Saturday, April 14, 2012


Jennifer Wong - Ouch & Other Words

Sydney comedian Jennifer Wong’s first solo show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is stand-up for introverts; subtle observational comedy that explores some familiar topics – racism, depression and family dynamics – with no danger of audience harassment or forced participation.

Named by the Sydney Morning Herald as one of the Top 10 New Comics to Watch in 2011, Wong’s material is generally strong, though some routines are let down by awkward segues. Similarly, her call backs need work, and the occasional punchline falls flat because of her hesitant delivery.

Conversely, Wong’s knowing take on the difficulties of being polite in the modern world are fresh and engaging, as are her jokes about an uncomfortable Australia Post anti-racism campaign.

Constructed around the story of why she enrolled in a First Aid course, Ouch & Other Words is a promising hour of stand up from an emerging Australian comedian.

Rating: 3 stars

Forum Theatre, until April 22

Tue-Sat 7.15pm, Sun 6.15pm

An edited version of this review first appeared in The Age on Sat 14th April 2012.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


John Robertson – Blood & Charm: Disturbing Stories for Disturbing Bedtimes

Death camps. Suicide. Sado-masochism. Australian Idol. Dapper Western Australian John Robertson explores the darker side of life with wit and charm in this gleefully macabre hour of stand-up.

There’s something of the shark about Robertson’s wide-eyed smile, and his manic intensity wouldn’t go astray in a Tim Burton film. His best routines are mostly autobiographical in nature, though he cheerfully admits to treating the facts “like George Lucas treats his films,” so that it’s never clear where truth ends and fiction begins in his tales of bondage, self-harm, and theatre in education.

His material – whether he’s dissecting modern drama or advocating the murder of The Sound of Music’s Maria Von Trapp – is edgy, intelligent, and smoothly delivered, though the appearance of a ukulele feels like a hangover from an earlier show, and a late moment of sentiment is a touch too contrived.

Astute, amoral comedy for the morbidly inclined.

Rating: 4 stars

Trades Hall, Evatt Room, until April 22
Tue-Sat 10pm, Sun 9pm

This review originally appeared in The Age on Wed 11th April 2012.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Idiots of Ants open their show with a WWII skit that successfully introduces the UK sketch comedy troupe’s four charismatic members and their fast-paced style, while simultaneously breaking down the fourth wall. It’s a fine start to a clever show which both reinforces and subverts the conventions of sketch comedy; here, the rapid stream of sight gags and jokes are interrupted by a sports-style halftime show analysing the performers’ strengths, skills and weaknesses.

Highlights include a unique take on love songs; a delightful live-Foley sketch accompanying an absurd silent film; a dad joke training school; and a hilarious 70’s style key party – though one too many skits are let down by weak punchlines, while another that surely intends to satirise sexism actually skirts dangerously close to it.

The quartet’s use of technology is sophisticated without being laborious, and their ability to ad-lib at one another’s expense, without impeding the flow of the show, is commendable.

Engaging sketch comedy that largely avoids the undergraduate.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Melbourne Town Hall, until April 22

Tue-Sat 8.30pm, Sun 7.30pm

This review originally appeared in The Age on Thurs 5th Aril 2012.


Dr Professor Neal Portenza in Choose Your Own Portenza

Imagine every bizarre Japanese game show you’ve ever seen, distil its essential strangeness into a beret-wearing, overly-rouged, white coat clad madman, and you’ll be some way towards understanding the manic appeal of Dr Professor Neal Portenza, aka comedian Joshua Ladgrove.

For his latest show, Portenza has equipped his audience with small electronic voting devices, with which they’re invited to select the outcome of certain events – such as which guests arrive at Portenza’s birthday party. Voting has little real bearing on proceedings, but may provide more nervous types with a sense of security as the night devolves into anarchy.

Portenza will not be to everybody’s taste, and a director would help focus his lunacy – the show’s energy fails in an extended piece of audience interaction – but if your idea of entertainment is a children’s party on acid, then Choose Your Own Portenza! is the show for you.

Rating: 3 stars

Tuxedo Cat, until April 10
Mon & Tue 8.30pm, Thu-Sat 8.30pm, Sun 7.30pm

This review originally appeared in The Age on Thurs 5th April 2012.