Archive for March, 2011


Last night my husband and I went to our last two shows of the Brisbane Comedy Festival for 2011, today is the last day of the BrisComFest. If it wasn’t for the live broadcast of Tim Minchin Vs The Sydney Symphony Orchestra tonight on ABC2, I’d be feeling pretty sad.

We saw London comedian, Stephen K Amos, and Australian, Harley Breen. I had not seen either of them live before, but I had seen Stephen on TV, so I had an idea of what to expect from his show.

Both were very good at what they did, which prompted the pondering of value for money. Harley’s show I Heart Bunnings, was less than half the price of Stephen’s show The Best Medicine, and yet, I enjoyed Harley’s show more.

Stephen’s show was first at 7.00pm, we had centre-stage, second row seats in the big Powerhouse Theatre. I was careful not to meet his eye as there was quite a lot of audience interaction which was funny and seemed to crack him up as well as the audience. I also enjoyed the short readings from the diary of his 15-year-old self, but I felt the rest of the show jumped around a lot without a cohesive thread. Some of his show sounded familiar too, I’m not sure if I’d seen him do the same routines on TV or whether he was just covering familiar ground for comedians such as technology and stereotyping young vs old. Saying that, I did laugh and grin all the way through, and he only told one joke that failed, and he blamed that one on jet-lag.

His show did yield one surprise; I did not know that Stephen is gay. This year we’ve seen Asher Trealeven, who because of his performance style, I presumed to be gay but he isn’t, and Stephen, whom I wrongly presumed to be straight: comedy is full of surprises. It seems that my show choices this year are one-third openly gay comedians.

After the show, Stephen had a merchandise table for the sale and signing of a couple of DVDs, but due to me being out of work for six weeks now, and no money for such frivolous purchases as DVDs, or expensive drinks, we went down to the Brisbane River and watched the party boats and City Cats going about their business. Then we went for a walk along the river, chatting and listening to the fruit bats in the trees. I noticed it was pretty dark as the street lamps seemed to be broken on the river path but still working on the main entrance path. I didn’t think of it then, but I later realised we’d been walking during Earth Hour so perhaps they were off on purpose.

After checking out the racks of Council push bikes near the ferry terminal, we hurried back to the Powerhouse for our last show of the BrisComFest, Harley Breen’s, I Heart Bunnings. This show was downstairs in the tiny Turbine Studio. It was a bit unnerving to see him wandering around chatting to the audience before the gig instead of hiding backstage. But it was all part of the experience, knowing a bit about his audience meant he could interact with ease later on during the show. Unfortunately, not long after the show started, three drunken girls interrupted the flow by coming in late and talking loudly. They continued to talk several times, until eventually Harley had them ejected. I don’t blame him, the atmosphere was much better after they had gone.

The show was cleverly written, original and down to earth, and I felt much more of an emotional connection to him and his material. Whether it was the more personal content or the small confines of the room, I’m not sure, it was probably a combination of both.

Harley talked about his brotherly love for his younger brother Clifton and older brother Randall, and his feelings of not being manly enough to be a role model for his 8 month old son. He also gave some wonderfully accurate insights into the tradesman’s world. He referenced Brisbane’s sometimes scary weather and floods, and he had the audience in the palm of his unblemished hand, unlike the hands of his construction site-scarred brothers.

I’m glad I took a chance on someone I didn’t know. I thought it sounded like a good show and my carpenter husband might find it funny. Chris did enjoy it, he said it was ‘good’, (he’s a man of few words). He knows people just like the tradesmen Harley described, including one with ‘one nut hanging out of his shorts’ ewww!

Harley ended the night with a lovely sight-gag that I didn’t see coming and I’d have liked to hang around after and thank him for writing such a good show, but Chris felt pretty tired so we went straight home.

So that’s it, for us the third Brisbane Comedy Festival is over: for everyone else, there’s one more night to go. I recommend Harley Breen, tickets are only $20.00 and he deserves a full house.

