Thursday, 11 April 2013

Laughs Ahoy: Melbourne Comedy Festival Log (Part 3)


I've been observed by a comedian on the way into a Comedy Festival show before, but never actually sketched. That's what happens, however, at First Dog on the Moon - Cartoobs and Other Typos.

Standing confidently in a suit behind a lectern, the Walkley Award-winning Crikey cartoonist known as First Dog on the Moon is drawing members of the audience as they settle into the subterranean venue at the Victoria Hotel.

There's an amused, anticipatory buzz as we watch him work, and try to pick ourselves from the cartoonish characters emerging on the screen at the front of the venue (And if you can spot which character is me in the above copy the artist handed out at the end, feel free to mention it in the comments below).

What follows is a series of set pieces, each basically a short talk illustrated by amusing visuals which include cartoons and simple animations.

First Dog's topics of choice include feminism, science, stupidity and democracy. He's an interesting speaker, and it's hard to guess where he's heading on a given topic - you have to be paying attention to end up at the destination alongside him.

The highlights of the show are the cartoons, with figures based on Australian native animals. Seen blown up on the screen, you realise how simple the characters are, while at the same time being expressive and dynamic.

Along with the occasional projected photos of cute animals, they're somehow heartwarming - a fact which First Dog would possibly be dismayed by, as he's already told us that our emotions are getting in the way of democracy.

There's something very Aussie about this show: low-key, cheeky and laconic. And very endearing.

[Find details and buy tix for First Dog on the Moon - Cartoobs and Other Typos here]

Detective work

Up the hill at the Swiss Club, Sherlock Holmes is being channelled at Lawrence Leung's Part-Time Detective Agency.

I've reviewed Leung before (see here, for example, and here); and if there's a constant theme in all his geekily obsessive shows, it's "investigation" in its various forms.

This time he's trying to replicate the kind of acute deductive skills displayed by Holmes, who could divine key aspects of the people around him simply by observation.

This he manages onstage very impressively, by pulling two people out of the front row and running a series of trials in which he guesses which one is holding his car keys by the duo's reactions to simple questions.

Leung then spins off into tales of his deductive work as a child, and unveils a dastardly crime from those days which has never been solved.

Via lively narrative and a set of snappy video clips, he sweeps us along with him as he questions suspects and unravels the mystery. It's brilliant theatre, performed with energy and timing, and the conclusion leaves us all satisfied.

It's only on the way home down Little Collins Street that we start to question the veracity of what we've just seen. How much of that childhood mystery was true? Did it even happen at all?

It doesn't matter. We were asking the same questions after seeing his entertaining show about con-man tricks, Sucker, way back in 2001.. and even then the question marks were all part of the fun.

[Find details and buy tix for Lawrence Leung's Part-Time Detective Agency here]

Read the earlier entries in my Melbourne International Comedy Festival log by clicking here for Part 1, and here for Part 2.