Let the laughs begin

STEPHEN BEVIS
El Jaguar at the Astor Theatre. Picture: Anthony Tran

COMEDY

Perth International Comedy Festival Gala

4 stars

Astor Theatre

REVIEW: STEPHEN BEVIS

At the afterparty for the Perth International Comedy Festival opening gala, I could just picture surrealist comic Paul Foot and extreme logician Ronny Chieng debating the provenance and etymology of the Hawaiian pizza.

The post-show food and the question of whether Hawaiians eat pizza would have been just as inspiring a topic for these two sharp minds as the efficacy of fireman poles and coin slots in shopping trolleys, subjects to which they applied their analytical skills in their separate routines

Like the Hawaiian pizza, the festival-eve gala was a curious and guilty pleasure - a generally satisfying tasting plate that would have left most in the audience wanting to dine out on the shows to follow over the next 18 days.

Ten acts, a fifth of the entire festival line-up, were showcased in short try-before-you-buy sets wrangled in assured style by MC Nick Cody at festival HQ, Mt Lawley's Astor Theatre.

As truncated as their spots were, hardly giving them a chance to ease into their routines, they nonetheless would have served all of them well in pumping up sales for their solo shows.

Some acts, like Foot, are structurally more "concept album" than "pop single" so the five-minute window didn't offer much perspective. Others, like the camp champ Rhys Nicholson, and Sammy J and Randy with their dirty ditty Swiss Lovers in a Past Life, distilled their essence neatly.

Cody was excellent as MC, establishing a warm rapport and generating heaps of laughs with his anecdotal humour spanning allergies, thick shakes and a bidet hose in Thailand ("the filthiest christening of all time").

El Jaguar, the Mexican lucha libre wrestler by way of Canada and New Zealand, was a surprise package in more ways than one in his tight red spandex suit. He made Dockers star Tendai Mzungu pay the price for his front-row seat with some party-popper audience participation.

Mzungu also copped it sweet when camp Scottish comedian Craig Hill cracked hardy about the joys of watching the "gay-FL".

New Yorker Wil Sylvince showed why he upstaged the Wayans brothers on their 2013 tour with some great lines about Perth's cleanliness and why men shouldn't wear lingerie.

Felicity Ward attempted to improve our repertoire of Aussie sporting songs, Tien Tran offered some pithy observations about the unproductive weirdness of the suburban front lawn and Chris Franklin coined a new collective noun for touring stand-ups - a Tarago.

With the festival getting under way properly last night, Sylvince, Hill, Chieng, Foot, Cody, Ward, El Jaguar, Nicholson and Franklin all perform this weekend.

Go see them. Let the laughs begin.

The Perth International Comedy Festival runs until May 18. Details: perthcomedyfest.com