The Comedy Store in Moore Park’s Entertainment Quarter is one of those places that should revoke the smoking license – like the jazz clubs in London and New York, it has the vibe of a low-lit entertainment house, and is just crying out for a smoky atmosphere to complement the black-and-white pictures of comedians past and present.
Subby Valentine was our MC for the night, and you could see how at home he was on stage, building excellent rapport with the audience and delivering quick-witted jokes with an ironic raise of the eyebrow. He skimmed through some current affairs including the rivalry between NFL and Aussie Rules fans, and the politics surrounding boat people and immigrant visas.
Favourite Line: “Wow, you’ve got tremendous cleavage” to a girl in the front row, who to be fair, really should have invested in a more supportive bra.
Up first was John Cruckshank, and this guy’s stage presence was something else. A curly mess of hair was piled on top of his head, and he was sporting a most excellent knitted jumper (imagine the Christmas-style one’s your Nan used to make) covered in rabbits and turtles. This guy has a very endearing quality to him, and I liked how he admitted he was just spit-balling his jokes: “I’m not a Vengaboy but I like to party”.
He certainly brought us back to our youth when he started talking about Happy Healthy Harold, who was an educational initiative to deter kids from smoking or doing drugs. But as he rightly pointed out, ‘hey! That’s a talking giraffe – this is more like a preview into drug use!’
Favourite Line: “I went to Subway – I like to eat fresh. Let’s be honest, though – fish just doesn’t taste good unless it’s been dispensed with an ice cream scoop.”
Enter stage left a beer belly and pink shirt, topped with big hair – next up was Ray Badran. This guy just screamed Newtown – you know the type: looks like a Sydney Uni alumni who passed his time at the Uni bar making his mates laugh so much that they suggested he become a stand-up. And to his credit, he was pretty funny! “Indonesian boat people are being sent to Christmas Island, where every day is Christmas. That’s gotta be offensive to them – they’re Muslim! We should send them somewhere called Ramadan Reef!”
Favourite Line: “Comedy is like sex – you’re judged by the amount of noise you make, you’re only up for a few minutes, and once I’m done there are 2 more guys there to finish the job.”
Next was Umit Bali and considering the entertainment calibre of the two previous comedians and the MC, this guy should have stepped up his game; if this was his best, then he needs to take himself back to the drawing board and get some direction and an onstage identity. He found his own jokes hilarious, (someone had to I suppose, they weren’t very impressive at all – “Jesus would never pass a breath test…I’ve only been drinking water but I’ve got a condition!”) and frequently randomly stated “crazy shit” as a filler. He talked too quickly in an American accent (despite being from Sydney’s west), and his jokes fell flat on this reviewer. My Dad’s funnier, and he’s all about the dad jokes: that’s just not right!
The concluding act of the first half was Anthony Salame – my first thought was wow, this guy looks like a pizza deliverer (and funnily enough, he was one of the stars of Fat Pizza). A tall Lebanese guy with his cap backwards, gripping the microphone like Marky Mark – the funky bunch was his audience: this guy worked the stage like a pro, and has a gift for sound effects and impressions. He was so funny I forgot to write notes, but I did manage to retain his ultimate moral: that you should be able laugh off racism. See previous Trespass review of Salame’s stand-up.
Favourite Line: “I’m sick of shows like Bondi Vet and Bondi Rescue. What we need is Bondi Wog – it’s got romance – “Eeey, baybee, show us your teets!”, it’s got action – “Fully shick mate, I bust you up for your subwoofers”…”
After a quick interval, where we unscrewed our jaws from laughing so much and refreshed ourselves, we were back to business. And what an exciting second half it was to be…
Jacques Barrett was up first. He’s a good-looking, unassuming guy from Chinchilla Queensland, with a glint in his eye, set in his Will Ferrell-esque face. After querying why people use the word touché, he decided he wanted us to help him revolutionise the way people pronounce it – rather than touché, go with towsh. We’re Aussie, not French.
He provided us with some insight into his home life – his Dad is a massive homophobe, who said “someone spilt some gay on this!” when presented with a Christmas present a few years back – a dark tie with a hint of salmon pink in it. He went on to state that salmon is a gay colour. Why? Because salmon swim the wrong way up the river. You can’t doubt that type of logic.
Favourite Line: “Skinny girls covered in fake tan look like carrot-flavoured Chupa Chups.”
Last up was the headline act, Jon Dore. This is Dore’s first trip to Australia, and he is performing exclusively at the Comedy Store. The Ottawa-born comedian became a household name thanks to Canadian Idol, as the Grant Denyer (Australia’s Got Talent) or Ryan Seacrest (American Idol) equivalent, and is also famed for his television show which has been likened to The Sarah Silverman Show with balls.
He got up on stage, beer in hand, and proceeded to entertain us, intermittently pausing to burp into the microphone. At first I thought he was being boorish, but then I realised that he is just a funny guy who doesn’t give a crap, and isn’t going to submit to societal expectations and become someone he’s not just because he’s onstage. What a champ!
In the first few minutes of his stage act, where he strolled around the stage, trailing off after a while, then said, “What was I doing?…Oh, being hilarious!,” I decided that Mr Dore bore a strong resemblance to one of my all-time favourite men of humour, Kevin Kline – but the drunken version. And the man certainly can drink – two shots of Cointreau in absence of any Jaegermeister and several beers later, he noticed that I was scribbling down notes.
This was my rabbit-in-the-headlights moment.
He came over to me and asked what I was writing.
“Nothing,” says I.
Cue a tug-of-war between us before he snatched my notes off me and took them away. He looked at my scrawl and asked “Are you stealing people’s jokes?”
He kept reading. “Oh my God you’re reviewing the show aren’t you?!”
The audience went nuts. His face lit up. “Well let’s see what you wrote about the others…” A brief moment passed where he must have figured out that he couldn’t read my writing, but then he exclaimed: “Looks like a drunk Kevin Kline? Well these notes are no good, you’ll have to start again.”
And he ripped them up.
The crowd went nuts.
I was mortified.
He continued on his stage act, which was full of off-the-cuff audience banter and I was the main target. His pokerfaced delivery method, creativity and shrewd improvisation skills were second to none. Despite the varying degrees of embarrassment, I’ve never laughed so much in my life. Dore would intermittently look my way and say “write that down Nadia, he’s generous with audience members” or “he knows historical jokes too Nadia, write it down”. And to his credit, he’s certainly aware of global current affairs, and his gift of understanding allows him to undercut facts with a comedic salute: “The City Bus is the UN on wheels. We all pay same price no matter your race…and we’re ALL losers.”
Speaking about his newfound love for Oz, he said “I’d quite like to be invited back to Australia, but I may have just ruined my chance by ripping up Nadia’s notes…” He looked at me, and buttered me up with the ever-sleek line, “Say…Nadia, want a drink?” So at least I got a beer out of it.
He played guitar, he pretended to cry, he soliloquised about death and then punctuated it with a burp, and then threatened suicide because he realised he’d “stuffed up the entire show” by taking the wrong turn of ripping up my notes. This overly dramatic segment was awkwardly hilarious.
His end joke was a corker, and resulted in him taking off his shirt (which is always exciting), and where he would have gone off with a bang, he decided that after the punch line would be the best time to return my notes to me. Reflection ensued where he decided that he’d again dug himself into a hole, and was just going to leave stage quietly – no applause please. And as he backed off stage, he left us with an apologetic “I think we’ve all learned something here tonight.”
The guy is comedy genius.