PERTH COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA @ Regal Theatre gets 7.5/10

Perth Comedy Festival Gala 2019 @ Regal Theatre

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Each year, Perth comedy aficionados flock to the Gala event at Perth Comedy Festival for good reason. It’s a taster of comedy morsels in a two-hour smorgasbord, allowing audiences to speed date the shows on offer before committing to the full show. Featuring 13 comedians performing short sets, it’s a fantastic way to try before you buy, or to cram in one heck of a luxe night of comedy.

Tahir Bilgic, best known for Fat Pizza, Housos and more recently, Here Come the Habibs! played host and MC for the evening, and perhaps for fans of the shows he is known for, this was a real treat. But there is something unsettling about a 48-year-old man in a backwards cap like he doesn’t quite realise that both the cap and his comedy career are behind him. Time to hang both up on the rusty, basic hook from whence they came. One of the first rules of comedy club? If you need to explain your joke, you shouldn’t be telling it.

Cue first act Sean McCloughlin from the UK. So dull and badly written that the same joke was not only repeated three times but multiple attempts at humour required explanations. When a comedian resorts to tapping at their microphone to try for an “is this thing on?” demand for laughs, it’s time to rethink your show, mate. Telling the audience “I’ve lost ya” is both condescending and supremely misguided – you’re just not funny. Yelling at the audience while blaming them for not understanding your shitty jokes will certainly not endear you to us. Do not go see this show. Herein lies the mercy of the Gala – and in reviews.

Next up on the bill was US abdicator Mike Goldstein. Hardly worthy of a mention, his set was mostly forgettable, other than the inappropriate mockery of using gender-neutral terms. Not sure why this is deemed funny in 2019, though. It was possibly facetious but felt like a mockery of utilising such terms. If it was the former, it missed the mark.

Perth comedian Simone Springer offered some great delivery and a lovable onstage presence but possibly relied too heavily on shows of hands from the audience to ensure they were relating to her material, mostly with a firm focus on parenthood. That’s totally understandable and forgivable, however, as good comedians draw from their own experience to make art. Simone is a solid talent who is one to watch as she fine-tunes her writing.

Another Perth local, Colin Ebsworth burst on stage with the most engaging and delightful energy to that point, leaving the audience feeling like they’d just shrugged off a heavy load. His utilisation of audience interaction is clever, as he uses it as a punchline, not just to gain buy-in. Ebsworth is an utter delight, and one to add to your Comedy Festival to-do list.

Aaron Gocs’ bogan dad is hilarious, but a very specific type of humour. Obviously playing a role he has worked on to perfect, he is your flavour if you either identify as a bogan or can see parts of your life as an Aussie reflected within. Oi oi oi.

Wrapping up the first half, the delectable dish that is Craig Hill (Scotland) was served up hot and spicy. He has somehow become even more camp, more fierce and more sexually aggressive towards the non-queers, and the audience eats it up. This kilt wearing queen is fabulous and freakishly funny. Highly recommend everything about this, unless you’re a complete homophobe – but Craig would definitely help you work through that and come out the other side tinged with a rainbow.

Following a well-deserved intermission and audience lubrication at the bar, Australian Cassie Workman got an eager and warm reception. Offering up deliciously dark content in the most delightful way, Workman held us in the palm of her hand, some a little fascinated by what was possibly their first real-life encounter with a self-identifying, rightfully proud trans person. Somewhat salubrious without any sensationalism, Workman is undoubtedly a rising star, and going to see her perform while you can still afford the tickets is definitely a great idea.

In keeping with a sudden and unexpected display of broad representation, Craig Quartermaine took the stage – and wow. WA local Quartermaine held the crowd in his hands while they eat hungrily, with jokes that were perfectly written and timely. There’s something extremely satisfying about a First Nations man mocking Pauline Hanson to a full theatre, and it is comedy gold. Support this guy. He’s one of our finest.

Canadian Mark Forward was another of the best on offer, as he dealt out some truth bombs completely deadpan, right before death blows of brutal, belligerent wit. Forward is savagely funny. Highly recommended if you’re into terrifying hilarity.

Lawrence Leung offers a refreshing take on the old and lazy comedy denizen of utilising racism against one’s own culture for cheap laughs. Instead, he offers up a unique version whereby the focus is on communication and language difficulties, delivered endearingly. He is cute, but more in the way that he is the friend who will charm your parents in the front room for you while your lover sneaks in the back door.

The UK’s Jimmy McGhie cleverly undermined modern social structures in a set that was pure genius and left us yearning for me. This man is sharp as a razor and happy to draw blood if it gets a laugh. He is possibly too smart for some, so unless you want to revel in snappy comic relief with a hint of intellect, maybe stick to the likes of Tahir.

Nazeem Hussain needs no introduction, though after seeing him live, it’s confounding as to how he made it this far. Between stumbling over or completely forgetting his own punchlines to a “joke” about paedophilia, or the laziness of resorting to stereotypes for cheap laughs, there are so many reasons to think that Hussain’s time is up. Being the edgy Muslim is performed better and sharper now.

Notably, almost all performers addressed the crowd with an outdated “ladies and gentlemen”. It’s 2019, and there’s just no excuse for acknowledging that not everyone fits the binary. Heck, you’ve got a performer on the bill who challenges gender norms every day of her life, so you should know better. There are so many ways to greet your audience. Call us folks, or humans, or “everyone”, or just thank us generically. Please? It’s not too hard but it means a lot to a growing proportion of society, and it’s noted.

Look, all humour is in the eye of the beholder and is certainly subjective, but there are some people who deserve a shot at your hard-earned ticket money, and those who don’t. No matter what, go forth and enjoy our only comedy festival, because it will be gone before you know it. And who doesn’t need a pre-election laugh?


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