In my research about comedy, there are a few tropes about the Australian comedy scene. One is that it’s all ‘stand-up’. And this is a perception and a term I’d like to challenge.
First of all, the rise of open mic comedy in the 1980’s and 1990’s seemed to switch the world on to the idea of the (usually male) comedian with a microphone casually sitting on their chin on stage. A relaxed Seinfeld-esque swagger kind of stage presence. Sure, there are lots of ways to do comedy and they are all present historically, but it sometimes feels like the world became obsessed with men on stage talking about their anatomy or wives or mother in laws. *Yawn* What about…skits? Physical comedy? Comedic storytelling? Absurdism? Cabaret? Musical comedy?
Comedy is a colourful spectrum. Stand-up is just one part of it. But often you have might have to go outside the ‘big comedy rooms’ to see it.
I’m going to make this clear right now; I don’t write about comedy that maintains the social status quo. I don’t write about the same old same old comedy. That means that at some point, I have to think about how the personal is political and how that translates on stage.
I’m particularly interested in comedians that can hold a room for an hour and mix up the routine with other than observational nonchalance. That, to me, is comedic skill. Variety in performance, skits, music, dance, story and punchlines. And today, I want to give shout outs to two performers and upcoming shows at Adelaide Fringe I think do the above.
The first pick for Adelaide Fringe pick is Lucy’s Best’s Disgraceful. Disgraceful captured my imagination when I first saw it late 2021 in its first run and I got to see the second incarnation at Melbourne Fringe 2022 and if a show gives me an ahah moment, then that’s pretty awesome. The key take-away for me was that Lucy and I have both shared childhood stories in our shows, and I thought mine couldn’t be more disparate or more opposite. But our experiences share common threads. For me this show codifies a key feminist concept – it doesn’t matter what background you come from, the patriarchy ain’t gonna let you be who you are, unless you resist and persist. That often means putting things on stage that make the patriarchy uncomfortable, as artfully as you can. For me it’s talking about conformity and breaking free of working-class abuse and conformity through the experience of disability and queerness and for Lucy it was outrageousness throughout a middle-class existence through the experience of…well not giving that bit away…best you go see it!
Disgraceful – tix here – Mon 13 Mar – Wed 15 Mar: 9pm at My Lover Cindi, 223 Flinders Street, Adelaide, Kaurna Country
The second pick is Ashley Apap’s Outer Child. I loved Ashley’s amazing first show Ouch! As a sufferer of chronic illness it made me laugh out loud while also thinking “oh my, isn’t this going to educate some folks!”. Ashley mixes it up with one of my favourite things as well, with the welcome addition of musical comedy. Skits and sketches too. Honestly, I adore anything that takes hot psychological takes on crusty historical theories like Jung and makes it funny, because let’s face it, in a world trying to get us to grow up and die a lot quicker than necessary, I’d rather keep my inner child firmly on my outer. Shows that directly challenge notions of medicalized violence and the cure culture of ableism are definitely on the list of new avant-garde. So, if you are in Adelaide for Adelaide Fringe you can catch her new show Outer Child from the 7th to 9th March. I think this is one not to be missed.
Outer Child – tix here – Thu 2 Mar – Tue 7 Mar: 9pm at Adelaide Arthur Artbar, 62-66 Currie Street, Adelaide, Kaurna Country
So, if you are in Adelaide for Adelaide Fringe – get yourselves to both these shows!