If you assumed The Doug Anthony Allstars would mellow due to the passing of time, you were wrong.

Tim Ferguson and Paul McDermott were sans nice guy Richard Fidler for their comeback show at the Enmore Theatre, but this just made the performance more sharp-tongued and edgy as ever, as they provided an evening of outrageous and confronting jokes where nothing was off-limits.

Paul ‘Flacco’ Livingston accompanied the pair and played acoustic guitar. The trio reworked songs like ‘Lola’ to be about ‘Ebola’ and the ‘Y.M.C.A.’ turned into a recruitment tune for ISIS. Ferguson offered up a cheeky feminist poem while McDermott lashed out at the “sad” and “desperate” reunion acts with their “worthless” merch, tongue pressed firmly in cheek.

McDermott described his lot the best when he said he was “working with a pensioner and a cripple”. Ferguson is wheelchair-bound these days due to his multiple sclerosis, and it offered lots of fodder for comedy, with the former Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush star laughing about his debilitating disease. He told us about how he speeds through customs thanks to some choice moves like the tilt, the paws, the shoulder and the teeth, while McDermott admitted he’d been suffering too on account of his dandruff.

The latest incarnation of The Doug Anthony Allstars may well be even wilder and more aggressive and provocative than ever before – perhaps because the group’s members have reach an advanced stage of grumpy old man in their approach to the universe. Either way, their Sydney return was very funny and cheeky as they picked on themselves as well as new, topical items and life in general. They asked to be remembered as the brilliant young men who took on the world over three decades earlier before closing with a particularly rousing rendition of ‘I Fuck Dogs’. Their angry, almost punk-style comedy and Python-esque cheek are still alive and well, and prove they remain one unholy trinity of misfits.

Originally published on 17 May 2016 at the following website:

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Stephen K Amos knows Australians. The English comedian has been visiting our fine country for over a decade and he even has the nasally accent down pat. His show at the Enmore Theatre for the Sydney Comedy Festival was a rather clever look at life both in general as well as different observations and anecdotes from his own.

The show began with Amos giving a quick disclaimer telling us not to expect deep meaning and pathos. It was all about the funny and some of the recent events in his life, including his shows in Newcastle that had given him inspiration on the comedic front. Amos talked about negotiating a difficult door in a hotel and some rather strange problems with breakfast (it was a place where you could have your eggs any way you like but the kitchen had apparently run out of “omelette mix”).

Amos held his own in tackling some rather difficult subjects including politics and Australia’s casual racism. The funny man had been a recent guest on Australian breakfast TV and was told he didn’t need make-up despite being on ultra HD (the make-up artist neglected to fess up and admit that he didn’t have the appropriate colour foundation on-hand). And let’s not forget the stupid talk show host who was convinced that Amos had starred in the Hollywood film, 12 Years a Slave. There was also his popular riff on the jellybeans called Chicos (you’ll have to look this one up yourselves).

The internet, technology and social media were also popular topics for Amos who doesn’t need to be reminded about when his birthday or anyone else’s is, thankyou Facebook. There was also a funny gag about Amos’s version of portable music where he once inadvertently picked up his Mum’s sewing machine rather than a record player in a similar case. Amos is a rather eloquent speaker and he even had a few great one-liners, especially when he described one stupid guy as: “His head was so empty the wheel was turning but the hamster was dead”.

The Englishman made some fine jokes and he did this with great consideration, often by taking his time to set up the material before the eventual pay-off. Amos is a rather clever comedian that in general hits his stride in the live environment and this is something that we Aussies have come to know and love.

Originally published on 8 May 2016 at the following website:

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If you’re old enough to recognise Hey, Hey It’s Saturday’s Plucka Duck in the current KFC ads than chances are you’ll also remember David Strassman. The ventriloquist and comedian was often a guest on the show with his two much-loved characters, the naive but sweet Ted E Bare and the foul-mouthed, Chuck Wood. Strassman now has a number of new characters that he throws into the mix, but his show at the Enmore Theatre proved that the two old ones are by far his best.

