How to Win at Feminism is a book that needs to be taken along with a large grain of salt as it is supposed to be a funny and subversive – if misguided – look at feminism for millennials. The writers even include acknowledge this, with, “At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of cute klutzes who wrote an effing book” but is this admission at the end of the book one that is too little too late? If How to Win at Feminism achieves anything it is to prove that for some people feminism isn’t and will never be a laughing matter.

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Few people can do comedy well. Lesser people still can be seriously funny. And for some, the idea of taking a serious topic and finding the comedic element is completely absurd. But thankfully, Ruby Wax managed to achieve all this and more during her show at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

It had been 12 years since Wax had last been in town but it was worth the wait. The comedian known for working with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders certainly proved to be one flamboyant character. For starters, you get the sense that she thumbs her nose at any kind of authority. So there was never a chance that this was going to be your run of the mill festival piece. Instead it was more like a one-woman show that was one part cabaret, mostly comedy and with a twist of dancing thrown in for good measure. Her hour-long set was filled with anecdotes, facts and her trademark, witty one-liners.

The statistic goes that one in four people are or will be mentally ill. Wax knows exactly what this is like first-hand because she became the quote “Poster Girl for mental illness” a few years ago. She says that she had trouble switching from being the clown to getting back to normal life. It wasn’t like the audience member sitting there smiling for no apparent reason. This was serious stuff because Wax in effect shut down and it would take her some time and work to recover.

For the first part Wax was her typical, vibrant self, at times the brash raconteur filling the room with her larger than life personality plus plenty of laughs and fun just like our very own, Kathy Lette. At other moments she was rather thought provoking because she’d ask the audience questions like “Does anyone here know how to act like an adult? A married couple? A mummy?”

It’s difficult to imagine someone as ebullient as Wax getting depression. But one thing we did learn is that the disorder doesn’t discriminate when it comes to victims. Wax’s own mother had fought her own demons over the years but was often told she was just experiencing the “change of life” (never mind that her menopause lasted 87 years). And then there was Wax’s “helpful” friend who told her that all she needed to do was “Perk up!”

If nothing else this show helped to dispel two common myths in society. One- that women cannot be funny. And two- that all mentally ill people need is a back rub and a good lie down. Wax had been funny (irrespective of her gender) and did pose the interesting point- why is it that you illicit sympathy when you have illnesses in other parts/organs of the body but not when it’s the brain?

Wax ultimately struck a fabulous balance between sarcastic asides, her acerbic wit, personal anecdotes and physical comedy (lots of stuff you just can’t do justice with in print). Her salsa dancing re-enactment of when she was institutionalised was priceless. Imagine a class run by an ex-Marine and former Chippendale (I’m not making this up) wearing a canary yellow crop-top and matching pants. Sure, we got a half hour Q&A between this funny lady and Women Of The World Founder, Jude Kelly afterwards, but it was this scene that stayed with people as they left the venue. Because THAT was seriously funny!

Originally published on 24 May 2013 at the following website:

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“I’m not sure if you’re here because you like comedy or air-conditioning”. This was the line that comedian, Dave Thornton, chose to open his stand-up show with (and yes, it was a blisteringly hot, Sydney night). The gig went for an hour and had lots of clever (and thankfully no puerile) jokes that were consistently witty and self-deprecating. And if that wasn’t enough, he also riffed off the audience and provided fantastic, observational material and more.

For those readers who don’t know Thornton, he can occasionally be found contributing pieces to The Project (or The 7PM Project). He also hosts an online radio show on Mama Mia and has appeared on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival galas. His choice of jokes and excellent, droll delivery meant at different points he had things in common with the likes of Dylan Moran and Wil Anderson plus the cheekiness of Danny Bhoy and the Aussie ingenuity of Carl Barron. He is a natural at combining the best aspects of the aforementioned stars, while also retaining his own sense of originality.

He would exchange some funny banter with the crowd. There was Steve- a man wearing “3D” glasses and Dean, one half of a young couple who may or may not have been on their first date together. But Thornton’s clear favourite was the man he dubbed his “Hero” in the coveted front-row, centre spot. The discussions with the three guys wasn’t malicious, instead it felt like Thornton was joking with them down the pub. Plus, it seems that the biggest butt of the jokes for the evening was Dave himself. He described himself as an “Omega guy at best” and admitted he has difficulty with more traditional manly pursuits plus spelling and beefing up at the gym.

One of his best jokes was actually about being at the gym (though the way he described it the words “boot camp” would’ve been more appropriate). He had a “beef-cake” yelling advise at him who could’ve doubled as a drill sergeant. (I won’t ruin the punch line but let’s just say it was out of leftfield). He also made some funny observations about spelling and the English language.

Another great anecdote was about how he has never gotten into a fight. An opportunity did once present itself (with a big bloke, which he described as the son of a half-pigeon on account of the wanker’s showiness). But Dave took it all in his stride (it helped that Thornton had a friend on hand that was a kickboxer in his native, Manila). But Dave describes the situation best, as follows: “How 21st century am I? (Pause) I want to avoid confrontation and then I outsource my work to the Philippines?”

Dave Thornton’s show at the Sydney Comedy Store was a short, sharp and punchy set. He was jovial, smart without being an arse and very funny. In short, it was a great set that left us all wanting more of his witty repartee.

Originally published on 2 December 2012 at the following website:

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Scottish-Indian comedian, Danny Bhoy looks 21. But he talks with the wit and wisdom of a 50+ year old (that’s meant to be a compliment by the way). And in reality he falls somewhere between the two at the humble age of 38.

The Messenger (Please Don’t Shoot) Extended show at the Enmore was a rather special gig. There was one other comedian in attendance, a young buck in the front row that’s been working the Sydney circuit. It was also a partial reprisal of Bhoy’s show from the previous year. Some of the jokes were repeated but they had been refined and their delivery bettered. Plus, with new material thrown into the mix it made things as enjoyable as a watching a completely new offering, a real testament to how great this comedian actually is.

It’s fair to say that Bhoy is one clever, ahem, boy. His material is full of observations- intelligent sarcasm and pure wit. At times rather personal, some of his best jokes involved his little-guy battles against Goliath corporations like The Royal Bank of Scotland, EPSON and Ticketek. The latter also included the fantastic one-liner about the “Singing foetus” better known as Justin Bieber.

Bhoy has impeccable timing. He kept the energy high as he set jokes up like a master craftsman, albeit an animated one. When the punch lines came he was comfortable and confident, allowing the audience to enjoy the joke without milking the idea for too long. He is also a fine dancer, showing us a line-dancing cowboy or a man swatting mosquitoes. And his accent, particularly his skilled take on the ocker Australian one was exaggerated but affectionate. In fact, I’m sure there were a lot of people prepared to adopt this boy as Australia’s new son right there on the spot.

Things weren’t as easy in America, particularly in the Deep South last year where Bhoy’s comedy was rather misunderstood. He acknowledged that his background is a little difficult for them to grasp, given that Scottish and Indian are two very different characters on The Simpsons. But we Aussies have lapped up his smart-arse antics. Whether he was riffing on our idioms (consider: “Too easy” just like Carl Barron); calling muesli sawdust and raisins like a grumpy Dylan Moran; or his lively acting and improvising often with as many jokes and tangents as Ross Noble, they all hit the mark.

At almost two hours Danny Bhoy had managed to take us on one rather mystical journey that had included jokes that ran the whole gamut of history, politics, sex and people. It took in almost anything and everything conceivably possible to laugh at, making it an absolute delight to watch and side-splittingly funny to boot. Amazing.

Originally published on 6 May 2012 at the following website:

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