Thursday, March 24, 2011

Event Review: Brisbane Comedy Festival

Stand up comedy has made a big resurgence in my life over the last couple of years. Growing up an avid fan of Seinfeld and the accompanying stand up segments, and with fond memories of the Bill Cosby cassettes my father used to play on long family car trips, I was happily immersed in comedy as a youngster. I found it hard, though, to really access comedy as a teenager, and it wasn’t until the very end of my high school and the beginning of university that programs like Thank God You’re Here and Spicks and Specks started introducing me again to contemporary comics.

Moving to Brisbane meant much easier access to stand up, and over the past couple of years I’ve taken full advantage. Be it amateur or professional, pricey or free, international acts or local, the Brisbane Comedy Festival always comprises of a great mix of shows, and marks the highlight of the Brisbane comedic year. This year I decided to attend three shows in hopes of seeing a solid variety.

Firstly, I headed along to a preview of Tom Ballard’s 1989. Tom’s been a favourite of mine since I scored free tickets to his show at the festival last year, freeness always scoring points with me. He’s a clever boy, and the maturity of his work has grown exponentially over the last year. Known best for his role as Triple J breakfast co-host, and also for his relationship with Josh Thomas, Tom’s set is worth seeing to get a glimpse of a more candid and less censored personality. Carefully constructed to be quite personal and touching, Tom’s current show is a story of first love, first heartbreak and first mardi gras eventuated threesome. It’s hilarious, but not altogether light hearted, and he marries personal narrative well with increasingly line pushing puns and jokes.

The second event in which I partook at the festival was the free Livewired show, which actually takes place every Sunday, festival or no. The show usually features 4 comedians and an MC, with the first three shorter acts often involving local talent closer to the beginning their career, and the fourth a more well known professional comedian. Heading along to Livewired during the festival is always extra exciting as you can usually guarantee the line up will be stellar, and this year did not disappoint. MC Justin Hamilton conducted the night with ease and headliner Melinda Buttle, though seemingly very ill, gave a solid set. In between, Matt Kenneally, John Cahill and Matt Ford all had the audience engaged and laughing, a difficult feat in the middle of an open auditorium with theatre entrances veering off all sides and the ticketed shows’ calls being made over the top of the sets.

Finally, I made my way to Bulmer’s Best of Edinburgh, the tickets a present for a friend’s birthday, and was quietly chuffed (relieved) with my show choosing prowess. Gordon Southern, Stephen Grant and John Robbins excelled, the audience doubling in laughter within minutes, lagging between sets kept at nil. The UK comedians possessed an ease for story telling that their Australian counterparts haven’t, the perfect mix of descriptive yet concise, and boy, did these guys have some stories to share. From being mugged and then accidently becoming the mugger to being stuck at an IKEA store opening gala with nothing to buy and no way to get off the one way maze track, the comedian’s tales kept the audience entertained from the show’s top to tail. The show was performed in the Powerhouses’ Visy Theatre, a spacious but still intimate venue, and throughout the evening audience interaction was easy and fun, all three hilarious with their commentary on the spectators yet mindful of keeping it light hearted.

I highly enjoyed my overall experience at this year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival, and will be sad to see the season end. (Not too sad though, because I plan to catch a few more shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in a couple of weeks time!) The shows were all relatively cheap, or free, I didn’t pay more than $25 for a ticket, and the entertainment really high quality. The festival ends this week, unfortunately, but in case I’ve gotten you in the mood for a giggle, here’s a short video of one of the best comedians I’ve been able to see live, who incidentally sat behind us during Best of Edinburgh.

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