The first half of the gig was a tad long and focused on Strassman introducing the characters and likening them to extensions of his own personality. There was his inner child (Ted E Bare), the father figure (Grandpa Fred), the feminine side (Sid Beaverman), the voice of reason and logic (Kevin the Alien), the alcoholic (Buttons the Clown) and Chuck Wood whose traits I didn’t quite catch but could have something to do with being a cheeky menace. It was good to get context with respect to the different characters as this helped pave the way for the rest of the show. Like Strassman’s other live work, a lot of it did focus on a series of arguments between Ted, Chuck and Strassman himself.

The show had a loose and ramshackle feel. There were some things that didn’t always go to plan- a prop was dropped, an incorrect voice was thrown by Strassman at one point and there was at least one rogue sound effect, but when these things happened Strassman just laughed it off and didn’t take it too seriously. Strassman was by his own admission, “A true professional” even if this meant that Chuck would interject and ask, “Like a hooker?” Things weren’t continuously perfect but they didn’t always need to be.

The second part of the performance really gave Strassman’s technique an opportunity to shine. He had five puppets (every one of the aforementioned except Buttons) seated on-stage for a make-shift “Ted Talk”. The puppets were also hooked up with robotics (it seemed like Strassman was controlling the mouth movements but the other stuff was likely left up to people off-stage). This really brought the characters to life because rather than using the old-fashioned method of having the ventriloquist’s arm control everything, here the characters looked sentient. Strassman did a tremendous job of keeping the conversations flowing with all of the appropriate voices. But he was done a disservice by the venue’s acoustics, because some of the jokes were lost or muffled on a couple of occasions.

These days Strassman isn’t the only ventriloquist on the scene. Jeff Dunham also does some excellent work with his characters. But while Strassman has the more superior technique, it is Dunham that has the funnier jokes. That said, Strassman’s characters did have their moments and were topical at times but Dunham’s are definitely more laugh-out-loud funny. Strassman’s show was ultimately quite self-deprecating and humble. At one point he said he had something to make the show “funny” and Chuck replied, “Better be Carl Barron” while Sid frequently mispronounced his name. But Chuck perhaps said it best, “If I’m just a voice in your head, you’re just a pain in my ass”.

Strassman’s show was a little rough-around-the-edges but that just added to its overall charm. The ventriloquist and his band of merry men entertained us and the final act intrigued our inner child thanks to some marvellous, visual trickery. In all, this was one fun and off-beat night.

Originally published on 15 March 2016 at the following website:

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The Just for Laughs stand-up series does what it says on the tin. It’s a show that features local comedians doing stand-up routines and is also part of the Just for Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival. It’s also a mini comedy gala hosted by Dave Thornton and included some billed and some surprise guests. It proved to be a fun little evening, which definitely had its moments.

Dave Thornton has hosted the show before and once again did an excellent job of warming the crowd up and acting as the glue between the acts. He was funny when he talked about how crazy the signs on toilet doors have become (the simple male/female universal signage has been replaced by top hats and feather boas and in the stupidest example in a hipster café, a rake and a shovel). He was self-deprecating as he described his not being useful in an apocalypse and at the same time, talked up tradies. He had a very funny story involving a laid-back plumber who made a cool $200 in 10 minutes.

Dirty Laundry Live’s Lawrence Mooney spent a good part of his set impersonating Malcolm Turnbull and getting upset about missing Tony Abbott. It wasn’t bad but he did spent a little too long on some unfocused political material. Mel Buttle (The Great Australian Bake Off) went into a bit too much detail about her pelvic ultrasound and her fear of snakes. Her set could have done with an edit or two.

Steen Raskopoulos should be commended for taking an ambitious approach to his set. He reviewed Frozen (haven’t we moved on yet?) while dressed like a priest. He also ran a very funny freestyle rap competition. Raskopoulos’ set probably works better on TV as a series of sketches. In the context of a live environment and specifically a comedy gala it had its moments but you also got the sense that this wasn’t achieving all that it could have done.

