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Features/What to SEE/Comedy

What to SEE: Perth Comedy Festival

13 April 2022

Perth Comedy Festival 2022 offers audiences a much wider range of laughs than just the cliches. Claire Coleman has some tips on uproariously funny shows that also pass the sniff test.

The borders are open and COVID restrictions affecting performing arts are minimal. This means that Perth Comedy Festival, running 29 April – 15 May, will be one of the first opportunities Perth audiences have had since the start of the pandemic to enjoy a program of the best in the scene, rather than the best currently in the state.

The Perth Comedy Festival’s line-up of international and homegrown talent will present over 50 shows on the stages of the Regal Theatre (Subiaco), Astor Theatre (Mt Lawley), the Rechabite (Northbridge) and Freo Social (Fremantle).

Evaluating what constitutes “the best” of comedy is far from straightforward. Like other arts industries, the international comedy world has been through a reckoning post #MeToo around who and what is and isn’t funny.

Off-colour misogynistic, homophobic or racist jokes claiming to be “taboo busting” but actually just punching down are slowly becoming thinner on the ground, and problematic figures in the comedy world are increasingly being held to account.

This re-evaluation of what and who gets a giggle leaves fertile soil for the flourishing of a wider range of comedy and comedians, ushering in new styles of humour and a more eclectic assortment of gags.

A man wearing a cap and casual clothes sits for a photo shoot with a small keyboard leaning against his leg and laughing. Behind him is a small green screen and you can also see a dark back wall and spotlights
Irish comedian David O’Doherty is one of the international guests at the Perth Comedy Festival. Photo supplied

This year’s fabulous Perth Comedy Festival line up features acts to suit a range of tastes.

Form your own judgements around who and what deserves a laugh by hitting up one of the Festival’s headline multi-performer events – the Gala at the Astor, or the Showcase at Freo Social. Additional mixed bill gigs are showing at The Rechabite, including the Biggest Comedy Show on Earth, as well as Frocking Hilarious which donates its proceeds to women’s rights organisation ActionAid.

And read on for my own picks of uproariously funny shows that also pass the sniff test.

Aaron Chen (AU) – If Weren’t Filmed, Nobody Would Believe

Regrowing his mullet to reprise the role of George in season two of ABC’s comedy Fisk, Chen specialises in finding a way to tell a completely mundane story about every day life in a way that makes it kind of awkward, yet oddly compelling. Already among Australia’s comedy elite, expect Dad jokes and jokes about his Dad from this lackadaisical Gen Z.

David O’Doherty (IRE) – Whoa Is Me

O’Doherty’s material will always do well because everything sounds funnier with an Irish accent, but Whoa Is Me includes a lot of bits that would still be funny no matter the pronounciatiom. A staple on the international comedy circuit, O’Doherty combines a mostly functional 1985 Casio keyboard with a load of chatty banter to create a charming set that’s easy to laugh along to.

A man with short dark hair, glasses and wearing a business suit points a microphone at the camera
Malaysian funnyman Dr Jason Leung will be the resident medical expert at Perth Comedy Festival. Photo supplied

Michelle Brasier (AU) – Average Bear

Brasier is cheeky. You might recognise her face from ABC’s Mad As Hell or Utopia, or Netflix’s Why Are You Like This (to name a few of her various screen credits), but have you seen her present her childhood sexual awakening, which revolves around the titular animated character in Disney’s Aladdin, in the form of a song? In Average Bear, Brasier finds grim humour in dark places – hereditary illness, accidents, loss, grief – but still leaves audiences feeling lighter.

Dr Jason Leong (MY) – Heaty

Fresh from his 2020 Netflix special Hashtag Blessed, Malaysia’s (self appointed) funniest comedian Dr Jason Leong specialises in grouchily diagnosing other people’s foolishness. Don’t panic, he’s a PROPER MEDICAL DOCTOR, so when he explains why people who have gout probably shouldn’t eat Nasi Lemak or how to identify if you are the inevitable idiot in your workplace’s WhatsApp group, you know he’s speaking as an expert.

Kirsty Webeck (AU) – Silver Linings

Warm-hearted and cuttingly honest, Webeck can spin almost any situation (no matter how dire it may seem) into a feelgood laugh. Her Zoom Comediy Hour brought levity to many viewers’ lockdowns, and in Silver Linings she offers a series of upbeat and relatable stories from her life as a self-described “career queer”.

A person dressed in a yellow wig and orange business suit poses in front of a blue screen
If you like your comedy with a side of high camp, check out Karen from Finance. Photo supplied

Chris Ryan (AU) – Can’t Complain

Celebrated as among the best newcomers at recent comedy fests in Melbourne and Sydney, Chris Ryan has made an effortless crossover from making sardonic observations on breakfast radio to making sardonic observations in front of a live crowd. Ryan’s comedy strikes a precise balance between making jokes about parenting teenagers, and stepping away from the home to make social observations of similar gravity about sandwiches, not going to the gym, and haircuts.

Nat’s What I Reckon (AU) – Uncooked

When the pandemic lockdowns hit, Nat realised Australia was faced with a national emergency. No, not the spicy cough. Jar sauce. To save us from death by Dolmio’s, Nat started providing recipe basics on his YouTube channel, including “End of Days Bolognese” and “Chilli Con Can’t Go Outside”. Served with lashings of swearing and a side of Heavy Metal, his stand-up effort Uncooked promises to continue the piss-taking antics.

Karen from Finance (AU) – Is Out Of Office

If you prefer your corporate culture with a side of high camp, this is the show for you. A finalist from Ru Paul’s Drag Race Down Under, and winner of a Critic’s Choice award at Fringe World 2020, Karen is ready to leave her workaholic ways behind her, turn on her auto-responder, and set off on a voyage of self-discovery.

Perth Comedy Festival 2022 runs 29 April – 15 May 2022.

Pictured top: Sydney YouTube comedian Nat’s What I Reckon is one of the big names at the Perth Comedy Festival 2022. Photo: Julie Gee

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Author —
Claire Coleman

Dr Claire Coleman is a pop musicologist, choral conductor and musician. She trained classically in piano, but wrote her doctorate on nostalgia in indie folk, and continues to lecture remotely in pop music studies in Berlin and London. Claire compares the high of bullying strangers into singing to doing hypothetical illicit drugs, so watch out or you might end up an unwitting participant in one of her choral adventures.

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