Sunday, March 27, 2016


One of my many aims in Melbourne was to catch some acts at the International Comedy Festival. Last night I saw two… which I’d seen before at the Perth Fringe Festival. But I had my reasons to see them again.

The first was the Impromptunes, an ever-changing gang of bright-eyed, bubbling youngsters who improvise a new musical each night based on a title shouted out by the audience members, which means that every show is unique. Last night’s musical, requested by the strident middle-aged bottle blonde in the front row, was ‘God Goes to Centrelink’. No doubt she was one of the many sanctimonious atheists who thought that this would be a hoot, without stopping to consider that this might be in dubious taste on one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, or even that maybe there could be people of faith either in the audience or on the stage.

Fortunately the Impromptunes players seem to be trained to avoid controversy – I suspect it’s terribly easy to drift into politically incorrect spaces during improv – and so they chose to make “God” one the Greek Gods. Even so, it was interesting to note how some of the players dragged the narrative off in Christian-mocking directions, while others dragged it back into less bigoted waters. Overall, it stayed in a similar territory to Monty Python’s Life of Brian, so I didn’t feel the overwhelming need to put on my fundamentalist hat and burn them all as witches.

The second show was Juan Vesuvius, who did the same show in Melbourne as he did in Perth, but that’s okay because I adored it the first time around. This is the show that has him entering on skis in a pastel green snowsuit, then wandering around the stage in wide-eyed joy repeating the words, “Melbourne. Wow. Is beautiful” in different orders as he caresses the dusty fabric backdrop, strokes the cheap stackable chairs, and draws our attention to the elderly, discoloured smoke alarms and an exhaust fan.

Ostensibly Juan’s show is about the history of calypso music; the various cultures that combined to create it, the subgenres it’s spawned, and the nuanced art of the mashup. But more often than not it’s just a show about laughing at a man being haunted by a banana.

I love Juan. Everything single thing he does is hilarious, whether it be miming the interactions between a disdainful backing singer and a horny percussion player, going on a psychedelic chutney trip, or reciting pretentious beat poetry in an attempt to understand the power of jazz lyrics. He is without a doubt the world’s greatest Venezuelan comedy DJ.


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