The darkness of the stairwell is a shock after the bright Sunday afternoon. At the top of the stairs, lit vaguely by purple footlights, is the new 24 Moons. The venue, formerly found in ACDC lane, bills itself as “the Modern Day Speakeasy” and only spends two years in each of its locations. Now 24 Moons has taken up residence at 2 Arthurton Road in Northcote, just off High Street, in an old strip club.
There is not much more light in the main room than the stairs. Tables are lined with tea candles, people are dark shapes holding their phones to light the way. The long stage, on the right as you walk in, is backed by a large forest made of metal and fluorescents. The bar is a slightly less dimly-lit beacon, and with a properly artisanal cocktail menu and a selection of fancy fresh dumplings, moth-like behaviour can be excused.
In short, it is not your typical weekly comedy room. It feels more like a festival showcase, with a calm, professional atmosphere. In part this is due to the layout – the seats are arm chairs, couches and short stools in front of tables, facing the stage. The crowd are different from your weeknight comedy punters too; older, north-side locals perhaps, drawn in by the quality of the line up, unfazed by the newness of the room. There are quite a few people here – the room is not at capacity but it feels comfortably full.
Geoff Setty, comedian and room runner of 24 Moons, has stacked the opening night with good stand ups and two well known headliners; Nick Cody and Fiona O’Loughlin. The other acts you may recognise from Crab Lab and Imperial Comedy posters dotted around the CBD/Facebook – Lauren Bok, Angus Hodge, Corey White, Luka Muller, Rose Callaghan, Kevin Lim, and Murphy McLachlan. Dilruk Jayasinha is the evening’s MC. He is gentle and friendly, and the crowd seems relieved.
Murphy McLachlan opens. His rapid and leaping jokes are difficult for the audience to follow, which is not to say there were no laughs, nor that McLachlan was unfunny. Rather, the intimate, leaning forward on your seat type atmosphere that suits McLachlan’s light, quick witted comedy is missing in this dark, spacious room. Even Rose Callaghan’s aggressive party-loving seems out of place, despite the venue’s history of debauchery. Angus Hodge’s affable persona, on the other hand, fits right in. The giggles that permeated the first two sets turn into bursts of laughter, and when Corey White takes the stage he knows just how to please the crowd. White’s style and content often lends itself to confrontational comedy, yet here he gauges the audience and opts for ‘honest’ rather than ‘guilt trip’.
By the time the second bracket starts, the audience are a few drinks in, have plates of dumplings, the comedians have their number and the large room fills with laughter. Lauren Bok is relieved. “I’d had a rash of bad gigs, my expectations were lowered, so when I got up there, whaddaya know, the audience chose to like me. No doubt because Kevin Lim is amazing and I rode that good vibe,” she says, having picked up on the subtle changes the other comics made to their sets.
“It’s like the way Corey was really good at getting a measure of the crowd,” Bok explains. “I took his lead and slowed down and tried to be as direct as possible when communicating my setups. I felt the love from the crowd – they wanted to hear me tell my little stories and I wanted to tell them.” The delivery needed to be big and slow, given the space and time: “These days, you can get geeky about comedy in the same way nerds do about pop culture,” Bok says, but this crowd is more laidback than that.
Nick Cody’s set is ideal for the setting and the crowd. He is a friendly, amicable, relatable Aussie bloke replete with a tinge of self deprecation in his humour. The laughter is warm and loud. Cody can’t help but mention his trip to entertain the troops in Afghanistan, but it’s setup relevant, and each of his stories pays off.
Post-public revelation of alcoholism and subsequent stint in rehab, Fiona O’Loughlin’s comedy has evolved. The gleefully blunt judgements of those around her remain, now coupled with admissions of her own shortcomings. O’Loughlin presents as a classic mischievous trickster, swishing about the stage giggling, an unashamed shit stirrer. With her in the foreground, the art at the back of the stage looks less like a forest and more like a bushfire. O’Loughlin’s set lasts for fifty minutes, though it feels like twenty.
Geoff Setty thinks the evening went pretty well. “It’s got potential to be a cornerstone of the Northcote scene,” he says, carefully stressing “potential”. “It’s a unique venue.” Mostly he’s just happy people came and enjoyed the show, and he’s hopeful that will continue, provided he can drum up some word of mouth. “Quality gets crowds, but so does publicity.”
The line ups he’s got booked will certainly help, as will the Roadshow sponsored DVD giveaways. “Next time we’ve got an international headliner. I can’t say who, it’s a secret! For further down the line, I’m talking to the Nelson twins, Lawrence Mooney. I want to be all killer, no filler.” Setty laughs. He can say that David Quirk is MC’ing, and that the line up includes Chimp Cop, Vic Healy, Simon Cumming, Kit Richards and Nick Quon.
All the acts are carefully chosen, Setty says, as “the evening should have a variety of voices. The plan is to have at least one sketch act to help break the evening up a little more.” Setty has a lot of things in the works for comedy at 24 Moons. “It’s such a huge compliment, really. The biggest, even, to have comedians like Fiona and Nick say ‘we will play your room’.”
Comedy at 24 Moons starts at 5:30pm every Sunday from February 1st. Tickets are $10. 24 Moons is now located at 2 Arthurton Road, Northcote. For more information visit their Facebook page.
Geoff Setty tweets too, and is one third of “Three States of Comedy” at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.