Rhino Room Late Show
A grand total of thirty-two comedians @ Rhino Room – Upstairs
In the last couple of years, I’ve started referring to the number of shows I’ve seen as “uniques”; that is, I only really count the title of a show once. That makes sense in a theatrical setting, where two performances are likely to only differ in minor ways, but in comedy line-up performances – like the ever-popular Rhino Room Late Show – night-to-night gigs vary wildly in content and quality; but I’m all in favour of simple rules, and I’m currently in a position where I’m writing about these performances long after the Festival Season has finished, so I’ll attempt to post some highlights from all Late Shows I attended under this one post.
11:00pm, Wed 20 Feb 2013
Mickey D hosted this Late Show and was bloody brilliant throughout. I never really got on with his comedy early on in my Fringe career, but in recent years I’ve found his localised laughs to be really enjoyable; maybe it’s a consequence of ageing, but even material that I found questionable in the past – like his ice jokes – make me guffaw like a happy loon now. First act of the night was Nick Capper, a Sydney comedian whose dry delivery and wonderfully quirky jokes launched him to the top of The Schedule. Alice Fraser and her banjo were next, with her Best Stalker in the Land song eliciting some laughter, and she was followed by the incomparably fast Lindsay Webb, who never fails to steamroll with coarse delight.
The girls from Titty Bar Ha Ha opened the second set, and failed to entice me with their mixture of crassness and song. But they were followed by Justine Rogers whose gorgeous looks contrasted mightily with her twisted filthy mind. Another break, before returning with Xavier Toby delivering a solid five minutes, followed by Alex Wasiel. Wasiel’s set – chock full of jokes from her legal background – fell flat on the crowd, but I thought her material was awesome – with a fresh and quirky delivery to-boot. Finally, Steve Hughes performed at least thirty minutes, and he continues to impress with his implicitly political material. He’s still an incredibly compelling character, and – despite whispers that this set wasn’t a patch on his jet-lagged efforts of the previous evening – I felt incredibly lucky to have caught him.
This Late Show had a profound affect on The Schedule – Nick Capper’s show was elevated to must-see status, the three girls of Aggressively Helpful (Fraser, Rogers, and Wasiel) all impressed enough to warrant that show getting a look-in, and Webb’s short stint (and Hughes’ much longer spot) left me happily satisfied with their work. In all, it was a cracking evening.
11:00pm, Thu 21 Feb 2013
The following night also saw me squeezing into a far more enthusiastic Rhino Room to see Jimmy McGhie take up hosting duties; he, like Mickey D the previous night, was incredibly good value, and one of the more friendly and good-natured hosts I’ve seen, dealing with an occasionally unruly crowd with ease whilst smoothly drifting into his own (quality!) material. First up this evening was Dan Willis – nope, he still hasn’t won me back yet, and has yet to indicate that he ever will. Dave Bloustien’s set was good fun, and Kevin Kropinyeri – whose (short-running) solo show had been on The Shortlist – impressed mightily as he discussed the dancing abilities of aboriginal women.
My Fringe buddy all but drop-kicked Imaan as he scooted up to the stage; he’s getting funnier every time I see him, and has an incredible stage presence. The Golden Phung’s pair of sketches didn’t really work in the room that evening, and when Nellie White appeared I feared that she would suffer a similar fate – her seemingly unsure, almost stuttery delivery worked like a charm in a small room with a small crowd, but surely it wouldn’t work in a room as boisterously packed as this? Wrong wrong wrong – she absolutely slayed the room, which was really pleasing to see.
The third set began with Joel Bryant storming the stage and positively leaping into super-high-energy political rants – and he was amazing, getting the boozy crowd laughing early and continuing the bluster until tears were streaming down many faces. Bryant delivered one of the most impressive spots I’ve ever seen at the Rhino Room (and cemented himself a spot on The Schedule), before Gordon Southern took us out with his usual evergreen energetic quips and soundboard-laden gags.
On the face of it, this Late Show pales in comparison to the previous evening’s lineup; Willis’ name alone guarantees that unwanted distinction. But Bryant’s incredible efforts, along with White’s surprising work and my first experience of Kropinyeri, probably gave this evening the edge.
11:00pm, Thu 14 Mar 2013
After a long absence, I returned to the Rhino Room for my final Late Show of the Fringe, lured by the promise of Jacques Barrett hosting. I’d have to rate Barrett as my favourite comedian at the moment – a perfect balance of cynicism, cutting observation, and self-denigration – and he quickly gets the audience onside by naming most of the front two rows – in particular the cheerful T-Bone. David Smiedt was first up, delivering some familiar jokes (I’d seen him at Darkness and Light the previous evening) that lost nothing in the repetition – especially the anti-camel-toe device material. David Quirk, on the other hand, didn’t fare as well with repeated jokes – and I haven’t seen him for a couple of years! And by the time Smart Casual took to the stage, the front rows were boozy enough that the heckles were coming thick and fast, interrupting their attempts to get into their songs… which they handled with great humour: “this is our first and final song,” Roger David eventually blurted out.
Harmon Leon opened the second set, and I’m not sure the room knew quite what to make of him; I still think he’s wackily wonderful, though. Tim FitzHigham’s style may have been the same, but his material was all-new, and good value, too… but then out came one of the Puppetry of the Penis boys. And this was the first time I’d ever seen any of the penis puppetry brigade, and his energetic routine left me feeling… well, inadequate. Dunno how that would stretch into an hour-long show, though.
Tommy Dassalo did enough at the start of the third set to guarantee himself a spot in The Schedule on the closing weekend, Pat Burtscher managed to confound and astound the audience with his seemingly rambling performance, and Carl Donnelly had some great stories and an affable style that may see me seeking out his work in later years.
In all, I spent nearly nine hours in Rhino Room Late Shows this year, and I’d have to say that – after summarising them all in one place like this – it feels like it was time well spent. Lots of new experiences, lots of new comics to chase down…