Around this time last year we saw our first Sammy J & Randy show 30 Ricketts Lane (with puppeteer Heath McIvor). It was amazing and I became a fan. Since then we have seen Sammy J solo a couple more times,  so we knew what to expect of him in his festival length show of, Skinny Man, Modern World.

Chris and I and our daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Daniel, all went to see Sammy J at the small Rooftop Terrace room at the Brisbane Powerhouse. We arrived with ten minutes to spare, but because we’d never been to the Rooftop Terrace before, Chris insisted I ask the box-office lady how to get to there. I said, ‘but it’s obvious we go up in the lift until it can’t go any higher, the name kinda gives it away,’ but I asked anyway. Sure enough, we were directed to the lift. Duh! The room was quite wide but not very deep, and not as dark and dingy as the Turbine Rehearsal Room downstairs. We sat roughly in the middle of the room and a few minutes later Sammy bounced onto the stage. He seemed genuinely pleased to have such a full room for a Tuesday night, it probably held close to 100 people.

Sammy J is not just a stand-up comedian who happens to sing songs and play the keyboard, nor is he a musician with funny talky-bits between songs. He is an all-round performer, linking funny songs at the keyboard with his stories and views on such topics as the future and death. He tells revealing and embarrassing anecdotes, such as his account of a run-in with a very angry fan, a dick(s) joke from his adolescence, and one grossly unpleasant but hilarious story about a very confusing and alarming ‘morning after the night before.’

His pin-striped, on-my-way-to-an-interview look stayed intact throughout the night, which is unusual for Sammy J. There is no stripping off in this show. This show was talk-heavy with only a few songs punctuating the insightful, silly, or naughty humour. He performed; Delete, and Driving, Time To Go, and The Mermaid Song, a narrative about his boyhood and an ugly, old mermaid called Ruth.

After the show he sold and signed his DVD 58 Kilograms Of Pure Entertainment (for only $20.00) and posed for photos.

Autographed by Barack Obama and Sammy J, well he doesn't have to sign as himself. He also asked me, "but do you know MY surname?" and I'm afraid I couldn't remember: how embarrassing.

As usual he was lovely to all of us. When he signed our DVD, he asked if we’d met before and asked my name, I said Sue and he said “Sue Coles?” I’d forgotten he reads his Facebook page. It was unnerving but nice to be mutually stalked, the last time that happened to me was with Tim Minchin back in 2009, but back then it was MySpace. How times have changed, now it’s all about Twitter and Facebook, and Tim is a pseudo rock star playing arenas and Sammy J… well, he’s still playing small rooms, but he is appearing on TV a lot more these days so I hope word spreads and he plays to more full houses, in bigger venues. He certainly deserves them.

Sammy J and Daniel pretending to be disinterested in getting a photo.

Sarah and Sammy J marvelling at iPhone 4 forward facing camera.

Sammy J and Randy now have a new show, a follow-up to Ricketts Lane called Bin Night and they’ll be bringing their fantastically clever theatrics to Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Sydney Comedy Festival. It’s a shame I’m such a geographically challenged fan girl. Until Edinburgh that is…

Me and Sammy J. For once I'm not grinning like a loony.

… see you there Mr McMillan. 🙂

Find out more about Sammy on his website.

Last night my husband and I braved the rain, traffic, and road works to get to the Brisbane Powerhouse for shows by Hannah Gadsby and Asher Treleaven.

We’d not seen either of them live before, although we had seen Hannah on TV. I’d booked tickets for Asher’s show purely on recommendation from another Tim Minchin fan. I haven’t been steered wrong by a Tim fan yet, having been recommended The Pajama Men’s Last Stand To Reason, and Sammy J & Randy’s 30 Ricketts Lane last year by Tim fans, so I knew we were in for a good night.

Anyway, Hannah’s show Mrs Chuckles was first up in the Visy Theatre, a cosy room with seating for up to 200 people in a sort of semi-circle around the stage.  We knew what Hannah was like from watching Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight. Her style is the same as on TV, a slow, even delivery, with brilliant timing, sometimes she doesn’t even have to talk, a pause and a few funny expressions caused many chuckles throughout the room. Her mind is anything but slow though, she can also improvise quick responses to the audience. I suggest you don’t arrive late or go for a wee unless you want to become a part of the show, but don’t worry, she’s not nasty with it, it’s all in good fun.

