I expect lots of Troppodillians will know of Stewart Lee – the guy in the video above – given how good I reckon he is, but I’d never heard of him until, at the beginning of the Easter weekend YouTube noticed I’d been checking comedians out to decide who to see at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and served him up.
Pity he’s not out here for the comedy festival. Anyway I’ve had fun at it so far. Have seen the Doug Anthony Allstars again after a few decades. I remember flying up to Canberra from Melbourne and being met by my friend Clive at the airport who said that we were going back to his place via Civic as there was this crazy trio of buskers. The Dougies were such ridiculously exuberant fun. One thing I recall was that it was the first time I’d heard the word ‘hippy’ used as a term of abuse by a cool person. An intergenerational shift in sensibilities was underway. Anyway three decades on, things have changed more than we might have thought they would: The multiply sclerotic Tim Fergusson with his old partner, Paul McDermot and, in place of ‘the bland one’ Richard Fiedler on guitar’ Paul Livingstone (AKA Flacco) as the oppressed sidekick referred to only as “the guitarist” gave us a great blast, mostly from the past, except for Tim Fergusson taunting the audience with tick-tock. I’m just 20 years ahead of the decline of those of my age. So best of luck with that one guys. Tick-fucking-tock.
I then saw Judith Lucy. I’ve always found her always on heavy sarcasm fairly off-putting, but I liked her 6 part show on the ABC: Judith Lucy is all Woman. I was going to say what a great speech she gives to the girls in her old Catholic school in Episode six. Well I guess technically I have now said that, but the idea was to link to the program, which was funded by your ABC but which has nevertheless spirited the episode away from its iView platform in the blink of a two week season. Anyway, she was very accomplished. Spent the first ten minutes in the audience in what might be called structured ad libbing. That is she was presumably working to a rough script, but it was very funny – someone doing something they enjoy, that they’re good at and that they’ve acquired great experience at. I’m also told that Comedy Festival audiences are much better – more in for a good time with less heckling etc – than other audiences. It sounds clichéd but she seems to have mellowed. One of the things that shone out from her TV show was that for all the sarcasm, she seems like a nice person. My one disappointment is that she’s sufficiently accomplished that I thought she should have been more ambitious. What we got was just a much better version (I’m guessing) of all the stand-up shows she would have started her career with. It was entertaining, but not really, in the end enthralling. I reckon she’s got the talent to be as good as Stewart Lee, but to do that you have to work at your voice, not that of your peer group.
And as if to answer this thought I saw a Tim Fergusson Tweet on Friday on Alice Fraser, checked out a video. Now my pet hate in comedy is formulaic comedy. Now in one sense I guess most comedy is formulaic. It’s not hard to deduce from the Dougies or Stewart Lee a formula they follow – but that’s a skeleton for a genuine sense of humour to emerge – and the presentation of some unique, interesting, entertaining sensibility. The formula I hate is the simple pressing of tribal buttons with the presumption being that the audience is in one’s tribe whether it be an ideological or peer group one. Anyway, I liked the non-coolness of reading from an iPad. And the content was interesting. I figured I’d see how she’d progressed since 2012. The performance was in a small room in the Hotel Mercure and so was very intimate. It was an extended meditation on what she wanted the show to be, and how it couldn’t be, as circumstances intervened. Not a great show, but then she was working away at something, which is much better to observe than someone playing it safe.