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Showing posts from April, 2006

MICF - Sidetrack: It's A Mother!

Everyone loves their mum. Some more than others. For many young Greek boys and girls, the love of the mother knows no bounds. This is the central idea behind a sensational series of sketches, It's A Mother! At times bittersweet but always affectionate, It's A Mother! puts Greek mothers on centre stage, paying tribute to the role the have played in bringing up generations of children.

The show is put on by the Sidetrack Performance Group, a veteran Sydney group who are performing the show for the first time in the Athens of the south. The cast of three, Alex Blias, Elena Carapetis and Natalie Alexopoulos work tirelessly to create rich, believable characters with depth and subtlety. A team of writers have written the sketches and the ideas are tied together by the sure hand of director Don Mamouney.

The sketches present a variety of Greek mothers, all neatly fulfilling the expectations of motherhood. One of the most hilarious 'mothers' is Stavroulis, a well-to-do Gr…

MICF - Greg Fleet: Word Up

When he's good, he can very gut-achingly hilarious. When he's off, he's just tough to stomach. On balance, Greg Fleet's latest stand up effort Word Up is more of the latter than the former. Admittedly, the night I saw him might not be all that representative of what Fleet has to offer: at the start of the show he announced that he had recently split from his girlfriend. Recently, as in within the hour. If true, it's sad to hear, but if played for laughs, then it failed.

The premise of Fleet's show is solid: that language is an important part of our lives, yet we continually savage it with our various bastardized versions. Or as the promo material put it more succinctly "Greg Fleet's show takes us on a journey through all things languagey". Throughout Fleet has a series of flash cards that announce the various themes as we progress through the show. Some are straight forward, some are slightly strange, and some are downright bizarre. As it…

MICF - Michael Connell and Dave Wiggins: A Yank Down Under

Every festival there are a few hidden gems to reward the punter who ventures beyond the big names and the major venues. Dave Wiggins is one of those gems. Tucked away in the cosy student common room at Victoria Uni on Flinders Lane (a room which, incidentally, deserves the award for comfiest couches of the festival), Wiggins spins his stories with deceptive ease.

Wiggins is an antipodean American. From Maine initially, Wiggins made the move to New Zealand a few years back after he married a Kiwi girl. Now he's doing a stint in Melbourne with warm up act and buddy, er, mate, Michael Connell. Wiggins' material is based heavily on cross-cultural comparisons between the US, Australia and New Zealand. Having spent a decent amount of time in all three countries, he is well placed to get below the surface and understand the idiosyncrasies of each culture.

A lot of the humour comes from the lay back, dare I say very Australian, style of Wiggins. Though playing to a smallish crowd…

MICF - Wolfe Bowart: LaLaLuna

Take all the angst, tension, violence and hate that there is in the world, scrunch it up into a ball, and nonchelantly toss it over you shoulder. Open yourself up to a world of magic and whimsy, where nothing is as it seems and anything in the world can be achieved if you only wish for it. This is the world of Wolfe Bowart, one half of the Shneedles, who is performing solo in a show that's one of the hits of the Festival: LaLaLuna.

LaLaLuna is a sublime piece of performance art. The premise is simple: our scatterbrained lead has seen the light in the moon disappear, and takes it upon himself to correct this astronomical malady. Along the way, our man encounters balls to juggle, suitcases to climb, balloons to enter, whoopee cushions to play, inner-selves to communicate with, chickens and giraffes to impersonate and audiences to thrill.

Bowart is the ultimate physical performer. He has a breathtaking self-awareness of his own body, and glides effortlessly across the stage with ba…

MICF - Jim Lawson is Jim Jones MP in What’s New Peter Costello Whoa Whoa! (politics is showbiz for the ugly)

Sometimes political satire can get a bit tiresome. Depressing as it is, we get so used to seeing the same familiar faces satirized with the same familiar characteristics that we can become immune to it after a while. Take the Prime Miniature, and use this handy political satirist checklist: he’s a liar; he’s socially conservative; he’s a cricket tragic; he sounds like a high school maths teacher. All absolutely true, but after ten years of hearing it, most of us are bored with it.

Political satirist Jim Lawson has realized this as well. And so he’s making a start on the next generation of political leaders. As the title suggests, Howard’s deputy gets a going over, and so does Mark Latham, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd. Most of the satire isn’t outrageously funny, but it’s interesting nonetheless to see what characteristics are most ripe for the picking.

Jim Lawson plays Jim Jones, the fumbling stumbling t’riffic member for Kalgoolie, although he lives just outside his electorate. …

MICF - Corrine Grant: Faking It

Corinne Grant will probably play to full houses most of this festival. Which is a shame, really, given the lackadaisical show on offer. It’s a breezy hour of stand-up about, y’know, airlines and shopping centres and B-Grade celebrities and stuff.

Whilst most performers will use a Comedy Festival show as a chance to develop a theme, Grant has not. Instead there is a patchwork quilt of bits and pieces with little or nothing to link them together beyond the occasional segue. According to the listing in the program, the theme is Faking It.

