PERTH COMEDY FESTIVAL GALA @ Regal Theatre gets 7.5/10

Perth Comedy Festival Gala @ Regal Theatre
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

7.5/10

Indulge in some delicious belly laughs, served up in a degustation of glee, perhaps more than you can stomach. A tasting plate of a cavalcade of comedians in five minute bite-sized morsels, served up seamlessly by a hostess with the absolute most-ess, the Gala is the perfect buffet to feast upon and taste test the best of the Perth Comedy Festival’s menu.

Whether you are on a budget and can only afford one show, or would like to sample what’s on offer to decide which shows to see each week, this two hour banquet dishes up an appetising line up of hilarity. Providing the opportunity to experience no less than ten stars of the festival in a lovingly curated program that varies each week, the Gala is one for the hit list over the next two Wednesday nights.

Opening night of the gala was hosted by the utterly engaging Canadian and self-described “gentleman elf”, Deanne Smith, who warmed up a surprisingly cold audience rapidly, then consistently maintained audience enthusiasm throughout the show.

If the Gala was a competition, one of the clear MVP’s was inevitably Stephen K Amos, bringing a level of professionalism that younger comedians should aspire to as their end game – see our review of his show HERE. Another winner was definitely the sassy, saucy swagger of the delicious Des Bishop, whose high energy set was notably rampant with a rather brilliant, feminist take on bloody sex. Sadly for X-Press readers, his shows in Perth have ended for the year, but given the opportunity in future, grasp this man with both hands, hold on tightly and be sure to BYO towel.

Becky Lucas was also a worthy contender. Heart achingly hilarious, up and coming Australian Becky is one to watch in the comedy scene. A breath of fresh air, scented with a bouquet of cheap white wine and endearing nervous laughter, Becky will ensure you leave her shows bedazzled with a grin, and that you will never see pregnant women in the same light. She knows what you did to get that belly, you dirty, dirty girl.

Papa CJ, winner of Asia’s Best Stand-up Comedian Award 2014 was so exemplary that his show warranted a recommendation by Stephen K. Amos during his own show the following night. Hailing from India, Papa CJ appeared to be the nice guy at first glance. That was, until he pulled the bird at the audience and cussed at us, then proceeded to engage in some hefty self-deprecation. Utterly engaging, no Indian touchstone went unturned. From religion, masturbation and reincarnation, then on to telemarketers and back, Papa CJ won hearts universally.

On the flip side, unfortunately the limit of a mere five minutes on stage can prove difficult for some acts in their selection of material. Choosing nothing less than their best jokes can be crucial to audience numbers in the coming days. We have only five minutes to gauge the quality of the show. Comedy is very subjective, but if a performer chooses to represent their show with a substandard bit, or by representing themselves with a joke about sexual assault, are we really going to want to pay out our hard-earned to see more? Hardly.

Amos Gill made a great start with a well-told tale, until that joke suddenly turned to some touchy subject matter. Victims of rape and molestation beware – the use of those two words to punctuate the joke truly ensures discomfort. Sure, the need to be able to laugh about negative personal experiences is a completely understandable drive, and can serve as therapeutic for the victim, but there are ways to handle this very delicate subject matter without making light of it for cheap laughs. Complete it with an articulated point, or an observation about your personal response to the experience. Give us a reason to hear the joke, and don’t resort to encouraging strangers to laugh at personal events that victims find relatable and painful. Comedy is fun, and can be thought-provoking, but deserves loftier treatment.

Sarah Callaghan from the UK was another disappointment, falling back on cheap jokes that covered nothing more than her relationship, her weight, and her “hole”. It’s 2017, and we expect more. Women in comedy are rare, and they are to be treasured and nurtured, unless they represent themselves poorly. Perhaps a full show would have revealed more promise, but Callaghan’s five minutes were rampant with perplexing choices, and overall mediocre.

Other than very few misses, the dishes served at the Perth Comedy Festival Gala are appetising, beautifully presented, and well worth coming back for seconds. While the program varies each week, you can be certain that it will contain the best of the upcoming weekends’ shows, and it is an enticing addition to your hump day.

The Perth Comedy Festival Gala runs tonight, Wednesday May 10 and next Wednesday May 17 at 7:30pm at The Regal Theatre and tickets are available HERE.

NATALIE GILES

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