“Michael Downey worked within the accountancy profession but the fact he had a personality got him thrown out. He wrote some really hilarious material and was given writing credit on the BBC’s Stand-Up Show. Consequentially someone suggested that Michael attempt stand up comedy.”
“This is a lecture about art” says Hannah Gadsby, as she takes her place behind the lectern. It certainly bore all the hallmarks of a lecture – lectern, screen with relevant slides, laser pointer – but this was funny and irreverent, personal and occasionally silly.
We giggled to hear the great artists of the High Renaissance introduced as the Turtles (Michaelangelo, Raphael and Donatello), giggled again as the creator of the Sistine Chapel ceiling was described, after reference to his obsession with human anatomy and emphasis on extreme musculature in all his figures, as a “big gayer”.
Gadsby (who does actually know about this stuff, with a degree and everything) comments enthusiastically on images of the Madonna from earliest times to the Renaissance. “Look at that halo” she murmurs, the red point of her laser pointer dancing over the screen. “It’s like you’re there”.
One of the best things about this show is that you do learn the full story of the Madonna (ever so slightly airbrushed from the original Gospels after the Crucifixon) and about her importance in art, religion and society. You also learn about the differences in the various artistic movements, and you learn that there might be someone up there after all, as we watch the large painting of the Madonna spontaneously fall off its perch halfway through the show after a particularly saucy section about the Annunciation.
The show is, says Gadsby “mildly blasphemous”. But it is hugely entertaining and absolutely fascinating. It is one thing to wear one’s knowledge lightly; Gadsby barely wears it at all, just casually flinging fact-studded asides at a packed and rapt audience.
Renaissances High, Northern and Proto, the progression from Intuitive to Atmospheric and One-Point Perspective and the momentous effect of the invention of oils might not sound like the stuff of the Fringe comedy. But there are shows with way fewer funnies than this, and they will never show you round the murals in the Scrovegni Chapel.
Later in the day Hannah returns with her regular stand-up hour, Mrs Chuckles. Ironic title, as you will have guessed: Hannah rarely chuckles (although her recent discovery of Tunnock’s Teacakes appears to have cheered her up a fair old bit). We, on the other hand do, rather a lot. Hannah comes from a tiny town in Tasmania, didn’t meet a stranger until she was seven and had three big claims to fame in her schooldays. She is a fan of silence, useless at small talk but fascinated by last words.
Her show is not packed with comedy gimmick or one- liners, but it is an hour of sheer smiley, relaxed enjoyment. Were it potable, Mrs Chuckles would not be a smart cosmopolitan or a laddish pint of Stella, but a big mug of hot chocolate with a large shot of brandy. Try and see both shows before Divine Vengeance is wrought upon her for the dodgy comments about Jesus’s mum.
Kate Copstick (23/8/11)
Buy Tickets for Mary. Contrary. Here
Buy Tickets for Mrs Chuckles Here
‘Australian comedian Fiona O’Loughlin admits she performed drunk for almost ten years until 2009, when she collapsed on stage in Brisbane in front of 600 people, having drunk “enough to kill a truck driver”. She has now been through rehab and is tee-total. Her comeback show is Spirited (Tales from an Angel in a Bottle), an honest account of her long “journey to self-destruction”.
Anecdotes about things she did when under the influence are natural comedy material: saying “f***” in front of the Queen; streaking naked across Mark Watson’s show in Melbourne. Not only is the material a gift, she uses it well, not omitting the dark side: hangovers from hell and agoraphobia.
In the second half of the show, she starts to leave the drinking material behind, drawing on stories from her extended family in Alice Springs, and American TV shows (she does an accomplished impersonation of Oprah’s interview with Maria Shriver). The ending (which I won’t spoil) shows that she’s clever as well as honest in her approach to performing, and it bodes well for the future in this new phase of her career.’
Susan Mansfield 20/8/11
Read the whole article here
Buy tickets for Fiona’s Show which is on every night at 9 in the Gilded Balloon, here