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Review: He Huang - Fresh(ish) Off the Boat - Online - Melbourne Fringe

Review by Kiran Gupta

I don’t envy the job of comedians in the current climate. Zoom must be one of the hardest performing mediums imaginable. There’s no audience reaction, there’s awkward silence after each joke, there’s absolutely no way to gauge the atmosphere. It’s almost the opposite of everything that comedians build their work off. So, He Huang and her array of guest performers had incredibly uphill task from the outset at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

This show didn’t really feel like a stand-up show, it felt more like the audience was dropping in on a friend-group Zoom call. Which was totally fine. In fact, it was probably the best way to do a show like this; it made it feel intimate but just cheeky enough that it felt as if we were eavesdropping. It was an innovative way to run a show and commendations should go to the performers for that.

It did lead to some issues though. Sometimes, this created a little bit of distance with the audience, which made it hard to connect at times. At others, it was a little hard to follow, meaning that some of the humour got a little bit lost.

However, minor issues, aside, there was some incisive comedy throughout the show. Huang and guest comedians Amelia Fritz, Olga Loitsenko and Maren Whittaker discussed everything from race and culture to dating and sex. There was some particularly hilarious moments throughout, with the comedians using their personal experience to bring humour to the stage. Sometimes, I felt as though they moved through topics a little too quickly and the humour lacked a little bit of depth because of it but overall, it was well done.

The comedians all had expressive voices and delivered the material with passion and gusto. The microphones also made the show feel a little more like an event, which was welcome given the circumstances. The show also felt very natural, with references to current events like lockdown being weaved in all the time. But it did sometimes feel as if the show lacked a little bit of pizzazz. Perhaps it was the lack of a unifying theme (the broad theme was Fresh-ish off the Boat but it sometimes felt as though the comedy itself lacked a little bit of direction) or perhaps it was the lack of an X-Factor that comedy so heavily relies on (and is admittedly very difficult to produce on Zoom), but it felt like there was a little bit missing at times. But maybe that was okay. After all, it was a casual, intimate affair in a very difficult set of circumstances and maybe a Zoom comedy show has to have a different vibe.

All things considered, Huang and her guest comedians did an admirable job of trying to maintain the audience and deliver a strong show in spite of very trying circumstances. Some things paid off, perhaps others didn’t but that is to be expected in a form that is so new and so untested. More importantly, the performers should be commended for their willingness to experiment with this new genre and it will hopefully put them in even better shape when they return to the stage in the coming weeks and months.

Image Supplied


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