Review By Regan Baker
We’re four days into the Anywhere Theatre Festival here in Brisbane and things are starting to heat up as production after production take to stages literally anywhere across our great city.
The beauty of this festival is that it gives both existing, and brand new artists alike an opportunity to showcase their work in venues suitable to their theme, budget and capacity. Tonight, it was the Elements Collective in Fortitude Valley calling my name to see the Big Boiz of Brisbane Comedy showcase. Big in both name and in actual size, the Big Boiz are made up of local Brisbane comedians, Chris Martin, MJ Wong and Nick Carr.
I’m going to have to be completely honest up front and admit that this is going to be a challenging review to write because it was truly a tough performance to sit through. There were certainly some really great jokes and standout moments in each of the artists individual performances, but the framework that stitched the show together was awkward, clunky and overall created a really unsettling environment. The overarching theme of the night was centred around the idea that “comedy kills COVID” and the boiz were just doing their part to try and help rid the world of ole’ ‘rona. In theory – not a bad concept! Comedy kills COVID; I could get behind that. But the execution through a poorly put together PowerPoint and props from the local $2 shop was a bit of a hard pill to swallow.
In defence of all three artists, delivering stand-up in front of just nineteen people is a tough ask, especially when the vast majority of your routine is topical and requires some shared knowledge or interest. In a larger crowd you could easily tell a joke about Oprah’s Interview with the former royals and a handful of people are going to get it, and laugh, and by association the people around them will laugh also. In a crowd where no one had seen the interview however, it just falls completely flat.
In his own right, Chris Martin is a very talented comedian and one that I had the pleasure of seeing during his 2019 Anywhere Theatre Festival show Chris Martin: Claw Machine. Upon reflection of that review I wondered where things went wrong tonight and in my opinion, Martin went away from what he was good at – telling personal stories. The setup of ‘comedy kills COVID’ and the awkward start to the whole evening really didn’t help Martin get into a rhythm that allowed him to dominate the small room. For the most part, Martin’s jokes were actually quite smartly written, but their execution just didn’t land as well as what they could have, or in fact have done in the past.
In stark comparison, MJ Wong, the only of the three comedians I had not heard of previously, was a light-hearted and engaging performer who delivered simple, but effective, self-reflective humour. And while the majority of his jokes were charged back at his Asian background the humour was not overly offensive and with the small, yet diverse crowd in attendance his jokes brought a great level of energy to the room. His routine wasn’t without its’ flaws, but his name is one I will be keeping an eye on in the future as he certainly has a future in comedy.
After another brutally awkward Coronavirus-related transition, it was up to Nick Carr to close out the evening, but unfortunately tonight was simply just not his night either. Similar to my thoughts on Martin, I don’t think for a second that Carr isn’t a good comedian – his routine just wasn’t suited to the small audience that attended this evenings performance. The thought and humorous elements of each joke were evident and for the most part his delivery wasn’t that bad, but joke after joke unfortunately just fell a fraction short of the mark. It also didn’t help that Carr recognised very early in the set that this crowd was not his target demographic and that added pressure made it even harder for him to recover his momentum.
I genuinely want to see all three of these comedians continue to perform their craft as they all have immense potential and a real knack for recognising comedy in every-day life. The show collapsed primarily due to the awkward story they tried to weave between each of their sets, but my biggest question is - why? Most comedy galas don’t have an overarching story, so just focus on what you’re good at – telling jokes!
A tough night for all, but I am looking forward to seeing each of you perform again in the (hopefully) near future and having my opinion completely changed!