Australian comedians (from left) Emcee Harley Breen, Ronny Chieng, Anne Edmond, Joel Creasey and Luke McGregor saluting the crowd at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow, which made its Malaysian debut at the PJ Live Arts Theatre, Petaling Jaya in Selangor.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow had more hits than misses.
Australia, our neighbour from down under, has contributed a lot to Malaysian culture over the years: Hipster coffee cafes, chequered shirts, music festivals and now its brand of stand-up comedy.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow recently made its Malaysian debut at comedy venue PJ Live Arts Theatre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The Melbourne comedy festival’s two-day stop made up for missing Malaysia during its Asian tour through Hong Kong, Singapore and India, last year.
The roadshow billed as a “chalk and cheese mix of personalities” delivered with a line-up of Aussie comics including Harley Breen, Luke McGregor, Joel Creasey, Anne Edmonds and Malaysian-born Ronny Chieng.
Starting the second night on a strong note was Melbourne native Breen, who was the show's emcee. Breen burst onto stage in a red chequered shirt and opened with a round of deprecating humour about why these patterned shirts were all the rage: like a visual puzzle, they distracted from the unsightly bulges of those wearing them. To prove his point, Breen unbuttoned his shirt and grabbed a handful of man-boob.
That set the tone for what to expect that night, with the show’s pamphlet already carrying the warning: “what’s comedy without risk?”. Breen’s brand of goofy fatherhood stories and the unavoidable poop jokes that come with having a three-year-old son made him instantly likeable. Like a good host, though, he remembered the show wasn’t just about him, but the cast of comics he was there to introduce throughout the night.
Following up from the confident Breen, McGregor’s awkward humour hit the audience like a cold shower after a hot day. Perhaps a more empathetic audience would have better appreciated the nerdy ginger-head’s humour. Reading the room, McGregor pulled out his phone, saying he kept notes in case he got too personal.
After staring at the screen a moment, he looked up and said with a shy laugh: “there are no notes, it just says believe in yourself”. While that may sound sad in the retelling, McGregor’s knack for comic timing, making the audience wait just enough to fully appreciate his punchlines proved his joking chops.
The next comic, another fresh face in Australian stand-up scene was Creasey. The 23-year-old guy, who goes by the nickname “Acid Tongue Prince Joel”, lived up to his title with his sharp humour though his royal lineage tended to veer towards “Queen” rather than Prince. His high-pitched voice, signature skin-tight jeans and feminine-mannerisms added to the camp factor.
Following up was the lady of the troupe, Edmonds. Walking onto the stage, Edmonds put the mic stand aside to make space for the most physical show. She was probably the rowdiest comic of the night, much to the audience’s delight.
While the previous comics related personal vignettes, Edmonds projected her twisted humour on people she observed, making over the top impressions of what she imagined goes through their minds. Edmonds’ “victims” included a heckler who got stage fright when mocking her, the braggart gym-hamster whose only friend was exercise and her own choir-participating, death obsessed mother.
Having the home turf advantage, the role of headliner went to Johor Baru-born, Oz-based comic Chieng, who waltzed onto stage with a bottle of blackcurrant juice in hand. He complained and shouted about the local soft drink being too sweet, before starting a very angry set.
Chieng went on to be angry about noncommittal dinner plans, Australia’s stringent seatbelt laws and being cheated by Johorean taxi drivers due to his accent.
“I can’t win with my accent!” he exclaimed, shaking with fury. While not actually a local, Chieng knew how to play to local sentiments in his Malaysian debut. He poked fun at Singaporeans and how his mum, too, had become a rabidly nationalistic Singaporean PR, even signing on to YouTube to defend her adopted homeland from Internet trolls.
However, Chieng’s set felt smooth to the point of being over-rehearsed the way he made sure to segue each joke into the next. Leading into his joke about comparing apples to oranges, Chieng actually said “speaking of apples” as he transitioned from a joke about supermarket trolleys.
While his Chinese stereotype jokes – being cheap, over-performing in school and filial piety – are well-received in Australia, here they have been done too often by comedy groups like Douglas Lim’s Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians.
Overall, Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow’s debut in Malaysia had more hits then misses.