crushed and embarrassed.

Before the core story, Anderson speaks of his love of dogs and of cake, as well as the problems his back caused while filming his ABC show Gruen, and the producers’ often bizarre suggestions to work around them. These more obviously comic elements work back into the main anecdote, sometimes a little clunkily, but overall giving the tale a satisfying circularity. 

As a slick comic who’s mastered the techniques of timing, rhythm and repetition to drive his material home, Anderson is well-equipped to bring out the twists and turns of his tale, and hasn’t left any moment unexamined. 

That’s a strength as well as a weakness, giving Wilegal a clear purpose, but also a feeling that the incident has perhaps been as overblown by the comic as it was by the crew. But it’s a ceaselessly engaging hour by an accomplished comedy craftsman.

Review date: 9 Apr 2018
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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