The show mainly covers stories of her social ineptitude, along with her concern at choosing exactly the right last words to sum up her life. Her lack of people skills often causes her to walk away from any situation in her ‘too hard basket’. In one of the stories she tells us of her high school reunion where she over-compensates for her social inadequacy and ends up having a conversation she really didn’t want to be a part of, I think the awkwardness of that situation was my favourite bit of the night.

Hannah did have a merchandise stall where she sold and signed her DVDS ($25.00) but we decided to buy it when we’re more financial: especially after splurging on Tim Minchin merchandise the night before.

Then, after the embarrassment of trying to enter the Visy Theatre again and finding out we’d been standing in the wrong queue we scurried across to the Turbine Rehearsal Room opposite for Asher Treleaven’s show, Secret Door. The room was dark and tiny and already full of laughter as we managed to sneak to the back row without being noticed. We must have missed about ten minutes, which was a shame. At first, I didn’t know what was going on, but I soon warmed to him. The delivery could not have been more different to the show we’d just seen. Asher is very confident, and his body language physical and expressive, sometimes explosively so. If Hannah and Asher ever did a double act, he’d be the flamboyant, gregarious funny man to Hannah’s ‘straight man’. Yes I know that sounds a bit weird.

At first I thought Asher was gay too, turns out he’s not, but that was typical of the show, there were surprising twists and turns and the pushing of  boundaries all over the place. But it wasn’t crude for crude’s sake, it was absolutely filthy in places, but for comedy’s sake. He said at the end of the night that we’d been the best crowd all week, he also mentioned during the night that he’d slipped in a joke that he hadn’t dared to with the other audiences that week: we must have been a pretty ribald lot in that dingy den of iniquity on a dark and rainy Saturday night.

My favourite part of Asher’s show was the reading aloud of his sex bible, a Mills & Boon novel. His showmanship really shone brightly during this reading. I would definitely like to see more of Asher Treleaven, but due to some audience participation I’d probably try to sit at the back again… but next time I will not be late.

Last night, along with 3,600 other people with good taste in comedy, we saw Tim Minchin Vs The Orchestra at the Brisbane Convention Centre. We got there very early thanks to a ‘heads-up’ email from Ticketek advising us of limited parking due to the recent floods. Thanks to our early arrival we had time to check out the merchandise stall before the doors opened. If you’re a Tim fan yet to see his show, I recommend you budget accordingly (i.e. take lots of money) because there’s lots to choose from. While I went to the box office to do some ticket admin, I left my husband in the merchandise queue to buy the CD Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra recorded live at the Manchester Arena, however, my sneaky but lovely husband also purchased a Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd mug and a tour T-shirt while I wasn’t looking. He knows me very well.

For the past few months I’ve stayed as spoiler-free as possible, as I knew that roughly half the songs in the show were new: I’m glad I made the effort last night as the ‘reveals’ and punchlines had their full impact. I won’t go into too much detail on the content of the new show as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. The talky-bits in between songs were all new too, and I don’t know if it was the lack of a poem, but it seemed to be a much more music-heavy show than normal? Tim probably wanted to get his money’s worth out of the orchestra. 😉

Our seats were in the mid-priced range, half way up the first tiered section. Usually for Tim shows I have seats closer to the stage, as his face is so expressive, but thanks to the two big screens I could still see his eyebrows doing their thing. At one point Tim caught sight of the back of his head on-screen and commented on how good his hair looked at the back. I must admit, it was very bouffant.

There were plenty of old songs to keep me happy, but I was especially pleased to witness my first live performance of Not Perfect, and it was about then I remembered that I’d forgotten to bring a tissue for the occasion. I well up every time I hear it, I also well up at orchestral music, so it stands to reason there would be tears at encore time. If you are a reader who has yet to see the show, stick around, don’t run away to the car park too fast, there are two encores!