The two best comedians of the evening were undoubtedly Wil Anderson (Gruen) and Celia Pacquola (Utopia). The Gruenhost’s delivery was very tight and polished as he told us about his osteoarthritis. It’s a horrible-sounding condition affecting 50% of people over 70. It’s also one that isn’t helped by health professionals who doll out advice like keep a pair of barbeque tongs handy in case you need to pick stuff up. Pacquola on the other hand was very funny whilst describing modern dating and being a single girl who went to a cat café. Her funniest joke was when she was defining that anxious feeling you get when your flatmate jumps into bed with you, until you realise you live alone!

The Stand-up Series offered up lots of local comedians doing their best routines. The night was a bit hit and miss with some comedians offering up hilarious, A+ material while others could have done with an edit or a slightly different platform to work with. In all, this was a fun, little comedy night celebrating home-grown talent in an iconic, Aussie venue.

Originally published on 26 October 2015 at the following website:

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The Just For Laughs Sydney comedy festival turned five this year, and to celebrate it held two all-star comedy galas at the iconic Sydney Opera House. The lineup of seven comedians included top-notch international and local talent giving us all about ten to 15 minutes of their funniest, A-plus material.

Celia Pacquola opened the night, making some great points about Tiger Airways (why would you name an airline after an animal that doesn’t fly and kills people?) as well as modern dating, rings and wristies. It was a cheeky set, almost the opposite of Danny Bhoy’s material, as he made some funny swipes at politics, religion and celebrity.

Dave Hughes and Tommy Tiernan did more personal material about their families. Hughes played the part of the loveable Aussie bogan well, as he described travelling with three young kids in his own unique style. Tiernan, however, was the flattest comedian of the night.

Wil Anderson was a polished performer, with some hilarious material about his osteoarthritis and meeting a crazy survivalist in Alaska. Stephen K Amos was also very well prepared, offering up a thoughtful spot on racism and homophobia, and he even brought in his own bag of Allen’s chicos to really bring the message home.

One of the zaniest performances of the evening was The Pub Landlord, AKA Al Murray. He sloshed beer around the Opera House stage and made some great exchanges with the audience. It was a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-style slot, but it really seemed to suit the gala format and was a good little interlude.

The short and sharp sets from these seven talented comedians left many people wanting more, as they’d each done a stellar job of taking us on a ride and making us laugh.

Originally published on 27 October 2015 at the following website:

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Stephen K Amos


Stephen K Amos’ first Sydney show for his Welcome To My World Tour was a loose and casual affair from a man who sounds like he should be wearing a cravat.

You got the sense that this suave and trendy Englishman enjoyed being personal and revelled in the fact that everyone – at least for the most part – seemed to get on board and laugh at his observational and conversational comedy.

Amos is particularly good at doing funny accents. He started the show by speaking like an Aussie bogan and saying, “I love youse.” At other points in the gig he talked about his mother and father in a thick African drawl, before returning to the Queen’s English, which made stories like shopping at Target and worrying that he’d need a bodyguard in order to go to Chatswood quite funny.

At the outset, Amos introduced his show as being “all about the laughs”, and not for those expecting “deep and meaningful pathos”. For the most part he delivered with some funny observations about Sydney’s recent torrential rain and Tony Abbott (a man Amos describes as being able to out-gaffe good ol’ Prince Philip, who has turned putting your foot into your mouth into an art form).

Some tired airline jokes were also on the menu. This is territory that has been mined to death, but Amos at least won a laugh with his “stewards with attitude” material and a story about what it was like to have his bag lost.

Elsewhere, he was very interactive with the audience, playing a matchmaker to an Officeworks staff member named Stevie and a pharmacist and only child called Melissa. He drank beer with some Irish lads in the front row and chatted with a family. When he added some extra time at the end, you got the sense that this wasn’t a tightly scripted or polished show – but this didn’t matter and seemed to suit his casual delivery and overall demeanour. A very pleasant and enjoyable evening at the theatre, darling.


