Review: GC Laughs Festival Gala at HOTA, Gold Coast

Review By Regan Baker


2020 has been a pretty tough year so far. The whole country has been on fire, the Gold Coast and Brisbane have been flooding, Cyclones have been forming of the coast of QLD every other month, and now the Coronavirus pandemic is spreading around the world at an uncontrollable rate. On Friday, the Prime Minister announced that come Monday Australia is to ban mass gatherings, a move that will place significant strain on the arts industry that we all love. “The world ends on Monday, so f*** it, let’s have a good time while we still can!” says Denise Scott as she opens the 2020 GC Laughs Festival Gala. And have a good time we did!


Scott was brilliant as host and set the audience up for a laugh-fuelled night of enjoyment by poking light-hearted fun at the virus and its impact on the arts culture in Australia. Whether it be asking the audience to laugh with their mouths shut, or into their armpits, or interacting with the over 60’s in the crowd, she did a fantastic job of breaking the ice on the one thing that was at the back of everyone’s mind. Scott’s audience interaction was fluid and natural and set her up for several punchlines as she continued referencing back to the same audience members throughout the evening. Fourteen-year-old Ella probably got more banter than she bargained for, but that’s the price you pay for trying to throw your mum (Trish) under the bus when asked if anyone in the crowd had Arthritis. Her routine was beautifully structured for the current state of affairs and you could tell she had put in a lot of time to make relevant punchlines that resonated with the audience. With a line-up of well-established and up-and-coming local talent still to come, we knew we were in for a good time.


Teacher-turned-comedian Mel Buttle kicked off the proceedings with her easily relatable schoolyard wit about the lies teachers tell their students and the impracticality of needing trigonometry fundamentals as an upper-middle class all-girls high school senior. Damien Power and Jayde O’Brien followed next and kept the audience in stitches with their local humour and fast-paced wit. Power has been a fan favourite in the Australian comedy circuit for some years now and has performed regularly on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival circuit to roaring laughter. O’Brien on the other hand is a relative newcomer in the Brisbane comedy scene but has exploded onto the circuit with her unique 21st century charm. While the landing of some of her punchlines was a little soft, the creativity of her humour is solid and it’s easy to tell she has a bright future ahead of her.


Closing out the first half of the gala was the fast-paced self-proclaimed loose cannon Dan Rath with his wild ramblings and self-deprecating humour. Delivering one of a kind life advice like ignoring debt collectors and unpaid parking fines, Rath punched out joke after joke in record time and landed every one with glorious ease. Scott’s earlier advice about laughing with your mouth shut was all but impossible for Rath’s set as he moved swiftly from jokes about debt collector’s being afraid of water, to the irrelevance of drinking coke zero if you’re going to die anyway.


Every now and again, Scott would make an appearance back onstage between acts to link the artists together and throw back to her original audience interactions. Trish was going to have a lot to explain to her daughter, Scott joked, as the first half of the show had already featured a vast array of adult-oriented life lessons.


Lauren Bonner opened the second act with an all-too-real set on the dangers of modern technology and missing the old days of chat-up lines on MSN Messenger. From leaking nudes online, to the dangers of sexting on Facebook Messenger while also chatting to your dad, every one of Bonner’s jokes hit a little too close to home for the Millennially skewed audience. The local South East Queensland talent continued rolling through and followed suit with equally great routines of what its like growing up in the Millennial generation. From hilariously comparing dating to what it must be like to buy a haunted house, to a witty art-history inspired PowerPoint gag, the wealth of young talent truly brought their A-games.


To close out an already fabulous night, the Gold Coast Laughs Festival Gala pulled out the big guns with International superstars Nazeem Hussein and Rhys Nicholson to really drive the laughs home. Hussein has been a favourite and staple name in the Australian comedy circuit for some years now and did not disappoint. Recounting a brutal prank he played on an Eight Mile Plains Air BnB host back in 2014, Hussein captivated the audience with his fast thinking comedy brilliance. Nicholson was a delight, as always, with his inwards-thinking personal storytelling and relatability. Since first seeing him back at the Melt Comedy Gala last year, I have fallen in love with his brand of comedy, and tonight was no exception.


It’s quite sad to think that this may end up being the only show of the GC Laughs Festival, with organisers set to provide an update on Monday about the full impact of the Coronavirus. It’s an unfortunate announcement for so many reasons, but especially in the current climate where people need something to band together over; and comedy has always done just that.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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