The Headliners showcase brings a rotating selection of comedians currently killing it in the US to Melbourne to give Australian audiences a chance to discover a new favourite and for the performers to build their fanbase so that they can potentially bring their own shows back in future years.
It’s always a mixed bag going into a show like this because, for the most part, you don’t know what you’re going to end up with, let alone how it’s all going to hang together as a whole show. In effect, it’s more like a better curated open mic night. This particular performance of Headliners featured John Hastings, Emmy Blotnick, Jo Firestone, and Joel Kim Booster.
John Hastings, who is also performing in his solo show Float like a Butterfly, John Hastings like a Bee at this year’s festival, opened the show with some fun and punchy audience banter and commentary on politics, urban smugness and racism. His set felt very familiar in tone and was delivered deftly, warming the audience up nicely.
Emily Blotnick, a writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, delved into material surrounding dating, self-esteem, and vacuum cleaners and found a great longer-form rhythm which favoured building towards a bigger laugh.
Jo Firestone, who writes for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and created the excellent card game ‘Punderdome’, favours a more awkward, but quick fire, style of comedy that captivated the audience before the catharsis of an extended audience participation bit.
Lastly, Joel Kim Booster hit the stage running and dived into tales of drugs, sex and European cruises. This is the second time Booster has performed in the Headliners showcase and he definitely seemed to be comfortable with the Melbourne audience.
The curse of a showcase like this is that 15 minutes never feels like enough for any of these performers, which is of course the point: Go see them when they come back with a full solo show. Especially John Hastings, who has one this year.
Other performers appearing in Headliners this year include Liza Treyger, Samantha Ruddy, Langston Kerman, Chris Redd, and Sam Jay.
Headliners is on at Max Watt’s until 21 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available from the comedy festival website or the box office.