Originally published on 27 April 2015 at the following website:

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Dave Hughes’ strine is as recognisable as an ambulance or car horn but at his recent show at the Factory Theatre it was like music to the ears of comedy fans. The former star of The Project and The Glass House brought his laidback, ocker approach to his stand-up show à la Carl Baron, but he also peppered his routines with sarcastic rants about his kids and modern life in a similar way to Dylan Moran and Alan Davies. It was fun, entertaining and funny.

Hughes’ set went for just over an hour and started off with an appraisal of Sydney’s “Full on” traffic scene. He questioned the use of “Keep clear” signs on the road since he hadn’t noticed he’d driven over them and then segued into most comedians’ favourite choice of material, airlines. Tonight’s topic featured the budget ones after Hughesy had just “missed” a flight that hadn’t taken off and was still sitting on the runway. The paperwork proved too much for the flight attendant but Hughesy did get good mileage (pun intended) out of the jokes.

Another favourite topic of Hughes was his three children, aged five and under. There were questions about the importance of a first birthday that won’t be remembered, jokes about the kids playing pretend cafes, and how hard it is to get change when you have the trio in tow and one insists on listening to the Frozen soundtrack for the hundredth time. Some of the other funny stars of the evening were the Hughes’ family pets, including an overweight cat (“He finishes breakfast and starts campaigning for lunch”) and their stupid, balloon-eating dog who is befuddled by the doggie door and thinks it’s a big trick when he’s pushed through it).

Hughes did touch on some more risqué topics, like Olympians and celebrities taking drugs (“It’s like driving a Ferrari to Blacktown, it’s a good trip but you end up in a bad place”); having sex even though his son has a tendency to call in on their room as he makes his way to bed; and asking two young men about their downstairs manscaping. Hughes was very quick-witted during this exchange. When the bloke said he did trim things because otherwise it gets too fluffy, the comedian shot back, “Well, stop shampooing it!”

An additional rant by Hughesy was inspired by some hipsters running a café. They apparently looked like members of the Kelly gang and served coffee in jam pots. Hughesy asked why they were charging him $4.50 when they couldn’t even afford a proper mug. He also changed topic by describing some of his favourite fan and celebrity encounters including interviews with One Direction and Brad Pit (the latter ended poorly after Hughes called Eric Bana, “Eric Banana”.

Dave Hughes’ show was timely as he took pot-shots and joked about recent events in the media (including reality TV). He was also very funny just being himself and talking about the hilarious things his wife, children and pets do. In just over an hour the comedian stayed faithful to his ocker image and entertained us with the kinds of funny rants he was renowned for doing on The Glass House. Anyone who has seen Hughes on TV will confirm how funny he is and it’s fair to say that he’s even more so in real life.

Originally published on 12 May 2014 at the following website:

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This is what we call The Muppet Show… It’s fair to say that most people have a fond memory or ten from having watched either Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Henson Alternative’s Puppet Up! Uncensored is a live show that will make you feel nostalgic about seeing some of the old characters brought back again to life. Except that this is an adult’s game (just like the show, Avenue Q) and it’s something that is ions away from child’s play.

The show is the brainchild of Brian Henson (son of Jim Henson) who doubles as the show’s producer. There is a loose sense of controlled chaos to the proceedings as you have seven puppeteers (Grant Bacioco, Peggy Etra, Brian Clark, Allan Trautman, Colleen Smith and Ted Michaels) performing on the actual stage but the whole thing is also filmed live and shown on two screens with just the puppets starring from their waists up.

Puppet Up! Uncensored is improvisational and is just like Whose Line Is It Anyway? where the host asks for specific items or ideas from the audience. It’s commendable and impressive that these puppeteers are so clever that they can think well on their feet as well as manoeuvre and voice the puppets in entirely convincing and different ways. But that said, the sketches really are dependent on a good idea from the audience so tonight a mock job interview for a proctologist practically saw the jokes write themselves while a drama centred on a time traveller revealing his secret wasn’t very funny at all.

