Comedy, Festivals

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Cal Wilson, Anne Edmonds

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Cal Wilson’s Undercurrents Swiss Club until April 19:
Cal Wilson, let it be plainly said, is one of the nation’s better creative imports. We should be very grateful that she navigated the Tasman and brought with her cultural chattels of far higher worth than, say, Amanda Palmer, Leo Sayer or those dreadfully American talks from the hyper-cheery people at TED did.
Last year, Wilson’s Comedy Festival show was an intricate delight that showed us her foreign assets to best effect. This year, it seems, she has enjoyed a bit of a rest.
Wilson, who is both naturally funny and, at times, unnaturally attentive to her craft, brings forth this festival a beautifully written half-hour show. It’s just that these minutes have been elasticised into a full and sometimes baggy hour.
There are some marvellous instants from a performer whose persona, on this occasion, is a domestic larrikin. Her faulty parenting and partnering recall, and even occasionally exceed, the best moments from a peak-career Fiona O’Loughlin. If you are a parent of a five-year-old person and/or a person firmly embedded in the sexless trough of midlife, you should certainly see this show and you will certainly laugh. But, you will not likely laugh as regularly and as forcefully as you could or as you have in this woman’s creative company.
The empty moments in this show are filled with audience participation and it seems plain that Wilson is searching, fifty per cent of the time, for punchlines she has not yet found the time to write. This likely means that by the end of the festival, she’ll have composed a rattling good show but, for the moment, she’s shaking about sustained by her dependable charm, our uneven involvement and a handful of top-drawer jokes.
Again, to be very clear, these good jokes are very good and many, many times better than a TED talk. Go see her, if only to secure her as a local and to keep her coming back, perhaps next year, in full glory. 3.5 STARS
Anne Edmonds’ You Know What I’m Like!, Melbourne Town Hall until April 19
Life is filled with questions logic cannot address and these include “How can large numbers of people continue to think that climate science is myth?”, “Why does anyone let Pete Evans make public words with his mouth?” and “When is Anne Edmonds’ coronation as the Lizard King of Comedy?”. That queues for breakfast radio reptiles snake around the block while this woman sheds all of her skin in the true service of comedy makes no sense.
Anne Edmonds is really, truly talented and anyone who has seen her stand-up or cabaret shows should open their mouths or their Facebook accounts and let this truth be widely known. That they do not spread the word of her piss-funniness is curious. Edmonds has been offering exquisitely written and delivered characterisations of middle-Australia for some years and the only reason I can think of that these are not widely hailed as precious moments is that she gets the nation’s white aspirational class — particularly its women — so completely right.
Perhaps it’s hard for some of us to see ourselves accurately reflected.
When Edmonds takes the piss out of her social class, she does so with little optimism or cheer. She does not endorse, as a popular club comedian would, the Aussie Battler nor does she, as an artsy comedian would, urge us to despise them. She just shows them. Through a series of eerily precise impressions and stories of her own Battler mediocrity, we see a credible and cruel creature emerge.
There is an authentic desperation at the heart of Edmonds’ work. She is a sad but incorrigibly funny pessimist in the approximate style and register of, say, a golden-era Daniel Kiston or Richard Pryor.  I know. But, she is potentially that good. She is a legitimate Sad Clown which is rare for a lady and perhaps it is the feminine refusal to be Brave and Strong that has far delayed her moment.
Still. Anne is still having her own moment in all its uncompromised fearful weakness. She has never been better or darker or more resolutely funny. And even if kilometres of fans fail to form for her creepy and violent vignettes and palpable, hilarious loneliness, those of us who take a seat in this small room can say that some of life’s most terrible and perplexing questions have been partially addressed with the rare logic of very, very good comedy. 4.5 STARS

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