As the eighth year of Just for Laughs Australia reaches its midpoint, its marquee events continually demonstrate why they are among the highlights of the season and the Sydney calendar. Coinciding perfectly with the Sydney Theatre Company’s annual Wharf Revue, a stunning mix of international acts (including the likes of Crazy Rich Asians star Ken Jeong and Reggie Watts) and home-grown talent (from young comic Becky Lucas to industry heavyweight Dave Hughes) make sure we end the year amused, not annoyed.
No more is this better on show than in Tommy Little’s Just for Laughs: Live event on Friday night. 7-minute sets, by 6 stand-out comedians, easily makes for a 5-star show filled with quick punches and unique styles.
As the master of ceremonies holding a comedy gala together as best one can, Tommy Little’s ability to interact with the crowd throughout the evening was unmatched; from his best (but still not great) attempt at emulating a New Zealand accent, to taking aim at any individuals who had the misfortune of looking like a couple (which seems to be a source for an endless supply of material), it’s a shame he doesn’t have his own show this season.
From Little’s introduction onwards, the show immediately makes its mark. Opening act Becky Lucas brings a typically Millennial-Australian-female perspective on old people, social media and feminism that is sure to hit home with men and women around her age. The material itself may not be groundbreaking (bar a verbal journey into a world where ejaculation makes the ejaculator pregnant, much to the ire of pubescent teenage boys), but the evening gets off to a good start nonetheless. Follow that with Canadian comic Ivan Decker’s musings on juicers and the metric system, neither of which anyone Australian, under 40, and worth talking to fully understands, and the event powers on.
Music always lends itself well to comedy and Sammy J deserves special mention for not only his incredible craftsmanship of three original songs ‘I’m Un-Australian’, ‘A Conversation With My Uber Driver from Last Thursday’, and ‘Pink Clouds (I’ve Found a Dead Guy in the Park)’, but also his ability to blend the joys of hating sport and being a nerd into this mix. Undoubtedly a crowd favourite.
Unfortunately, the whole show loses steam as it nears its end. American Steve Bird enters the stage dressed in a suit – more often than not, a red flag in comedy. His jokes about sex fall flat as he struggles to work his way through (what appear to be) fail-safe one-liners about current news stories; entertaining yes, but likely too different to what we as an Australian audience are accustomed to. He saves grace in his Tommy Little-esque interactions with the audience, but doesn’t give a great crowd to the iconic Rove McManus, who tries to revitalise them with his discussions on being relatable and where on earth one to put an autograph on a baby with only moderate success. A regretful low point in what is otherwise a good hour of comedy.
Luckily, as with every good show, the best is saved for last. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, of Whose Line is it Anyway? fame, do what they do best – improvisational theatre. Their performance of a medical emergency in Germany, where two audience members control their every body movement, quickly became the evening’s crown jewel. Every impromptu joke hit its mark. Every audience-member-controlled movement was comedic. There was even something about the lighting that contributed to the set, even though it remained unchanged. Put simply, it was just plain funny. I’m not sure when (or if) I’ll see something this good, live, for a long time.
Ultimately, this key event in the Just for Laughs schedule is a much-needed remedy for what has been a long 2018.