Monday, 11 April 2011

The Bedroom Philosopher: Wit-Bix

Some 10 days after it started, I finally got to see a Melbourne International Comedy Festival show at the weekend. My plans for another month of dawn to dusk comedy coverage were scuppered by the unexpected and distinctly unpleasant arrival of a $2000 bill from the Australian Taxation Office. Apologies to impoverished comedians and under-attended shows everywhere; blame ‘The Man’.

Fittingly my first 2011 show was Wit-Bix by the Bedroom Philosopher, the person responsible for my favourite MICF moment last year: Songs from the 86 Tram. Whilst that was a poignant snapshot of Melbourne society, brought to life through clever songs and artfully observed characters, Wit-Bix is akin to watching the accompanying bloopers on DVD. If 86 Tram was Smoke, here is its Blue in The Face.

Loose and shambolic where 86 Tram was carefully structured and multi-layered; Wit-Bix has no narrative, no over-riding theme, and regularly makes no sense at all. There are still funny and lovely little songs – including a couple of numbers ably backed by his Awkwardstra – but they have little in common beyond displaying the Philosopher’s knack for musical diversity. If any of this sounds like a bad thing, please be assured that it is not. The change of pace and format reveals a whole lot more about Justin Heazlewood (the man behind the specs) than Songs from the 86 Tram allowed for. Some is a little predictable – mini-rants about bogans and jokes-by-numbers comedians offer nothing new – but the rest is a series of left and right turns, each highlighting a different angle of the Philosopher’s comedy philosophy.

Long term fans of Lime Champions might have expected the cute, semi-tragic interplay between two laptops with male and female Stephen Hawking voices or the big band-esque number about getting a new hairdresser. I suspect they might not have anticipated the creative use of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game and a tray of kitty litter that is worth the entrance fee alone.

It’s fair to say that a few in the audience found the diversity a bit much. A painfully honest stab at addressing guilty feelings about indigenous Australians was clearly a bit serious for some of the Saturday night crowd who seemed curiously more at ease watching their host almost impale himself on a snare drum when some showing off seemed to go horribly wrong. It’s a sign of the random nature of the night when it’s unclear whether that was some Jackass / Jacques Tati slapstick or just our host being a bit enthusiastic and un-co.

There’s no doubt that ‘Beddy Phil’ (his new P-Diddy-esque street moniker) trades on being an awkward margin-dweller and Wit-Bix certainly highlights the pros and cons of that approach. He may never get to write 'as seen on Good News Week and Spicks n Specks' on his posters, but for those of who see that as a good thing he will always be compulsive viewing.

The Bedroom Philosopher’s Wit-Bix is on at the Melbourne Trades Hall, Corner of Lygon and Victoria Sreets, Carlton until 24 April 2011. Times Tues-Sat 9.30pm, Sun 8.30pm.