The evening also saw two old sketches recreated live. The first was “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face”, which was written by Jim Henson at age 20 and originally performed along with Jane Henson. This was funny and looked just like a scene straight out of Sesame Street. “Java” meanwhile, was created in 1965 by Frank Oz and saw two rather territorial puppets dancing against each other, which reminded me of a crowded Zumba class (there will be many ladies that get this analogy!) These were the two least offensive and cleanest sketches of the evening with the host,Brian Bristow having warned us earlier that most people will have been offended by the very end.

The night also saw an additional use for video in the form of sketches that involved some clever looping of recorded puppets with live ones. The first was Allan Trautman performing “Barry” the head usher’s old dance with his twin brothers. The second was “The End” where the whole cast got together to fuse puppets that looked like two huge monks (and required two people to operate them) with dozens of smaller puppets for one really anarchic ending.

A highlight of the night was when the cast picked on two audience members, Elise and Shane who were also on their very first date together. The puppeteers played the two in exactly 12 years time and the young couple had to buzz or ring a bell to indicate whether they disagreed or agreed with what was being said. The pair were good sports as the dolls broached the idea of having sex for the first time plus kissing and other things that were bound to make this date a particularly memorable one.

The cast all had wicked senses of humour. Patrick Bristow had even dubbed them all freaks at the very beginning. Brian Clark was especially funny with a quick and cheeky line or two. Colleen Smith on the other hand had a very dry and sarcastic sense of humour and she often came up with some great one-liners. Grant Bacioco was also a revelation, especially during the Hansel and Regretal (sic) segment where he operated a digital puppet shaped like a brain using a strange computer rig. Similarly, musical director, Dan Ring was also excellent at adding musical flourishes on the night and even had a funny moment of his own when he had Bristow enter the crowd to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”.

Puppet Up! Uncensored was very fun, often rude and extremely upbeat and off-the-wall. There was never a dull moment where the energy waned, even when some of the jokes missed the target (and this was often because a poor topic had been chosen rather than a fault of the performers). The show is clever in its execution and it certainly gets in touch with and relishes the naughtier side of puppetry. It certainly begs the question: “Who knew that Henson puppets could be so colourful?”


Originally published on 4 April 2014 at the following website:

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Comedian, Akmal Saleh was chuffed to be doing his very first show at the Sydney Opera House. He was there to film a new DVD and was surrounded by a generous audience of fans, family and friends. He declared the proceedings “first class” because “Everyone was wearing shoes and socks” and there was no need to ask the manager to “Turn the TV off”. His humour was quite cheeky, a little crass but ultimately quite fun.

Clint Paddison did a warm-up slot of about fifteen minutes. He acknowledged that he does a lot of corporate stand-up gigs and in some ways his material was a reflection of this experience. He did a routine about management acronyms and corporate speak gone awry. It was a little long, especially when he dragged this out into a bit about Australian bush slang. It was very clever though, and he had managed to talk for ages in this very vein. It was almost like the ocker equivalent to Seinfeld in that the routine was about absolutely nothing.

This material was also rather informative. Paddison told us how much he had laughed when he’d first been told there is no “I” in “We” when in fact Iodine has the chemical symbol “I” and there is a tiny percentage of this in every wee. Paddison was also a warm comedian who delivered a clever set. It was an intellectual start to the evening but he did manage to end with a smart-a** practical joke. He sent Ray White a postcard of a puppy he’d recently sold to keep them as informed about his life as they’d done previously (when they’d advised him about a house in his street that they’d sold). This jokes certainly helped set up what was to come during Akmal’s performance.

Akmal Saleh was crass in his sense of humour and proud of it. The jokes at times weren’t for the faint-hearted and he did straddle the lines between joshing and attacking some poor audience members in the front row. At times his sense of humour made me think of Stephen K Amos in that there was a very funny and clever man at the heart of it, but sometimes he went a little too far at offending people.

One such time was when Saleh appeared on Good News Week and his mouth got him into trouble with the people from Rockhampton. He had had a run-in with a lady that had culminated in her punching Akmal in the face. But Akmal’s response to the situation was to tell everyone about it and put down the entire city. This footage went viral and he even received death threats. On the flipside, Saleh at least is unafraid to tell it like it is and is completely honest with his thoughts and opinions.

