MICF: Lisa-Skye hits the right note in Songs My Parents Taught Me

lisa-skye melbourne comedianI caught Lisa-Skye‘s Songs My Parents Taught Me at the ‘pop-up’ venue Tuxedo Cat in Melbourne last night — love this town and how it uses these spaces so creatively — and what an enjoyable hour* it was.

I caught her act last year, and this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival performance showed similar flair.

Songs My Parents Taught Me is a clever piece of memoir/biography, centred on the 1970s couple Maddog and Bunny. The night’s chat is a fond, second-hand reminiscence passed down by her parents, heavy on the ‘Wogs’ and drugs and booze and partying. The anecdotes serve as a springboard for Skye’s reflections on drugs, sexuality, parenthood … of growing up, however reluctantly and defiantly.

‘Some people are sexually attracted to fire,’ she says, summarising teenage proclivities for setting things on fire and masturbating.

And one can’t help wonder if that was a summary of Bunny and Maddog’s carefree life, both of them having passed away before Lisa-Skye had a chance to know them.

Lisa-Skye is so personable, her face so expressive, an hour in her velvet-draped pad passes quickly. Her show has some fetching touches: audience engagement, slide shows to help make connections and score some visual chuckles, several wonderfully constructed spoken word pieces set to the ticking of a metronome.

Southern Comfort lovers may be offended; others might never see a knitting needle again without thinking about a shark making love to a space rocket. (You have to be there.)

The conversation at Lisa-Skye’s place is engaging, at times confronting, a little loose and undoubtedly entertaining, with some food for thought – and glitter – thrown in. And the punchline – oh so very nicely done.

* Due to the unfortunate train timetable and the show going a little over time, I missed the last three minutes or so, but Lisa-Skye very kindly sent me the script for that final portion.

Songs My Parents Taught Me runs until April 21.

Going metal at MICF: Andrew O’Neill and Steve Hughes

andrew o'neillEnglish comedian Andrew O’Neill wears green heels, jeans tight enough to show off an enviable pair of pins, black top, red lipstick and nail polish. His Melbourne International Comedy Festival show is entitled Alternative but the core theme is one of how easily he can be distracted: by the internet, by television, by shiny things. The show is filled with distractions — zany asides, mostly — and littered with pop and metal references. He has a Dr Who tattoo. He’s witty and intelligent and he has something to say and doesn’t mind coming out and saying it — about the class divide, about hipster appropriation of culture, about societal constraints on being who you want to be; in his case, he’s a lover of heavy metal, an overt transvestite, an athiest with a grudging respect for the Norse gods (just in case).

His own spruiker and roadie, he’s playing the suitably metal Pony, a small, slightly smelly club tricked out in red and black with an upstairs performance space cosy enough for the full house to appreciate his boss eye sight gag. The gig ends with a bit of a singalong in ‘Jesus was a Cockney’. Lovely dovely.

We gladly paid to see O’Neill; the tickets to Steve Hughes were complimentaries for review purposes.

steve hughes Hughes is another metal head, but where O’Neill wears heels and talks about the outdated and outlandish vision of what it means to be male, the Aussie comedian, now relocated to the UK, still thinks a man should steer clear of Starbuck’s, pull up his pants, grow a beard and not act like a faggot. Or a poofter. Yes, such people still exist, and they can fill the Melbourne Town Hall. It’s a strange world, Hughes says repeatedly, and listening to the chortles and guffaws as he harangues and postulates for 90 minutes, I can’t agree more.

What starts out as amusing anecdotes, deftly told in Aussie vernacular, descends into a diatribe of sometimes contradictory pseudo-spirituality, anti-establishment, pro-drugs anti-police conspiracy theory with all the subtlety of a bludgeon.

Clearly, Hughes’s take on the Big Issues isn’t for me. And I think, if I’ve interpreted the psychobabble rightly, Hughes will understand if I say it’s not me, it’s them.

MICF: Sarah Kendall and Daniel Kitson

It was the night for intelligent comedy at last night’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival outing, with pre-show drinks at Cabinet and a pleasant dinner break at Time Off in Fed Square where Massive Attack and Joy Division albums were on the stereo. Oh yes.

sarah kendall First up was Sarah Kendall at the Victoria Hotel. Kendall, 35 (there’s some laughs in that), resident in the UK for the past 12 years, tells us she’s that woman with the screaming toddler on the jet plane. Her Persona show reveals a dry delivery and acid wit — and incredibly expressive eyes — as she explores the world her daughter is growing up in. Some subjects covered are pole dancing, banana innuendo, depictions of women in advertising and, most wonderfully, a nighty-night sequel to the ugly duckling fairytale in which growing up to be pretty is not the answer to being bullied and marginalised.

daniel kitsonAfter dinner, with ‘Disorder’ still whispering in my mind, we headed down to the Arts Centre for UK comedian Daniel Kitson. Kitson’s mission in Where Once Was Wonder is to share his thoughts on the meaning of life, exemplified in three stories, taking 90 minutes. Intellectually arrogant, confronting and very bloody funny, Kitson is an unreliable narrator but sure knows how to string a yarn together. Suspense, divergence, segue, meta references and ‘denial’ river puns, all combine for a superlative performance.

