Thursday, 16 April 2009

Rob Hunter's Moosecow, Portland Hotel

I’m not sure why, but until I moved to Melbourne I don’t think I actually understood what the Melbourne Comedy Festival was (despite the obvious clues in the title). Perhaps it was the NSW Tourism Board putting something in my lemonade to convince me it was all a bit crap and mostly involved watching Wil Anderson, Dave Hughes, Judith Lucy and that bloke off Spicks and Specks that everyone loves. Apart from me.

Up until this year my Melbourne Comedy Festival basically involved me sitting in Sydney waiting for Daniel Kitson to play (what I now realise to be) sideshows and tell us all about how much more of a nice time he had in Melbourne than in Sydney.

So, much like Morrissey recently discovering sex for the first time, I’m all wide-eyed and excited about what’s going on right now in these very streets. It was quite exciting standing outside the Town Hall on Thursday in front of a menu of acts on a blackboard and wondering what to take in. I even quite liked the spruikers and pamphleteers, one of whom was dressed like a bee, all trying to tell me that I’d have a lovely evening in their company. I felt quite wanted.

We plumped for a show by Adelaide comedian
Rob Hunter, of whom we knew nothing apart from his show was called Moosecow and his flyer had a nice Daniel Clowes- style picture of him dressed as said made-up beast. This stood up well compared to other flyers with pictures of people smiling inanely, looking grumpy or the legions of “if you liked Flight of the Conchords then you’ll love this” musical comedy acts.

The show was in a very small dark room in the Portland Hotel which immediately made us feel claustrophobic and a bit scared. We needn’t have worried as Rob and his friend ‘Joel’ (not his real name) were charming hosts, with Rob as awkward and self-conscious as ‘Joel’ was energised and manic.

This was an enjoyable hour, made up of lots of clever and nicely silly ideas, all backed up by non- sequitur set pieces and clever use of recorded sound and props. There was a gentle and homemade feel about the show with both performers using the third person and imaginary characters to insult each other and poke fun at the audience without ever crossing a line into nasty.

That said, I’d be lying if I told you everyone was laughing out loud the whole time. This wasn’t (as they kept insisting) because we were all confused but was more a question of delivery and pacing. Once it was established that this was a theatrical show and not just straight stand-up (reinforced by Rob’s admission that everything he said in the show was a lie) it became clear that only one of the cast (‘Joel’) was a strong enough actor to raise the energy levels and make us all believe this was something more than a couple of blokes with some funny thoughts. Rob’s slightly forced and awkward presentation (whether deliberate or just nerves) meant that some good ideas - and opportunities to explore them further - were rushed and a little lost.

This said, laughing out loud is not a prerequisite for me to enjoy comedy; sometimes I just enjoy being in someone’s company for a while and listening to their thoughts. This was one of those situations. Moosecow looks like the start of something that will end up a whole lot funnier and, if they get the balance right, perhaps more of a double act. It’ll be interesting to see what beast it mutates into next.

Moosecow is showing from 7pm throughout the Melbourne Comedy Festival at the Portland Hotel, Corner of Russell and Little Collins Streets, Melbourne.

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