To give credit to Grant, there are some genuinely funny moments in the show, in the form of a few stories that strike a chord. Her anecdote at the end of the show about Richard Branson is particularly illuminating. Grant has been performing for a while and has a good sense of timing and rhythm and seems to genuinely enjoy her time on stage.

As performers become more experienced, there is an expectation that they’ll move on to move difficult terrain…

MICF - Damian Callinan has Spaznuts

Mark it down now: Damian Callinan’s show is the best show at the Festival that involves testicles. You know, family jewels. Aggots. Googlies. Clag bags. Or in his case, spaznuts.

Callinan may be playing in one of the cosier rooms within the monolith that is the Melbourne Town Hall, but he is also a class act. Callinan is not afraid to get personal and draw us into his own life and experiences, and reveal his own weaknesses. This show is about Callinan’s battle with infertility and the effect that this had on his life. Along the way he had his masculinity challenged, split from his wife and received the sneers of people who confuse the worth of a person with the swimming ability of the contents of their scrotum.

Rather than opt for the relative safety of an hour of stand-up, Callinan has taken the road less traveled. The show is a piece of one man theatre complete with all the theatrical devices of an accomplished performer. The storyline takes us through Callinan’s experiences…

MICF - The Wrong Night

Some comedians avoid The Line. Others go right up to The Line and dip their toe on the other side. And a few comedians completely ignore it, merrily dancing the Cha Cha as they cross over it. One show dedicated to crossing this line is The Wrong Night, a weekly collection of late night silliness which allows comics to perform their most crass, cruel, offensive and tasteless bits of material. In a circus tent.

Comedians have long needed to self-censor their cruder material. Last year the film The Aristocrats revealed the dark side of many mainstream comics. In this hilarious documentary, comics told, discussed and analysed the ultimate dirty joke, each with their own sickeningly brilliant twist (no, you won’t find out what it was here, go and see the film yourself). What The Aristocrats showed is that within each nice, clean cut Jerry Seinfeld is a devilish Amazing Jonathan itching to escape.

The Wrong Night is the Comedy Festival’s The Aristocrats. Each Saturday night a selectio…

MICF - Michael Chamberlin: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments is not known for its comedic potential. All that coveting, adultering, killing, cursing and general sinning seems very old fashioned. In the hands of Michael Chamberlin, though, there is plenty of fun to be had. Chamberlin has decided that that old list of Ten needs a bit of modernizing, and he’s the man for the job.

The Ten Commandments is merely a frame on which Chamberlin can hang his reams of quality material. He’s not afraid of moving quickly off topic, with only the most modest of fig-leafs to cover his embarrassingly small, er, segue. Some of his best material is absurdist stuff that links only tangentially to his theme: material on Angelina Jolie went down well, as did his bizarre rock-star dream.

Chamberlin is at his best when he goes full throttle in the telling of a story. As his jugular emerges from his designer t-shirt, the beads of sweat slowly begin appearing on his forehead and Chamberlin is bursting with energy. He has a tremendous ability to…

MICF - Sam Simmons: Tales from the Erotic Cat

Sam Simmons has a funny body. Not funny in an "awkward in the bedroom" sense, but funny in an "I love slapstick" sense: a supple, malleable body with just a hint of Buster Keaton in his ancestry. Though the stage at the grandly titled Regent Room at the Town Hall is a pokey, claustrophobic place, Simmons uses it to full effect, filling the space with his expressive body and even more expressive props.

During his hour long show, Simmons gives us a hint of his awesome performing talent. He moves with aplomb, he sings with a brilliant operatic voice, and seems to be a fine character actor. The frustration is that these things are just hinted at. Too much of the show is spent in the valleys between these peaks, with some rather slow and ponderous moments slowing the pace.

The show is a collection of loosely intertwined sketches, songs and stories. For greater effect, the show needs to have fewer 'filler sketches', and more time spent developing the sketches…

MICF - Mark Watson: 50 Years Before Death and the Awful Prospect of Eternity

There are few comics in this year's festival who have a section of their show devoted to administration. Mark Watson is one of them. Watson is a comic who likes to keep his audience on their toes, letting them know that they are not just passive absorbers of comedy, but are active participants.

Being in the audience is serious business: at the end of the night a Most Valuable Player award is given to the best audience member. And the best audience member for the festival? A spot in his will. That's one hell of an incentive to laugh.

Still, it'll probably be a while before Watson's will becomes much of an issue. He's only 26, and by his calculations (well, Google's, actually) he's got another 50 years ahead of him. With this simple arithmetic in mind, Watson is set to take us on a journey through the stages in his life, beginning with all that has happened so far and ending with his inevitable death.

Watson is a comedian who is often interrupted. By him…

MICF: Tim Minchin

Musical comedy has enjoyed a renaissance recently. First it was Paul McDermott fronting Gud, then came the middle class angst of Eddie Perfect, and in the latest batch are ivory-ticklers Sammy J and Tim Minchin. This group has a lot in common with their musical comedian ancestors, performers including Victor Borge and Tom Lehrer. These performers are all highly accomplished musicians, but stand out for their remarkable verbal dexterity and the ability to fit the surprisingly complex requirements of comedy into the rigours of musical convention.

