In comedy newbies vs comedy veterans, youngsters win (by half a star)

Lano and Woodley at the 2022 Comedy Festival Gala.Credit:Jim Lee

What ensues is mayhem, absurdity and merriment from the duo who last year resurrected their comedic partnership after a 12-year hiatus.

The show is strategically shambolic. Lano presses ahead with his ambitious attempts to tell the story with gravitas while an endearingly silly Woodley sabotages his every move.

Well-crafted spontaneity is what the duo do best, prompting gasps and guffaws. Self-deprecating asides are plentiful, as the show derails before your eyes.

Slapstick seems to have taken a back seat to the limericks, clever quips and verbal shenanigans driving the bulk of the show.

Meanwhile, latecomers beware. Lano and Woodley have had three decades to perfect the stage heckle. Donna Demaio

David O’Doherty, whoa is me ★★★★
RMIT Capitol Theater until April 24

David O’Doherty is the antithesis of the lazy comic. Clearly stoked to be back in Melbourne for his first show since the Before Time, he pokes fun at the Roblox-resembling venue then skewers the predictable Australian predilection for telling stand-ups they “better be funny.”

Hard at work: David O'Doherty.

Hard at work: David O’Doherty.

The Irishman’s infectious wonderment at the world is spiked with a caustic melancholy and this show see-saws between the two. He details the very difficult two years he endured after moving regional to be close to his disgustingly loved-up parents with only vibe-less 7am Zoom shows and socially distanced park drinking to offset his boredom.

O’Doherty’s show really soars when he does bits on Fleshlight origin stories, a recreation of how COVID came to be and a riotous burning bush finale.

He could lose the song about a toasted sandwich maker, and the swipes at the federal government felt plowed, no pun intended.

But you just have to admire the 46-year-old’s sustained hunger for his craft. An evening with DO’D will leave you feeling truly alive. Mikey Cahill

Flo & Joan, Sweet Release ★★★★
Spiegeltent until April 24

Singing sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey, aka Flo & Joan, deliver witty ditties with deadpan perfection and slick confidence.

Musical comedy duo Flo & Joan

Musical comedy duo Flo & Joan

Effervescent Rosie takes to the drums, bongos, tambourine and even egg shakers with aplomb while Nicola on keyboards brings the cynicism.

There’s a welcome relatability that underpins most of their observations, which can be ridiculous, introspective, fantastical, even poignant.

Testament to their colossal talent is a nearly seamless set brimming with catchy tunes about singledom, friends (they hate), how to deflect a murderer and having an alien boyfriend.

Thankfully, interaction with the audience is short-lived, as it feels forced and superfluous. And it’s frustrating not to be able to catch every word.

“A lot of our stuff is actually quite cynical – a bit of optimism never goes amiss,” they declare. And with that introduction, a top-notch song ensues, replete with twists and turns that keep the audience in stitches. Donna Demaio

Ivan Aristeguieta, Happy Papi ★★★★
Athenaeum Theater until April 24

To paraphrase the poem: they muck you up, your mum and dad. That goes double for Venezuelan stand-up Ivan Aristeguieta, whose mucker-uppers were a psychologist and psychiatrist.

Cross-cultural comedy: Ivan Aristeguieta

Cross-cultural comedy: Ivan Aristeguieta

But as this richly flavored hour shows, we’re capable of escaping our past, and thank muck for that.

For many comics, events of late have felt more volatile than hilarious, but Aristeguieta is uniquely positioned to navigate comic minefields. Having grown up in a country where bribes, censorship and curfews are the norm, Aristeguieta is an expert in uncertainty.

As always he’s effortlessly funny, but Happy Grandpa‘s deep cross-cultural dive brings up insights and revelations too. The perils he describes range from grave-robbing cults to the craft of getting mugged to a parent who was a non-profit drug dealer; as a newly anointed Australian citizen, he’s got plenty of material that’s closer to home too. John Bailey

Daniel Connell, Gutless Wonder ★★★★
Swiss Club until April 24

“The Swiss love a climb” riffs Daniel Connell at the start of a taut 55 minutes of exquisitely judged middlebrow Australian humour. He’s making fun of the many stairs it takes to arrive at level two of his venue; the analogy extends to the steady, satisfying trajectory of his career from a broom closet at The Forum to a healthy Wednesday night crowd at undoubtedly “Flinders Lane’s finest Swiss Club”.

Strayan: Daniel Connell

Strayan: Daniel Connell

Connell’s calm tone, full of 1970s Strayan lexicon, allows him to sucker punch audiences with black comedy on divorce reveal parties, Roy and Kyle the snake-catchers (which needs a less forced ending) and a drunken city brawler self-named The King. Don’t tase him, bro.

