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.

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