Friday, 30 July 2010

Substance over Style

Melbourne has many fine venues for live music but it's fair to say the Festival Hall is not one of them. An ugly rectangular brick-concrete warehouse with a stage plonked in the middle of one of its overlong sides, it offers restricted views for anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck far away in the banks of seats on either flank. Alternatively, you might get lucky like we did and spend an evening sharing the floor with twice as many people as should be allowed, many of them kindly smoking in your face and spilling drinks over you as they push their way backwards and forwards from the bars. Nice.

Good job then that both LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip had the goodies to make us forget that we don't have tickets for Splendour in the Grass in balmy Queensland. This may be a shitty bunker in wintry Melbourne that would make a better abattoir than a concert venue but it doesn't mean we can't have a dance.

First up is the Chip who rise above the unimpressive sound quality to get everyone excited. In an hour's set clearly designed for summer festivals they play spruced up versions of all their hits (Shake a Fist is the only notable exception) including a magnificent Ready for the Floor and a slow building Boy From School. The best is the title track from their latest album One Life Stand which, whilst not quite as good as this version they did with The Roots, is still a bit of class.

Other highlights of the night include a large fish-eye lens video image of a missing member of the group singing backing vocals; some of the best dance-like-nobody's-watching-even-if-everyone-is moves by a keyboard player in classic Yacht Rock attire; several episodes of Beta Band-like swapping of instruments; and the world's slowest and most unerotic striptease by singer Alexis Taylor who peeled off layer after layer of unattractive eighties leisure garments, ending with a shapeless baggy t-shirt and a baseball cap that had clearly been attacked by a bedazzler. Should this sound in anyway like a bad thing, I assure you it wasn't.

If Hot Chip are unlikely pop stars it's no wonder LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy wanted to tour with them. Neither band are likely to attract much mainstream attention during their stay in Australia which really is how it should be. Regardless, Murphy is a consummate star. His David Byrne/Black Francis voice is the perfectly imperfect accompaniment to the sublime noise his band can conjure up and much of the time it is nothing less than hypnotic.

2007's Sound of Silver is one of my favourite albums of all time so songs like Get Innocuous, Time to Get Away and All My Friends were always going to be amongst my highlights. Still this is to understate just how incredible these songs are live - akin to watching A Certain Ratio and Can onstage with Dig Your Own Hole era Chemical Brothers. Equally impressive are Losing my Edge and Yeah, the latter's title repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated relentlessly until everyone in the room submits. It was towards the end of this particular song that a young lad in a wheelchair was hoisted high into the air above his friends' heads in a feat of human kindness and endeavour which almost made up for the terrible beer farts that someone kept unleashing on the crowded dance floor, but not quite.

As I said in one of my very first posts on Mint Custard, I was a latecomer to LCD Soundsystem - blissfully ignorant of their significant pleasures until stumbling across them by accident at a Big Day Out. I'm glad I've had the chance to make up for lost time, especially as this is supposed to be their last year as a group before Murphy calls it quits. Despite assuring the crowd that they'd be back in Australia within a year it already seems a tragedy that music this good might never get played live again. For those who haven't experienced it, it's not too late for beginnings...

Friday, 23 July 2010

Metaphysical Graffiti

For those who've never been Melbourne is quite famous for its street art, with many blog sites, webpages, books and documentaries made about the paint, stencils and paper transfers that cover the city. Graffiti is so accepted as part of Melbourne life that even the government got a bit upset when the council painted over a painted over a Banksy original by mistake.

Tagging aside I'm all for a bit of brightening up the place, especially when it's as lovely and colour-coordinated as this bit of wanton destruction on a North Melbourne train platform.

I like it all the more for the rounded corners of the stickers. Bravo you sweet and tender hooligans...

"It says green for go, for the people in the know...

but for the others all it says is red for stop... ah ah ah..."

Monday, 19 July 2010

Philosophisation across the Nation

Good news for anyone who couldn’t get to Melbourne during the Comedy Festival this year – one of the best acts in this particular town is coming to a venue near you. Possibly. The Bedroom Philosopher’s Songs from the 86 Tram was one of my highlights at this year’s MICF (see my gushing review here) and with an album of the show’s songs now on record store shelves he’s off touring it around Australia.

