Giant Dwarf, the new home of satire is making its bed in the old Cleveland St Theatre. A well needed venture by The Chaser boys, it's a space for their proteges to hone their comedic chops and become Australia's next powerhouses of the educated, comedic left.
Dan Ilic must have peed a little in his skinny black jeans when he found out that 'A Rational Fear' had sold out. With Bob Carr as special guest, it is no surprise really. I wondered though, who is this audience? Who forks out $20 a ticket to watch the recording of a satirical radio show? I overhear a concerned guy behind me, “I don't understand why it is called A Rational Fear, it is confusing, I keep thinking they mean Irrational Fear.”
A guy sits down next to me. Well actually he half sits on me, then glares at me for having the audacity to be centrally seated in my own chair. He chews his haloumi burger with his mouth open. The DJ plays TLC's 'No Scrubs' as I toy with a hole in my cardigan. The ARF audience is an audience of scrubs. We are Sydney's youthful scrubs.
Alice Fraser warms up the audience and her outfit screams boring. Jokes. I am not the Herald Sun, I couldn't give a rats what Alice is wearing.* Fraser sits on the front of the stage like an old friend throwing jokes out to the audience. Literally. She wrote her jokes on cards and gave them to the audience to use later. Fraser was witty yet vulnerable. Her humour vacillated between cute and offensive, like a flatulent puppy. As she toddled off I felt suitably warmed.
Dan Ilic and the rest of the night's talent sans Bob Carr take the stage. Ilic is enigmatic and obviously a born entertainer, but I found it irksome when he instructed the audience to laugh at jokes regardless of how funny they were. As an entertainer and the show's creator, isn't it his responsibility to make sure the content is worthy of laughs? We weren't a studio audience doing him a favour. We had paid $20 to see a show and I'll laugh when I want, thank you very much. If I am not laughing enough, perhaps you need to look at your material. But I did as I was told and laughed more enthusiastically than the writing sometimes deserves.
The guy on my left chewed his last open mouthful of food and we're live on FBI radio.
Ilic read the show's intro like a caffeinated meerkat, gesturing to the audience after each line to laugh. Yes, yes. We got it. Laugh at the punchlines, we know.
Regardless of the Bob Carr drawcard, James Colley was the highlight of my evening. Colley tackled the story of Chris Kenny suing the Chaser for depicting him, as Colley put it, “rolling over Beethoven.” Colley's no holds-barred approach was in-line with what I've come to expect from ARF. Was it excessive? Yes. Hilarious? Definitely. Could this topic have been handled more delicately given the current situation? Maybe? But delicacy isn't something that ARF is known for.
Hannah May Reilly did a piece about the week's news as per the interwebs, Lewis Hobba tackled climate change and Greg Fleet did a new segment called “Impro-News”- all of which were fine. But where was Bob Carr? I assumed he must be much too important being retired to schlep it with we scrubs for the entire show and would just pop up at the end.
I was right. Eventually Carr sauntered onto the stage. Ilic had managed to arrange two first class seats of a 1991 Boeing 747 on to the stage, which was impressive. Now I'd read the press release for the show. A grilling we were told. A gushing is what we got. Fleet pretty much lost his shit like a Beatles fan girl. I am surprised he didn't take off his boxers and fling them at Carr. Ilic asked Carr some watery questions, Carr answered by rambling about his achievements. The show ends. A bit of an anti-climax really. Unless you were Greg Fleet of course.
All in all a decent show but the thing that really concerns me about ARF isn't how much I like it, I am meant to like it. I am an under 35, left leaning, tertiary educated Australian. I am a round peg in a round hole. This show is made for my demographic. But does it have appeal outside the educated left scrubs? Probably not. I am not blind and can clearly see that it walks the line of lefty-propaganda. Watching ARF sometimes feels like I am bending over to stick my head up my own butt, then congratulating myself for being a perfect fit.
I will happily see it again and will continue to laugh harder than I want to. If you are a scrub like me I will see you there, but if you sit next to me, please chew with your mouth closed.
*The ridiculous Herald Sun review of Alice Fraser's comedy show if you did not get the reference.