I think it’s his heartfelt semi-serious songs I love the most. One of the new songs fits in this category, it is a thing of beauty. The other songs are a mix of silly, clever, insightful and as usual a couple of songs to convey his godlessness.

Tim is easily my favourite comedian. He was my gateway drug to the world of live comedy. I became addicted in 2007 when I first discovered him performing Not Perfect on a quirky little ABC show called The Sideshow. Since then I’ve seen him every time he’s played Brisbane, that’s nine times including last night. He articulates my thoughts much more eloquently than I ever could, and he does it in rhyme, while playing the piano… I think that is fantastic.

If you don’t already have tickets to Tim’s sold out Australian shows, don’t despair, ABC2 are televising a live broadcast from the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, March 27, 2011, If you’re not going to be home, record it, it’s going to be ace.

UPDATE: Due to gremlins in the audio when originally broadcast, the show will be rebroadcast on Sunday, April 3, 2011.

Saturday, 12 March. Tonight I went to see Scottish comedian, Danny Bhoy at 7pm and English comedian, Mark Watson at 9pm.  Although Danny Bhoy seems to be the better known of the two in Australia, I was actually more excited to see Mark as he’s from my home town of Bristol and I’ve followed his daily blog since March 2010.

I’d booked the tickets as soon as they went on sale so I had excellent, centre seats in the first and second row. My husband missed out on the fun because he had to work (he’s a mobile DJ,) so I arranged to go with my friend and fellow comedy fan, Kim.

It was my first time seeing Danny and Mark live, they are both observational comedians, but they deliver their stories in completely different ways.

Danny’s work was unfamiliar to me so I didn’t really know what to expect. I found his style easygoing and relaxed. He’s the sort of person you invite to a party, knowing that he will have your guests in stitches, confidently telling stories from his past with great flair and hilarious accents. And of course his anecdotes are always much more colourful than everyone else’s in the room.

I really enjoyed Danny’s mimicry. He brought his observations and imagination vividly to life with funny and convincing characters; from drunken girls on a night out, to camp vikings. He told one story from his schooldays  incorporating a French accent and smoking a pretend cigarette. It looked so real I expected smoke rings. Danny is an excellent performer, and I was left wanting more, so after the show I bought one of his DVDs, and I definitely want to see him live again.

After Danny’s merch-queue and autograph, and a shared bowl of chips from the restaurant, (thanks Kim, I owe you a coffee,) we went to see Mark’s show. As I’ve mentioned before, I know more about Mark, not only from reading his blogs, but I’ve also read all his novels.

Mark is less like your gregarious happy-go-lucky friend and more like your slightly dishevelled friend, who’s always a bit ‘glass half-empty’ but tries hard to be ‘glass half-full’. His humour is insightful and sometimes darkly delightful, and he’s a genuine person, just like you, well, like me, I can’t speak for you.

Anyway, he rambles on, well actually ramble is not really the right word, it implies a leisurely pace. Mark speaks quickly and earnestly, more like a power-walker on a caffeine-high with no defined route as he goes off on tangents.  I couldn’t let my mind wander, or I’d have been lost.  He talks about things which most people can relate to, like how to cope with confrontation, or the terrors of being a new parent, or indeed that niggling worry of  “did I lock the door?” All the usual stuff.

I’m sorry to say that the mosquitos of Brisbane seem to have been on a ‘seek and destroy’ mission with Mark Watson as their target. His arms were covered in nasty, red bumps, he told us he was allergic to the bites: poor Mark. Mossies just love thick, fresh English blood. Although I think the blotchy arms probably added a new layer of vunerability to his pale and scrawny look. I just wanted to dab his arms with calamine lotion and invite him over for a sunday roast with Yorkshire Puddings. Hmm, there’s that motherly instinct again. The same instinct that made me want to comb Josh Thomas’ hair and give him a hug last week.

