Ha Fucking Ha: Dylan Moran, Lawrence Leung, Andrew McClelland
(Aside: At the Festival Club on Saturday night, saw the sharp-like-spring-morning-air Kitson as MC - he's a very funny fellow. I've got a feeling he's sold out for the rest of eternity though. He introduced Michael Chamberlin who was very competent though not hilarious, and Demetri Martin who was good. I was a little turned off by the deadpan American accent, however. Everything's funnier in British. It's possible I'm a bigot.)
Tuesday night, Dylan Moran (from the frequently hilarious Black Books) at Hamer Hall. Big venue, sold out. So what did all those people get?
Well, he was pretty funny, but not side-splitting. Last show of a gruelling tour? Possibly. But it wasn't so much his solid delivery and timing, or his appealing rumpled persona, but the material itself. A lot of it seemed to be worked up during the tour; quite a few Oz and NZ specific gags which would paradoxically probably be funnier back in the UK. Amy (who's a fan of his old stuff) said that the jokes just weren't as good as the bits on DVD - one time he started one she knew, but slipped off into less funny territory.
Still, quite pleasant. A large part of the crowd seemed determined to laugh no matter what; a lady near us started cacking herself as soon as he walked on stage and barely stopped throughout. But anyway, he's not on any more so it's all moot.
For about half the price, much funnier was Lawrence Leung last night. You really should see him. Lawrence is a good performer, but a great writer - the show has a really good true narrative structure about his life's journey through puzzles. The segues between bits are seamless, with none of those jarring, stretched transitions that are so common. Add the faultless production and it makes for an easy watching experience.
So he draws you comfortably into his endearingly geeky world of puzzles, with the promise of solving a Rubik's cube (as shuffled by the audience, mind); but the puzzles are just the hook to get you into a more personal tale of love and relationships. There's plenty of gags and not too many flat spots - of course, not everything works, but the show moves quickly enough that if you miss one, there's another along in a minute. It helped that he had a responsive full house to play with, I guess. And there's a really nice sense of resolution at the end.
That's the best show I've seen so far.
Also last night, Andy McClelland, doing a show all about mix tapes. Andy's musical knowledge is obviously encyclopedic, and he's an enthusiastic, madcap, more-than-competent performer. But despite the subject being close to my heart, it didn't quite work for me. (Maybe because it's close to my heart, I had very high expectations.) Partly it was because of the room, a cavernous space at the bottom of Duckboard House, with a spot shining directly and uncomfortably into the performer's eyes, and the audience ringed around the stage. These combine to make it more impersonal than I'd like, especially when sitting, as we were, to the side of the stage. And it seemed an off night; a few empty seats, and a room full of drunk college kids made for a funny crowd vibe.
But these are most likely transient problems, and much of the show is good. Once again, it's a journey through his life with music merely as an excuse, though he cares deeply about it. My main concern is that non-music geeks, indeed, non-Melbourne music geeks, may miss much of it. A section on specifics of The Smiths may pass some by; a section on The Lucksmiths even more so. The safer gags are where he sticks to genres and feelings, like the hilarious hip-hop section, the bit about metal, or the "deep" monologue over Explosions in the Sky.
Certainly worth a look.