He makes the audience complicit, whether about vegetarianism, ideology, typecasting or the bleeding obvious. ‘I’ve got a lisp, don’t know if you’d noticed. I’m very brave.’ Or words to that effect.

By the end of the show, he’s undercut the diatribe he espoused at the beginning; he’s shared thoughts about image and personality and character, about certainty and uncertainty and seizing moments and living with principles and undermining those principles when it’s convenient or easy to do so; the audience is highly amused and guilty and guiltily amused.

A dangerous pair, Kendall and Kitson; though chalk and cheese in delivery, they both manage to get the message across amid the laughter. Brilliant stuff.

MICF: The Underlads

underlads comedy duoWe hit the awesome warehouse space that is 1000 £ Bend last night to catch The Underlads — a former Townsville duo fairly recently (I gather) moved to Melbourne — conjure a haunted house tale as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Living on Limbo Lane uses an array of techniques to bring the story alive: mime, hand puppets, marionettes, video, slapstick, night vision cameras, songs. There are more homages to movies and video games than you can point a ouija board at.

Shrub and Wearnie are likeable, engaging performers, but the show — for all their energy — never really takes off. Over-ambitious, perhaps, but the Ed Wood level of staging and effects, while charming, is too often less effective than it might’ve been, and the underpinning material relies too heavily on old gags and tired tropes.

The pair have got some great comedy chops, but this show was perhaps a street too far. An act to keep an eye on.

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


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.

MICF: Tim FitzHigham’s The Gambler

tim fitzhigham in the gamble comedy showTim FitzHigham’s The Gambler is playing at the upstairs bar at the Victoria Hotel as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, giving it quite the home movie feel. Which is perfect, as the gregarious and energetic Englishman narrates his latest zany exploits to the accompaniment of a slideshow and video clips.

As the name of the show implies, the basis of FitzHigham’s production is wagers: historically based and quite astounding ones. Such as rolling a cheese round 6000m in 100 tosses, or lasting 10 moves with chess master Nigel Short, or pushing a wheelbarrow over a marathon course in 6.5 hours.

As zany as the tasks are, it’s FitzHigham who makes the show, engaging the audience with his manic energy and awfully amusing anecdotes, and an expressive face just made for comedy.

He shook everyone’s hand on the way out, too; a gentleman and a scholar and a very funny man.

  • We also saw the Bedroom Philosopher’s High School Assembly variety parody thing last night at the Forum. Execrable, but I enjoyed the dancing.
  • MICF: Des Bishop Likes To Bang

    des bishop likes to bangCaught the Irish-American comedian Des Bishop at the Hi-Fi last night in our first Melbourne International Comedy Festival outing, and it was a bit disappointing. I’d hoped the humour would swing towards the Irish side — the multi-accented comedian’s got a big following thanks to television appearances there — but the material and delivery was squarely old-school observational New York style: fast, loud, self-aggrandising and not particularly witty. The kind that makes fun of yuppie Dubliners, exhorts sex in hotel rooms because you don’t have to clean up, that brags about banging groupies.

    The sell-out crowd lapped it up, though: there were a hell of a lot of Irish in the room and much of the material was directed to them, and I guess he’s been here enough to know that bashing Frankston bogans is always good for a laugh from a Melbourne crowd.

    It was the strangely disjoined show’s third night — maybe it’ll smooth out as it picks up steam.

    One point of difference came from a Roland electric drum kit, loaded with samples of dialogue labelled homeboy, paedophile and bogan, for instance, all mined well past their worth. There was some good laughs when the sound guy went AutoTune on Des’s vocals.

    The entertaining climax came when an audience member was called up to provide a chorus to go with Des’s hip-hop song — Des laid down a beat on the drums, Helen from Cork sang (and very nicely, too) a chorus from a Beyonce song, and Des unveiled his MCing with verses taken from the latest headlines: Julia Gillard, AFL’s late great Jim Stynes (of Irish background, so that explains that connection, perhaps) and Ben Cousins.

    Just why he had to intro the skit by saying he was going to show how easy it was to write a hip-hop song is a mystery, but not as great as the mystery as to why he felt the need, after the song’s completion, to go back through his lyric sheet and explain all the gags. It’s kind of unusual to have a comedy show with an epilogue of explanatory notes.

    As Des observed during the gig, if you’ve read the innuendo in the title, you know what to expect. What a shame he was bang on.

    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.