In a short space of time Tim Minchin has established himself as one of the best. Minchin intuitively understands what makes funny funny, so every second line of his brilliant compositions is a laugh-out-loud punchline. The set-up for each song is quite simple, but the ideas are mined sensationally for comic effect. Take Minchin’s song warning of the dangers of fat kids, a set up which then leaves him open to widely and hilariously speculat…

Aboard the Comedy Festival gravy train

The start is a little later than usual, but finally it's Comedy Festival time for another year.

Though most years I see more than my fair share of shows, this time I have a professional excuse to: I'm writing reviews for both The Program and for Beat magazine. Lucky bastard.

To maxamise bang for my buck, I'll be cross-posting reviews here, just like last year. Wish me luck.

Transport, tax and the environment

Finally we're getting somewhere in tackling Melbourne's congestion. Though there are still some infrastructure fetishists who are pushing for longer and wider freeways, more thoughtful minds are realising the power of pricing to change motorist's habits.

Here's how The Age covered the release of a draft report by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (I'd never heard of them either):

Motorists could pay higher peak-hour tolls
By Stephen Moynihan
April 6, 2006

MOTORISTS could pay more to use the city's toll roads during peak periods under options being considered to ease Melbourne's congestion woes.

Under the proposal, CityLink and the operator of EastLink would charge drivers more during the morning and evening peaks but less in off-peak times.
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An increase in peak period pricing is an option discussed in the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission's draft report for managing transport congestion.

With an e-Tag on just about every c…

Tell us what you really think

If you haven't done it already, head over to Hack, Triple J's glorified BTN, and have a listen to these sensational goof tapes of Alan Jones from his 2UE days.

Hack have run the audio clips under the banner The Closet Recordings of Alan Jones, which seems to be hinting at the same thing that this listing in Wikipedia refers to:

In December 1988, Jones was arrested in a lavatory block in London West End. He was initially charged with two counts of outraging public decency by behaving in an indecent manner under the Westminster by-laws.

Old news, I know.

AIJAC @ SourceWatch

Speaking of Pro-Wrestling (see previous post), there's a bit of intellectual biffo going on over at SourceWatch, and thankfully this one's not rigged.

On one side are the folks at AIJAC (Colin Rubenstein, Jamie Hyams and Ted Lapkin) whilst on the other are the authors of Jews and Australian Politics (Philip Mendes and Geoffrey Brahm Levey). At issue? Well, not much really, but a dispute over a conversation between Levey and Lapkin.

Check it out. And wait for the cage match.

I gotta get a life

Passing the hours away at work this afternoon, I found myself surfing through the dregs of pop culture.

I stumbled across this Wikipedia entry for the XFL, the shortlived sports league that aimed to combine pro-wrestling with American football:

The concept of the league was first announced on February 3, 2000. The XFL was originally conceived to build on the success of the NFL and professional wrestling. It was hyped as "real" football without penalties for roughness and with fewer rules in general. The loud games featured players and coaches with microphones and cameras in the huddle and in the locker rooms. Stadiums featured trash-talking public address announcers and very scantily-clad cheerleaders. Instead of a pre-game coin toss, XFL officials put the ball on the ground and let a player from each team scramble for it to determine who received the kickoff option, which unsurprisingly led to the first XFL injury. This type of "coin-toss" has since been referred to…

New look Hotmail and dud ideas

A few years back, Google entered the web-based email market with its product "Gmail". Though not formally offerred for public use, invitations to join its Beta testing became so widespread that it might has well have been a free-for-all.

Despite all this, and numerous offers to join Gmail, I stuck it out with my Hotmail account, one that I have had since 1997. There is no doubt in my mind that Gmail is the superior product - more storage space and a search function see to that. For me, though, the switching cost (well, effort really) of moving my contacts and stored emails from one to another, as well as informing all and sundry of my new address, made it too much effort. Besides, I concluded naively, the free market should surely dictate that Hotmail would have little choice but to add on the services that Gmail was offering in order to stem the tide of Hotmail refugees.

Yesterday upon logging in to my Hotmail account, I thought for a moment that my patience would be rewa…

It's the Vibewire e-Festival!

The guys at Vibewire have been doing interesting things for young writers online for a few years now, and here's their latest venture. Sounds like it's well worth a look:

http://www.vibewire.net/efestival :: April 4-8

Mark it in your diary now, 'cos you're invited to the second annual e-Festival of Ideas – a conference with a virtual, democratic twist.

It’s free, it’s on 24 hours a day, and you can join in from anywhere in the world!

It's an opportunity for everyone - expert and non-expert – to share perspectives and insights on issues that matter to you, from global poverty to climate change to identity, the media, art and travel. These nine lively panels will feature guests including -

Peter Garrett - Federal MP & musician
Courtney Gibson – Head of Entertainment, ABC TV
Sean Williams – bestselling sci-fi & technology author
Ryan Heath – Author, 'Please Just F* Off, It’s Our Turn Now'
Megan Spencer - Resident film geek, jjj
Erin Free – editor, Filmin…