MICF: Victoria Healy and Lisa-Skye

Two Melbourne comedians, two sides of the same self-empowered coin in last night’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival outing.

comedian victoria healy

Victoria Healy

First up was Victoria Healy, taking the stage at an intimate upstairs room at the wonderfully downbeat Rue Bebelons — out of the cafe, down the alley, up the wooden stairs … and Healy’s journey was even more entertaining.

Entitled Independent Women Part 2, Healy’s show offers the soundtrack to her understanding of what it means to be an independent woman. Starting with the Spice Girls in Year 7 and including Shania Twain, Black Eyed Peas and the titular tune from Destiny’s Child, there are six or seven songs that serve as milestones along the way.

Through a timeline featuring high school dorkiness and learning to be a team player, a spate of loser boyfriends, becoming a fashionista and a competitive sex object, Healy, in jeans and sleeveless blouse and armed with telling character voices, delivers observations and laughs at a conversational and endearing pace, brought to a close with disappointing abruptness. And damn if I couldn’t see the signature hoop move that made her the star of the rhythm gymnastics team…

comedian lisa-skye

Lisa-Skye

TAKING a different approach to the subject of self-awareness and fulfilment is Lisa-Skye, holding down a spot upstairs at the John Curtin Hotel.

Lisa is ‘a glittery drag queen in a tubby goth real-girl’s body’ who delivers a multi-media exploration of sexual desire and individualism par excellence in Ladyboner. She enters the stage with a walk through the audience while reciting Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’, and you just know you’re in for a treat.

Performance poetry, slide shows and video clips complement her search for a girl of her own. There’s the dad dance, the animal kingdom’s mating rituals, her nan’s passions, love requests from a telephone dating service, an audience Q&A on BDSM; all interspersed with beautifully delivered performance pieces set to the beat of a metronome.

Thirty and married and living in the ‘burbs in her nan’s ‘wog house’, Lisa-Skye is going her own way and taking us along for the ride. She’s personable, honest, acerbic, with great character pieces and spot-on timing. It’s an accomplished performance and wickedly funny.

If you ever wanted to know what it sounds like when doves cry, Ladyboner is for you.

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Simply charming, Andrew O’Neill

I was comfortably numb from a very fine meal, accompanied by very fine wine, with friends at Stuzzichino in Lygon St when I rocked up to the Melbourne City Hall to see Andrew O’Neill strut his stuff as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Which probably isn’t a bad way to see a comedy gig, even one by a man whose descriptor is ‘occult comedian’: it sounds devilish, but he’s simply charming.

O’Neill is 30, he tells us, but still resisting the notion of maturing; it’s the least of his confidences shared during his set. There’s the obvious goth cheerleader look, for instance, his long black hair tied pack in bushy pigtails, the metal t-shirt and skirt completing the picture. Yes, he says, he likes wearing women’s clothing. And then there’s the metalhead aspect, inspiring a pleasant breakdown of some of the genres for the unitiated, which is tied into his active interest in the occult, in particular infamous Crowley and famous Newton.

He also relates how didn’t really care about pop music at all, until his outrage was ignited by the Jonas Brothers. This interview gives an idea.

(I think inciting the viewers to kill and rape the band is perhaps over the top, but you can understand the sentiments.)

Anyway, there is something very cool about sitting in council chambers surrounded by a mixed audience heavy on the metalheads listening to an erudite, passionate young man (in a skirt) expounding his belief that magic is fucked, but it works.

There are engaging — he’s an engaging guy, helped along by that English accent and occasional outbursts of ditty — anecdotes about being hassled by numbskulls for his fashion choice and a month spent in Adelaide to leaven his journey of interest away from Christianity into atheism and then into the occult; the latter journey being aided by black and death metal, that interest having arisen due to the influence of Metallica.

Satan, he says, gets the best music, and the best gags.

After more than an hour of his entertaining dissembling, I’m tempted to agree.

Daniel Kitson, 66a Church Road: a lament

daniel kitson

English comedian Daniel Kitson ponders the meanings and makings of home in his production 66a Church Road: A Lament Made of Memories and Kept in Suitcases (on till January 31). It’s an interesting show, Kitson in tweed suit on a kitchen chair surrounded by suitcases, a ceramic mug at hand; a yellow lamp with shade above him, no microphone. It’s an intimate semi-circular space, the Fairfax Studio at Melbourne’s Arts Centre, and he doesn’t need a mic to reach the rear of the packed room. His monologue is interrupted by vignettes of recorded narration, each about an event that might have happened in Kitson’s eponymous flat, supported by visual aids housed in suitcases, and a piece of film illustrating the Crystal Palace section of London that he calls home. I was glad of our front-row seat, though he did make the aids available to closer scrutiny after the show.