The Philosopher’s potent blend of comedy and music has nice habit of going viral amongst You-Tubists and you can see why from clips like this one for Northcote (So Hungover)

You enjoy that? Good. I told you so. Now go see him. Gigs and venues are as follows:


  • 12: Jive Bar, Adelaide (SA) 8pm
  • 13: Hotel New York, Launceston (TAS) 8pm
  • 14: Brisbane Hotel, Hobart 3pm all ages and 8pm (TAS)
  • 15: Burnie Arts Theatre (TAS) 3pm
  • 18: ANU Bar, Canberra (ACT)
  • 19: Harpe Hotel, Wollongong (NSW)
  • 20: The Factory, Sydney (all ages) (NSW)
  • 21: The Northern Star, Newcastle (NSW)
  • 22: The Brass Monkey, Cronulla (NSW)
  • 25: Indi Bar, Scarborough (WA)
  • 26: Prince Of Wales, Bunbury (WA)
  • 27: Rocket Room, Northbridge (WA)
  • 28: The Troubadour, Brisbane (QLD)
  • 29: Old Museum, Brisbane (all ages 12:30pm) (QLD)
  • 29: Great Northern, Byron Bay (NSW)


  • 1: Karova Lounge, Ballarat (VIC)
  • 2: National Hotel, Geelong (VIC)
  • 3: The Palais, Hepburn Springs (VIC)
  • 4: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (VIC)
  • 5: Spanish Club, Melbourne (all ages 12:30pm) (VIC)
  • 5: Northcote Social Club, Melbourne (VIC)

Tickets for all shows are between $10 and $20 and are available from Support comes from a range of players including Pinky Beecroft and the White Russians, Cookie Baker, the Stoics, Agent Fontaine, the New Saxons, the Boat People, Gilroy and the Cold Shoulders, Stereo Flower, Steve Grady, Go Go Sapien and Stonefield. See the Bedroom Philosopher’s own website for more details on exactly who is playing where and when…

Fifty / Fifty

In 2008 I wrote this clumsy but well intentioned piece about my love for American comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, citing them as two of the best SNAPS! to the dated and so-obviously-incorrect-why-do-we-persist-with-it argument about women being as funny as men. I then went on to list a few of my favourite female comedians in an extra effort to prove that which should be bleedin’ obvious.

I say should because this article in the Guardian today about the lack of women on UK comedy panel shows - and in particular the reader comments below - reveals that this is still an issue that many people still doesn’t quite have a grip of. It’s fascinating that so many posters, including a number of women, are happy with the conclusion that men are just funnier than women.

I should be clear what I’m unhappy with here. The Guardian article itself is predominantly about the gender imbalance on weekly panel shows such as QI, Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You and 8 out of 10 Cats. It’s the commenters below who try to explain this as being about relative female unfunniness and it’s that idea I have an issue with.

Firstly the article is right to point out this is a numbers game, and one that is stacked up against the ladies. With one woman and three men making up the average panel then even if airtime is evenly distributed it’s likely that less than 25% of the good jokes will be from a woman, given there’s usually a male host. Secondly, whether the shows admit it or not, there is an element of tokenism about a lone female guest (and even then not all the time). Being the only anything means you carry a little representation expectation. Some comedians might like that idea, but when you’re ‘representing’ half the population it’s a heavy weight of expectation to shoulder.

It’s also worth remembering that any woman on a show with four guys is a de facto male environment. No matter if it is the BBC or if all the men are the SNAG-iest metrosexually of co-panellists, the numbers dictate that the agenda will be mostly male. Again, perhaps some women might enjoy and thrive in that environment but I’d assume that a more even playing field would bring out the comedy best in most people.

I reckon even if you put Joan Rivers on a panel show with four of the unfunniest male comedians on the planet she’d still have to adapt her material to suit the room – something that doesn’t play to everyone’s strengths. Similarly you asked Amy Sedaris to host a show and invited say, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Horgan and Lauren Laverne as three of the four panellists, any male comedian making up that fourth spot would find themselves struggling to keep up.

This is not to suggest I think there is a huge difference between male and female humour or what men and women find funny, because I don’t think that’s true either. It’s just that a room with 99% women is different to a room with 99% men and people of either gender will feel more comfortable in front of one than the other. Again, just a supposition, but I suspect comedians who feel more comfortable are likely to be better at being funny.

The inspiration for the Guardian’s article was actually another overseas news story; the outcry in the US media about the appointment of Olivia Munn as a reporter on Comedy Channel’s the Daily Show. The criticism seems mainly to stem from a view that Munn has been employed more for her looks than her capacity to be funny. The interesting angle here is that the worst of the venom emanated from an online women’s magazine (“Jezebel – Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women”) which thinks the Daily Show is sexist because Munn is only the second female reporter hired in the past decade.

Aside from the fact that the female staff of TDS responded as one in an open letter to the media to deny any sexism on the show, it’s a little condescending – sexist even - to suggest that a woman good enough to score a job on what is probably the smartest, wittiest show of its kind anywhere in the world only managed it because she’s ‘attractive’. The implication goes beyond an attack on the Daily Show. It says that there is an acceptable look for female comedians and that Munn does not fit it. Quite who does fit is not clear, but it’s nice to see Jezebel (“Celebrity! Sex! Fashion for Women!”) doing great things for the esteem of young female comedians everywhere.