Akmal spoke about growing up in Punchbowl and his Egyptian heritage. He encouraged audience interaction and heckling. At one point however, he did say that no drunken person has ever gotten up at a Symphony Orchestra concerto and tried to play a violin. He also spoke about playing to an audience of one and his Comedy Store debut – on the night of the State Of Origin – which was very funny and ended up rather curiously with a lift home.

This comedy show was very hyper and high energy. Towards the end Saleh even broke into an impromptu Q&A session where one audience member questioned how “normal” the comedian was. Saleh’s response was to say he was probably ADHD, having grown up with a very short attention span and playing practical jokes involving rusty egg beaters and running from the cops. Saleh’s performance was a long one at close to two hours and it could’ve been tightened in parts (especially when he went too far picking on the audience). There was some clever material and some more obvious observations but above all it was bold, a tad crass but also entertaining.


Originally published on 10 December 2013 at the following website:

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It was the last Sydney show for comedians, Arj Barker and Joel Ozborn, who have been touring Australia together. The Go Time tour could’ve been renamed the “Good Time” one. Both comedians seemed to be having a ball, as they told their jokes and enjoyed the laughs from a warm and generous, Enmore crowd.

Joel Ozborn was in charge of the warm-up duties and did an almost half-hour set. He was a good choice of opening act (the pair has toured together before) and his observational humour and sense of sarcasm made it a good fit. Ozborn has also been named a ‘comic to watch’ this year, but this didn’t stop him recently being embarrassed after he followed an Elvis impersonator who reverted out of character to ask in the most Australian drawl ever, “What was your name again, mate?”

He made a funny quip about latecomers getting their own “Torch and everything” before settling on some airline jokes (a comedian’s bread and butter). There were some cheeky asides about “The Vodafone Effect” and how tin cans can do the job better, plus his thoughts on how the judges of Australia’s Got Talent should really have some before they’re qualified to comment on it. He ended with a long piece about YouTube which could’ve been shortened but did have a good pay-off at the end. As Arj had said, “Joel is a comedian to watch”.

Arj Barker took us all by surprise when he started his set with a big, musical Broadway number. He had some good lines in this song about some people thinking it was ‘theatre’, while others would say that it was to make up for a lack of quality material. He conceded that 85% of the jokes were brand new and also jigged along to his song. It would’ve made for perfect YouTube fodder, except that we weren’t allowed to record or film the show.

Go Time is perhaps one of Barker’s most polished and clever shows to date. Like Wil Anderson, his set fused hilarity with a deeper, underlying messages. In this case, it was to live for today and focus on your heart, not your head. To re-enforce this message, Barker came up with a number of great one-liners (and arguably the best jokes in the show) like:

“Build a pyramid and get to the god-damn point”
“Turn on the computer and get with the program”

And the absolute, crowd-favourite: “Get a deck of cards and deal with it”.

Barker was his typical, droll self. His humour was dry and sarcastic as he told us about getting laser eye surgery; his love of gaming and technology; and his idea that unemployment isn’t such a bad thing. At times, his humour was quite biting and angry (like the discussion about Apple workers), while at other moments, he would take a much simpler route, like talking about some questionable bathroom antics. These jokes all had one thing in common and that was that they were not for the easily offended because some of it did fit into the arena of black comedy.

Ultimately, Arj Barker has a unique way of describing things and this can mean he’s a little like Carl Barron and Dave Hughes, in that he is funny just being himself. Barker has been a guest on Flight of the Concords and over the years has perfected the art of his slacker humour. In his almost two hour set he managed to throw in a Breaking Bad impersonation and a video game reconstruction along with his own material.

When Arj Barker first started doing comedy, his father encouraged him by saying that if only one person laughs, you’ve done your job (albeit, not very well). Arj’s final Sydney show was an enjoyable and funny one for a Sunday afternoon. It showed how this comedian has improved with experience and how adept he has become at his job.


Originally published on 25 November 2013 at the following website:

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