Mooney grasps your laughing bits


Lawrence Mooney: Surely Not

3.5 stars

Downstairs at the Maj

Review: David Zampatti

No doubt the last thing Lawrence Mooney would appreciate being called is reliable, but it’s the truth.

If Asher Treleaven is the Barry Humphries of contemporary Aussie comedy, Mooney is its Bert Newton (and before you say anything, the Bert Newton of In Melbourne Tonight and The Don Lane show was a comedian of phenomenal touch and self-awareness). Mooney may not make you gasp in amazement, as Treleaven sometimes can, but he never loosens his grip on your laughing bits.

Mooney’s an open-faced, nimble comedian with great generosity of spirit and high intelligence – I’m sure his act would read well off the page – and he’s terrifically funny.

He operates equally well in both observational and imaginative comedy, and shifts between them with smooth skill. And while his feel for Australian suburban life is a little more amiable than, say, a Humphries or a Dave Warner, that’s a stance, not a fault. An extraordinary – and stupendously funny – assault on our current prime minister shows that he’s got just as sharp claws as other, more feline, comedians.

Surely Not, his show for the Perth Comedy Festival, is about a trip he and his brothers made to the UK to bury their “confirmed bachelor” Uncle Harry.

Harry lived in The Wirral, the peninsula across the Mersey from Liverpool, and an odd, little place it is, once Mooney gets to work on it. Harry gets duly buried (with the help of a male choir singing “John Brown’s Body”), and the brothers distribute or dispose of his effects.

It’s a nice story with a mix of humour and sentiment, but, of course, it’s just a jumping off point for material about the differences between siblings (perhaps his it says something about both Mooney and his audience that the three-child model is still current in his humour), maleness and its looming use-by-date, and much more besides.

His comic fecundity and touch mean there’s never the slightest risk of a falling-off of either the quality of his material or his performance.

One day I’ll take a stopwatch to a Lawrence Mooney show and time when the audience isn’t laughing. It won’t be for long.