Since 2008 I’ve ummed and ahhed about my own post about Tina and Amy and other female comics. Partly because there are so many great comedians I didn’t mention and I want to go back and add them in, but also because highlighting women comedians detracts slightly from the most important fact - that they are funny – and perpetuates the idea that this is in some way unusual.

So until today I saw my post as a bit of misguided fluff that grew from wanting to talk giddily about funny people I like (and some of which I have big crushes on). Perhaps it still is pointless fluff, but thanks Jezebel and certain Guardian readers for showing that there are still idiots in the world who need reminding that funny is funny and it really doesn’t matter what shape your genitals are as to whether you can make people laugh (although obviously if you have a cock shaped like a root vegetable, that’s definitely funny …)

Monday, 12 July 2010

The End of the World

Put away your vuvuzelas, stop all the clocks. The World Cup is over for four more years and real life must return. No more watching games at 4am under the doona before work, no more talk of teutonic free-flowing attack or English stutterings with Ali, the Iranian barista who has provided me with enough caffeine to help me cope with the rigours of early morning upon early morning.

I'll spare you any of my unoriginal and uninformed thoughts about the on-field action but if its OK with you I'd like to take a moment to mourn the passing of a weird and wonderful month spent watching Africa's first World Cup from wintry AFL-loving Melbourne with some off-field highlights.

A deflated orange balloon in a drain, yesterday. Aw bless.

The inability of the local press to set aside their obsession with AFL for just one month will remain with me for years to come. I'm not suggesting that Victorians should have ignored their number one pastime completely but I think that a sporting event of the magnitude of the World Cup merited better support than it was given in local rags.

Despite initially getting into the spirit with a daily eight-page pullout, the Age dropped that idea like Robert Green with a jabulani as soon as Australia departed the tournament. I'm conscious that had I been in the UK this past month I'd be sick to the hind teeth of all things football, but reducing coverage of the world's second biggest sporting event to pages 7 and 8 of the sports pages, with half of the articles sourced from press agencies is perhaps a little disrespectful of those of us who do like football.

And yet in some ways this was a blessing. Not wishing to diss the professionals but some of the journalism was a tad inappropriate. Case in point, Fairfax journo Michael Cockerill who went on a campaign of self-aggrandisement via a public feud with Australia's Harry Kewell. Overpaid sportstars don't need too much of our pity but in a week where the Socceroos were at their very lowest (after a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany) I don't think we needed this kind of popinjay behaviour from people employed to send the spirit of the event back home.

Cockerill's colleague Michael Lynch carried himself rather better though even his contribution was tarnished somewhat by his coverage of Spain's victory in the final. Stories of fans marching along Madrid's Gran Via, crowd calling for Spanish match winner Andres Iniesta to be made presidente and the story of someone called Raul expressing his happiness "as passing cars honked their horns" somehow feel a little less authentic when you see "Michael Lynch, Johannesburg" in the by-line.

I suspect the Age's true feelings about the World Cup are better understood through their relentlessly negative coverage of Australia's proposed bid for the 2022 tournament. Focussing on funds paid to lobbyists, gifts offered to dignitaries' partners (as if this doesn't happen with every bid for a sporting touranment) and the idea that North Melbourne might have to play Richmond somewhere else for one weekend 12 years from now is the type of parochial behaviour that holds Australia back from being a true world player in football.

Praise be then for the true football mentalists over at SBS for their unrelenting support of what they like to call the World Game. Lest we forget the one true moment of Australian footballing insanity this world cup: an incident I like to think of as the Madness of King Foz. It's hard to imagine what was going through SBS Senior Football Analyst and former Socceroo Craig Foster's head when he made this rant against Australia's Dutch coach Pim Verbeek, ("I would have walked down after the game and sacked him...") but fuck it was funny. Sadly Foz never got quite so worked up again throughout the tournament, though it was very cute to see how nervous he and Les Murray were just prior to the Socceroos must win game against Serbia.

Ultimately though the South African World Cup will be remembered chez Custard for the daily antics of Santo Cilauro, Sam Pang and Ed Kavalee and their SBS show Cup Fever. The idea of a daily satirical look at the World Cup isn't a new one - it's sixteen years since Skinner and Baddiel's Fantasy Football League and ten since Australia shared the Dream with Roy and HG at the Sydney Olympics - but Cup Fever was a huge success none the less.

