Review by Tessa Stickland
Cool Show Sixty-Nine is a tight show by sketch comedy group Bits Akimbo, composed of performer/writers Katie Currie, Max Paton, and Douglas Rintoul.
I had a blast. The three of them are wonderfully in sync and it’s a joy to see.
If you enjoy the likes of Aunty Donna, you’ll like Cool Show Sixty-Nine. I hesitate slightly to draw the comparison, because I don’t want to imply that they’re copy-cating. But they’re a group of three physical sketch comedians doing absurd, slightly dark comedy, with a bit of music and dance.
I think half of it is just that Aunty Donna is my reference point for this style of Australian/Melbournian sketch comedy.
I’d also say if you like Hot Department you’ll probably like this show, albeit less raunchy (though not devoid of raunch! Hot Department are just extremely raunchy). Bits Akimbo have that cooked edge, but coated in smiles. You never know if a sketch is going to end up a bit fucked or a bit silly. But either outcome is great.
Cool Show Sixty-Nine doesn’t couch itself in with any particular structure or framing device, which I think is a good move. It allows the sketches to speak for themselves without the pretence of connective tissue.
Transitions between sketches are smooth, occasionally making a bit out of one of the performers moving a prop from the previous scene, while also being a scene-setting character only on stage for a few seconds.
They also have audio recordings to fill the space while they’re prepping for the next sketch. There's a recurring audio sketch that’s an old-timey radio porno station. Each time it reappears it’s heightened the right amount to keep the laughs coming and have the audience excited to hear it again.
Currie, Paton, and Rintoul are great supports to each other as performers. No one steals focus. They’re there for the sake of the joke, not to be the star — which in turn makes them all shine.
The three of them also share out archetypes and caricatures, not seeming to typecast any of them as the straight man or wacky one. They’re well rounded performers, so they don’t need to — but I also think it’s a useful tool to keep the audience on their feet. If you typecast your performers then the audience starts to work out that pattern and isn’t surprised. (Unless of course you specifically do that in order to subvert expectations, but I don’t think that’s suited to this style of quick absurd comedy.)
Bits Akimbo are proficient physical comedians, with lots of their sketches being big and loud. But they’re also adept at subtlety. There were a few understated eyebrow raises from Rintoul that absolutely cracked me up — without totally pulling focus from the main action.
They pace their show well, balancing the full throttle, noisy sketches with slower and more wordy ones. No sketch feels like it’s in the wrong position. They all build on or work with the energy of the previous sketch.
The final sketch does the classic thing I love with sketch comedy, where they create false tension between the characterised versions of the performers. It injects that little bit of narrative to help the show wrap up in a satisfying way.
Some shows will weave this tension slowly all the way through, which can have great effect — but I’m glad they didn’t here, because it just wasn’t necessary. They rightly have enough faith in their jokes to let them be.
Go see this show if you’re looking for cup based puns, matching outfits, singing shoe salesmen, sexy baristas, or a good time.