It was a clever piece of stagecraft, but it was Kitson’s musings — remembrances — of his time at this particular address, six years in what he describes as the longest relationship of his life, that set the mood and carried the night. Self-deprecating, hirsute, lisping, he’s an interesting performer, and his insights into just what made 66a Church Road so important in his life struck particular chords here, as we continue our search for a new space to call home.

As Kitson says, a real estate agent might describe it as two bedrooms, close to the station, but what we — all of us — want in a home is ‘lovely’. We want the emotional spark, the security and eventually the familiarity. Home, he says, is memories, and while some might come from place, more often than not it is from people sharing a space, interacting with it, and taking those memories with them. The heart is where the home is, it seems.

At times funny and sarcastic, sometimes quite damning of his landlord, with moments of melancholy and nostalgia, Kitson weaves a well-paced narrative about his relationship with 66a Church Road that is entertaining and thought-provoking.

back in black album by ac/dc

AC/DC’s Family Jewels: rock memories

While we’re in memory-lane mode, I ducked into the AC/DC exhibition at the Arts Centre after Kitson’s show. It’s an impressive display of memorabilia tracking the band’s 35-year career, with nice big screens showing clips and some small screens showing very cool archival footage. I’ve had Highway to Hell in my head all evening.

Which is probably part of the secret of the band’s continuing popularity. They know how to write a hook. I can’t help feeling that the hook is getting a little worn out these days, but the fans keep coming, and have filled two walls with good old-fashioned hard-rockin’ praise for the band.

My mate Andy introduced me to Acca Dacca back in uni, playing the Back in Black album on his record player. I remember buying it on tape in Toronto, of all places. It remains a great rock album, anthemic for some, and a testament to AC/DC’s acumen and dedication in being able to bounce back with gravel-voiced Brian Johnson so soon after the death of that wonderful imp, Bon Scott. We saw them in concert way back when, and they put on a great show. But I don’t think I’ll be fronting up when they tour Australia with their Black Ice show in February. More memories in the making for those about to rock, but I’ll keep mine in the suitcase of the past (for now).

adam hills at brisbane comedy festival

Comedian Adam Hills brought his Inflatable act to the Brisbane Powerhouse at the weekend. And it was good.

Hills is a thorughly likeable chap and has a big following thanks to his hosting duties on ABC’s Spicks & Specks music quiz. Plus, no doubt, the fact he’s one of the country’s most accomplished comedians.

Hills came out firing on Sunday night, his sixth session in three days as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

The hour-plus long show was anchored around the loss of two friends last year, both of whom he described as ‘inflaters’ – people who have the knack of making others feel good through a positive outlook.

It sounds like dark material, but not in Hills’ hands. He himself is an inflater, even when tackling issues such as religion and disability.

His act was a fine remedy for a week of gloomy news: economics, oil spills, school massacres, electioneering.

Hills is taking his Inflatable routine on tour. Catch him if you’re feeling down. Or even if you’re not.

Here’s a taste of part of his routine, from a few years ago.

Tron, Depeche Mode and Fox Klein (and SF stuff at the end)

What, I hear your cyberbrains muse, do those three things have in common? No, wait, that’s not you at all, it’s the rickety desk fan making that peg-leg rattle because it’s set on 2 and the little pin that stops it from rotating isn’t working quite right. But it’s a fair question, just the same.

Thursday. Another dull day at the sausage factory. Cut, paste, upload. Repeat. And then Sean Williams, bless his love of 80s electronic music, sent me this. It is essentially a trailer for Tron, set to one of my favourite Depeche Mode songs, Suffer Well. And done very nicely, too.

And where does the comedian Fox Klein fit in? Well, nowhere, except that he, and the two Coronas I had with dinner, were the highlight of the evening at the Sit Down Comedy Club. A charismatic comedian, offering a storyline or at least a consistent theme with moments of absolute cleverness, and lots of relationship/sex talk without resorting to smut.

Which goes to show how music, fantasy and a sense of humour will overcome 🙂

Meanwhile, check out this download from ABC Radio’s Book Show, featuring Aurealis Award winners Jonathan Strahan, Alison Goodman and KA Bedford talking about the importance of the awards, speculative fiction’s ability to compete for attention in the wider market place, and other stuff.