Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow 2010Left - Dave Thornton

“Are there any seats left?” - was the hopeful question from a woman as I lined up to pick up tickets, such was the demand for the Canberra leg of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow (MICFR).  There was no room at the inn (aka Canberra Theatre),  but would the evening live up to the hype? Of the four acts and emcee there were enough laughs to feed the hungry crowd, but some courses were tastier than others.

For more than just a few years, a handful of the hundreds of acts from the MICF make the trek around Australia to share the jokes around. The standard format is four acts with a comic emcee to stir the pot and heat up the audience welcome. This year the mix was both Aussie and international - all of them were polished but some lacked genuine enthusiasm. Whenever out-of-town comedians perform in Canberra they frequently fall into the Canberra stereotyping that so many national television shows do to gang up on the capital - boring public servant jokes and how we’re to blame for tax hikes. But yes, finally, emcee Dave Thornton got a laugh out of the locals for his interpretation of our nation’s capital's ‘purposeful’ design and how it has more statues than a Rodin exposé. He found the balance between cocky and quirky, and was quick with improvised comments that got a load of laughs. Thornton is a naturally gifted spruiker, a ringleader able to get a laugh out of the toughest nuts to crack. I wouldn’t be surprised if his career follows a similar trajectory to Wil Anderson.

After warming up the full house, Thornton introduced Celia Pacquola, a sassy Aussie comedienne with a repertoire of quizzical ‘wonder’ jokes and clever insight into the world of small-breasted women (but not THAT much of an insight if you get what I mean!). Celia’s style is a bit like a girl’s night out on the town, where alcohol and a bold attitude can lead a lass into comedic chaos.

Dave Thornton returned, continuing his repartee with audience members and coaxing out some more giggles with his spontaneity - his warning of the show’s profanity content was especially clever. And then began the act of Asher Treleaven - imagine walking along the street and you see a man behaving oddly, with exaggerated movements, hat and 40s style suit - is he for real or taking the piss? For the first few minutes it felt like walking into the wrong room, or switching to a foreign television channel at 3am, but then the laughs tumbled out at his eye-enticing antics cruising about the stage, wielding his hands and body around like a wriggly worm as he described his past career as a mascot (guy in a funny suit that entertains children at malls). Treleaven switched gears from how to tame children, to interpreting passages from a Mills and Boon novel - huh? Yes it works, really. Treleaven projects his voice and gestures so powerfully - I swear a woman behind me must have busted a kidney she was laughing so hard, and then all too quickly it was over and he put the book away - now there’s some bedtime reading.

After an intermission it was time for Zoe Lyons from England whose style is sassy strong woman, but friendly enough to want to hear more. Her observations of saucy chef Nigella Lawson were clever, and overall Lyons satisfied with jokes but the act was more like a white bread sandwich comedy - a chuckle giggle, rather than my-sides-hurt-stop-stop-stop.

Ending up with a loud crash and bang was four-piece Irish comedy band Dead Cat Bounce (Mick Cullinan, Demian Fox, Shane O’Brien, and James Walmsley) who have also appeared at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Sydney Comedy Festival and are about to head home after a long touring season. There is no doubting their musical talent of drums, keyboard, guitars and harmonic singing; there was much toe-tapping indeed. The first song was definitely their best, weaving funny lyrics into tunes - after that, the music got too loud to understand the words and the audience interaction didn’t quite pop. Perhaps they’re looking forward to going home and that vibe came through.

Overall the evening delivered a feast of humour, ranging from chuckle-snacks to hearty laughter - the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow is a good night out, just don’t expect every act to suit your tastes.

Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow 2010

Venue: Canberra Theatre
Dates/Time: 8pm, Fri 14 – Sat 15 May, 2010
Duration: 140 minutes, inclusive of interval
Prices: Adult $39.90, Concession $36.90

Not suitable for children