This was due in no small part to the three hosts who were an unexpected dream team. Kavalee in particluar was a revelation (I'd never heard of him before) and his giddy wide-eyed impersonation of New Zealand commentators (with Rob Sitch) and a gloriously camp recreation of German manager Joachim Low will live long in the memory. Other wonderfully naff impressions including Santo's Carlos Puyol by Santo and Sam's so-bad-it's-good Kim Jong-Il ensured that it wasn't just Ed's star that shone.

There was an unnecessary laddish element to the series (the teams's unofficial fourth member being a female Chilean fan in a tight zebra patterned singlet picked out of a South African crowd and shown as often as possible) and the show would have benefitted from more female guests (I counted two in a month) but otherwise Cup Fever was always fun to watch. Repetition makes anything funnier - even the lamest of gags, of which there were many - and the various cheap-as-chips segments (Brecia's Diary, Take on My Balls, the Rivaldo Award, Kids look at Cameras, Not Even Close) were always funny and short enough to never outstay their welcome.

It's possible Santo, Sam and Ed's Cup Fever will remain a fondly recalled memory of South Africa 2010 but I hope that TV execs around the country saw something in its style, pace, editing and just-give-it-a-go sense of fun to want to apply it (and the hosts) to something else. The refreshing lack of ego and self-importance from the hosts is something rare on Australian television, and all the better for being funny with it. Congrats to SBS and the Cup Fever team for a job well done.

And that's that. Four years to go til Brazil, when a humbled England will hopefully start with realistic expectations, a rejuvenated Australia will get past the second round and maybe people in the Australian media apart from SBS will treat this most unique of occasions with a little more respect.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Mr Kitson's Here and Now

Daniel Kitson once admitted that finding out details about his shows required you to keep one ear to the wind at all times. So for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his lovely rambling mail-outs and in the interests of saving your ears from possible tropical airborne infections and/or frostbite depending which hemisphere you’re in, here (in a circular and highly non-linear sense) is some of what young Danny Dan-Dan is up to this northern summer.

First up he and his good mate Gavin Osborn will be performing Stories for a Starlit Sky at the Latitude Festival in Southwold in Suffolk (15 - 18 July 2010). Whilst there is an official comedy stage at Latitude, they’ll be on at midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Waterfront Stage with a different story every night. They’re warming up with a preview at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, telling all three stories back to back (“with intervals between for wees and snacks”) this Sunday 11 July from 2pm and will be finished just in time for the World Cup Final. Tickets are a mere five squids and are available now through the Tobacco Factory website and box office.

Ever one with irons in fires and fingers in pies (especially fingers in pies) Daniel will then be gearing up for his new theatrical story It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later which he’ll be performing at the
Edinburgh Fringe at the toast-buttering and tea pouring time of 10am from the 10th to the 29th of August 2010.

Says Daniel of It’s Always Right Now…I wanted to put something amazing where you wouldn’t expect to find it. To take the first moments of the morning and fill them with something silly and sad and wonderful. Something audacious in its scope and scale. Something to make you laugh and cry and wonder before the world even knows you’re awake. Something to stuff your hearts full and send you out, into the day and into the world, wet eyed and open mouthed. This is a show about every single one of us, the past in our pockets, the future in our hearts and us, ourselves; very much stuck, trapped forever, in the tiny eternal moment between the two. And, it’ll all be over in time for lunch.” Lovely.

Edinburgh performances of It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later will take place at the Traverse Theatre but previews and works-in-progress of the show are already underway across the UK and will run through July. They include:

The Invisible Dot, Camden: July 7, 8, 12-14 at 10.30pm. Tickets are just £2 (though the shows “will literally be me reading out the stuff that I’ve written that day and talking through ideas for possible staging and plot development. There is every chance it could be exactly as good as that sounds.”)

The Hob, Forest Hill - July 10, 24-25, 31 and August 1 at 2pm. Tickets are £2, email Emma at the Hob via

Battersea Arts Centre - July 20- 23 at 6pm and July 27-30 at 10pm and July 31 at 11pm. Tickets available through the Arts Centre website and are ‘pay what you can’ (says Daniel “I would recommend paying £2 and certainly no more than a £5. The show should be, hopefully, pretty much in place by the second week, whereas I can make no such promises about the first week.”)

And if that’s not enough, to bring us back to the beginning Daniel will also deliver “quite messy previews of the show” whilst he’s at the Latitude Festival. See him on July 16th at 11am and the next day at 12.40 in the Theatre Arena.

So there you go you lucky European peoples and timely visitors. I suspect that’s more than enough Kitson for anyone’s Wellingtons and once again I greatly encourage you to go and fill your boots. For those reading jealously in Australia (me) Daniel’s acclaimed Edinburgh 2009 show The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church should be hitting these shores sometime later this year or early 2011. In the meantime, you can find more Kitson-related Custardy here.