UTG @ MICF: Paul Foot, Neil Hamburger & Sara Pascoe

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Comic: Paul Foot
Show: Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon #Major
Venue: The HiFi Bar, Melbourne

Over the course of his storied career, UK jester Paul Foot has developed a reputation as one of the most excitable and unpredictable comics the world has to offer. His new show Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon #Major sees his trademark manic energy, over the top delivery and love of the absurd turned to eleven to uproarious effect. Foot has the audience in stitches early on, courtesy of some esteemed crowd work that resulted in him performing his official introduction while literally mounted on an audience member, before taking us all on a frantic ride through the confines of his rather vivid imagination.

In a room the size of the HiFi, Foot’s penchant for the nonsensical could run the risk of falling flat, but this audience ate it up as Foot moved effortlessly between rambling tales (such as a long-winded but chortle-filled tale about a sesame seed and tiger prawn ravioli in a toilet cistern and its detrimental impact on relationship dynamics, pointed socio-political humour and clever one-liners as he commits all of himself to his performance. Hyperactive and physical, Foot’s performance style undoubtedly owes a bit to Monty Python, but his act is far from a tribute and has enough unique characteristics to overcome these comparisons.

A cleverly crafted hour that defies and then deliberately exposes the convention of traditional show structure, Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon #Major conjures an endless array of laughs out of seriously unusual places and makes for a unique and unashamedly fun night out.

‘Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon #Major’ is on now at the HiFi Bar. Click here for dates and details.

paul foot

Comic: Neil Hamburger
Show: Discounted Entertainer
Venue: Portland Hotel, Portland Room

Neil Hamburger, America’s self-described ‘one-dollar comedian’ is a Frankenstein’s monster of every dive-bar hack comic that has roamed the seedy undercurrent of the American stand-up scene for the past century. A phlegm-spitting, greasy-haired, goodwill suit-wearing, three-drink-guzzling, all-you-can-eat buffet draining collection of outdated cultural references and self pity, who mines the depths of humanity to find the lowest common denominator laughs, without so much as a hint of shame. If there’s a line, Neil Hamburger will find it, cross it and set fire to everything on the other side of where it used to be. His latest show Discounted Entertainer finds Hamburger at his repugnant best, filling every moment with a steady stream of indecent quips and meandering anecdotes which he milks mercilessly and unapologetically for every last whiff of laughter.

Tragic celebrity deaths, dad joke puns, terrorism, religion and the sexual antics of mime Marcel Marceu are all considered comedic fodder in Hamburger’s world, and so he subjects the Melbourne audience to his horribly inappropriate takes on them all. Abusing those who don’t find his antics funny to a constant stream of abuse that makes it crystal clear that the fault is all their own. The comedic equivalent of a car crash, Discounted Entertainer should be the worst show you’ve ever seen, if you could just force yourself to look away. But just as a demolition derby takes the horror out of a car crash, Discounted Entertainer takes the expectation of morality out of laughter, exposing you to a side of yourself that you never knew was there. You’d orchestrate a mass walk-out if you could only stop laughing long enough to make that move. But the genius of Hamburger’s act as a whole and of Discounted Entertainer is that that moment never comes, and so you find yourself sitting there, waiting for the next level of depravity to be unleashed upon your evil cackling soul.

A razor-sharp satire of itself, Discounted Entertainer may be the best worst show you’ll ever see and I highly recommend you subject yourself to its indecencies – but remember that you get what you paid for. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

‘Discounted Entertainer’ is on now at the Portland Hotel (Portland Room). Click here for dates and ticket details.

neil hamburger*photo courtesy of Paste Magazine

Comic: Sara Pascoe
Show: VS History
Venue: Melbourne Town Hall, Powder Room

Sara Pascoe is one of the funniest women on the planet. She might also be one of the most intelligent. Pascoe’s new show VS History makes both of these points abundantly clear. In anyone else’s hands, an hour-long examination of the historical and current day repression of female sexuality wouldn’t make for comedic fodder, but in Pascoe’s hands it is pure chuckle-worthy gold. Pascoe has the room hanging on her every word as she delivers multiple laughs per minute with a well-crafted and thought-out dissertation upon a topic most comics would fear to tackle. An engaging personality, Pascoe creates a feeling of warmth in the room which removes the awkwardness that her topic may cause and her natural, fast-moving delivery style is a perfect match for the material being presented, ensuring that even the heavier biological or philosophical moments are book-ended by big laughs.

As you watch Pascoe lambaste the current depiction of female sexuality — monogamous, needy, subservient — by juxtaposing it against biological and anthropological evidence that suggests that exact opposite to be true — women are in actual fact biologically designed to be ‘gagging for it’ it seems — it’s hard not to find yourself overawed by the cleverness of it all, a point that Pascoe counteracts by interjecting her show with personal anecdotes and self-effacing realisations that draw attention to the innate absurdity of it all, providing a sense that we are very much all in this together.

An evocative, and dare I say it educational, hour that is highlighted by a hilarious examination of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and a particularly fascinating investigation of the truth behind the female orgasm, Sara Pascoe’s VS History is at once the wittiest show I’ve been to at this year’s festival and also the most informative, resulting in Pascoe becoming not just one of my favourite comedians but my new favourite teacher as well. If only all feminist lectures were this fun!

‘VS History’ is on now at the Melbourne Town Hall (Powder Room). Click here for dates and ticket details.

sara pascoe

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