After the show, we went to Mark’s merch-stand where instead of the usual fare of comedy CDs and DVDs, and possibly posters or Tshirts, Mark had his latest novel “Eleven” for sale for $30.00. I had already secured a signed copy thanks to a fellow comedy fan in Melbourne when Mark visited for his book launch last year, (thank you Witchy). So, in the spirit of bringing something interesting for him to sign, I brought him a plate with a picture of Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge that had been given to us when we emigrated from Bristol to Brisbane in 1988. He was chuffed to see it and I told him it will be proudly displayed on my kitchen wall: and for that I was later immortalised in his blog.

Not wanting the night to end, we also went to Chalkboard where we were lucky enough to see Mark again, along with Josh Earl (MCing,) Geraldine Quinn, and a couple of local comedians. If I had more money and time and could travel down to Melbourne I think I’d go and see a full Geraldine Quinn show. Her performance and singing was so amazing I wasn’t actually listening to the words half the time, so I’m sure I missed out on a few funnies. By this time it was obvious that Mark was really dying to give his arms a good scratch, but he performed well without repeating too much of what he’d said earlier that night. The room was so tiny, he didn’t even use the microphone, which made it all the more like having your friend there on stage, just talking earnestly about his view of the world we live in, and life in general. (Sly inclusion of Depeche Mode lyric.)

So that was it, my second night at the BrisComFest. Next weekend I’m seeing Hannah Gadsby and Asher Treleaven.

Oh, and I do have two important reminders:

  • When going to a Mark Watson gig, make sure you get there early for bonus laughs.
  • Mark Watson’s books are very good. Do go and buy them.

We went to see Josh Thomas on Saturday, March 5, it was my first show of the 2011 Brisbane Comedy Festival. There will be a lot more shows to come. I may write about them all, or not: we’ll see.

So, Josh Thomas: I wonder what it is about him that people like so much? That is, those people who don’t find him squeaky and annoying? By the way, I don’t think that… I think Josh is funny.

Josh talks about himself in his shows, so we know about him and he knows precious little about us, so I think it’s a plausible idea that girls see him as a friend. Some deluded girls seem to want to marry him; and older women (like me) want to mother him, give him a hug and comb his annoyingly wayward hair.

As for men, well, I can’t really speak for all of them but I guess most men also want to befriend him, deluded ones may also want to marry him, but he’s already got a boyfriend, and Queensland still doesn’t allow gay marriage which strikes me as ironic. I can give one man’s opinion, my husband said the show was ‘alright’. He’s a man of few words.

In Josh’s latest show, “Everything Ever” he tells us stories of his chubby childhood, his angsty adolescence, and shares sordid tales of being a grown-up on holiday somewhere I can’t remember the name of, it’s got a name like Poontang, but it’s definitely not that, he doesn’t go there anymore, like I said, he has a boyfriend.

He tells tales of his Mum and his siblings, and shares a hilarious account of his Grandma and a robber, (if it’s true, his Grandma rocks). Actually, even if it isn’t true Josh’s Grandma rocks anyway. He also gives us his very funny version of events surrounding the Ruby Rose Twitter incident.

He talks a lot about sex, both straight and gay, and he drops the C-bomb a couple of times, so this show is not for everyone, there’s a reason for the no under-15s rule. This content is not the same as you get on Channel Ten’s “Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation”.  This is Josh Thomas stand-up comedian, closer to the Josh you’ve seen on “Good News Week” (shown in a much later time-slot).

I saw Josh’s show “Surprise” at last year’s Brisbane Comedy Festival and liked it enough to buy the DVD of it this year after seeing his new show. There was a long line up for merchandise and autographs, but it moved pretty quickly as he doesn’t chit-chat and hold everyone up. No hugs were allowed either, so my motherly instincts were thwarted: never mind, I didn’t have a comb anyway.

On the merch table Josh also sold posters for $10.00, with all proceeds going to Beyond Blue. A very good cause, dear to my heart. Good on him for doing something selfless and defying Gen Y stereotypes. Like someone probably famous once said, “labels are for cans not people”.

We also have Josh to thank for curating the first ever Brisbane Comedy Festival three years ago: and for that I shall be eternally grateful.