The Errol Flynn lookalike stacks one-liners on top of one another akin to Daniel Kitson’s holistic storytelling approach and his low-key wordsmithery makes the set fly by.

Connell’s second-last story leaves us winning the night away at just how much horseplay one of his mates can stand. It’s a confronting visual. He then wisely throws a self-deprecating spotlight back on what he did for giggles during lockdown (cue police sirens). Mikey Cahill

John Hastings, Do You Have Any Ointment My John Hastings ★★★½

Town Hall until April 23

Not nearly as weird as its title and poster might suggest, John Hastings tells the story of a tough year by anyone’s standards with plenty of charm and buckets of North American confidence.

John Hastings.

John Hastings.

The imposing Canadian, now based in LA, barely needs a microphone as he booms through some impressively structured personal anecdotes and self-deprecation, touching on divorce, death and at least one unedifying bathroom mishap.

It’s strong and seemingly genuine stuff that remains upbeat as Hastings offers a curious mix of Netflix-ready material with enough kooky riffs to keep the vibe agreeably off-kilter.

Proceedings flag a little in the second half and our main gripe would be his relentless references to how the crowd is reacting, a pet peeve that your mileage may vary on. When he does engage audience members directly it’s fantastic and makes one wonder why he tends towards the generic rather than the specific.

That device aside, Hastings is intriguing company and delivers a solid and often impressive hour. Patrick Horan

Barnie Duncan, Bunny ★★★
Malthouse Theater until April 10

Grief and clubbing seem like polar opposites, unless you’re the parent of a baby seal. Oof, Barnie Duncan: that’s a hard opener.

Barnie Duncan performs Bunny.

Barnie Duncan performs Bunny.

But mourning and house bangers are the magnetic north and south of this strange work. It was inspired by the death of Duncan’s mother, something barely mentioned but always hovering over the humor, while a throbbing soundtrack comes via Dick Johnson, a veteran of Manchester’s legendary Hacienda.

The actual material veers from deeply surreal to deliberately silly, often mining the physical absurdity of the dance floor itself.

However, the scattershot approach scaffolds some very clever construction – detours and diversions are part of grieving, and there’s a great irony in a show about distracting yourself that also rewards
close attention.

The final moments of bunny might drive a nail through your heart, if you’ve been making the right connections leading up to it. If not, just surrender to the bass. John Bailey

Ange Lavoipierre, I’ve Got 99 Problems And Here Is An Exhaustive List Of Them ★★★
The Butterfly Club until April 13

Arachnophobes: stay away. This show may give you an anxiety attack.

Spider fears: Ange Lavoiepierre

Spider fears: Ange Lavoiepierre

Through song, storytelling and a dose of eight-legged burlesque, Ange Lavoipierre whisks her way through the problems that engulf her life. The primary being: spiders follow her everywhere.

Lavoipierre details the tribulations of a troubled former relationship, an addiction to black market benzodiazepines and being neglected by the French language app Duolingo. And, of course, the spiders.

Audience participation can be a risky business at any time, let alone when Lavoipierre invites five crowd members on stage to conduct a table read of her reinvention of Charlotte’s Web. Luckily, with great enthusiasm all lines are landed with aplomb and it provides the highlight of the show. However, one would hate to see it on a night when it backfires.

With pacing and delivery often switching from laborious to motormouth in whiplash speed, 99 Problems is an engaging, though disjointed hour. Tyson Wray

Nazeem Hussain, Hussain That? ★★
Melbourne Town Hall until April 24

If a great hour of comedy can be akin to a sumptuous feast, then Hussain That? feels like leftovers pre-heated in a microwave.

Favorite audience: Nazeen Hussain.

Favorite audience: Nazeen Hussain.Credit:Jim Lee Photo

All of Nazeem Hussain’s regular tropes are there: being mistaken for Waleed Aly, familial stereotypes of the subcontinent and self-deprecating jokes about his Muslim faith. Many could provide great fodder if given a twist from what he’s delivered over the past decade, but none feel reinvented.

The show comes across unpolished. A joke about Christchurch mosque terrorist Brenton Tarrant deflates the room as the punchline becomes excruciatingly obvious before it lands. It’s followed by an apology declaring it needs work – this cycle repeats throughout the hour.

There’s also a recycling of material that, while perhaps not used in a Melbourne show before, has been broadcast on two major streaming platforms since 2020. Newcomers will leave moderately satisfied – but his loyal audience will feel short-changed. Tyson Wray

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs until April 24. The Age is a major media partner.

A cultural guide to going out and loving your city. Sign up to our Culture Fix newsletter here.

Leave a Comment