Always a festival highlight, this year’s MELT Comedy Gala line-up did not disappoint.
With gags from politics to nanas and everything in between, this was a show not to be missed!
For this year’s MELT Festival night of nights, the joyously tart Rhys Nicholson (or, as he refers to himself, “Rhysee”) led a gaggle of local, interstate and international comedians all identifying somewhere within the queer family. There really was a performance for everyone.
Local boy Sam Bowden was first up, and he was the perfect foil to Rhys’s MC patter. In contrast to some of the more flamboyant elements of Rhys’s jokes and persona, Sam laments his dad bod, and the way it doesn’t necessarily scream “GAY DUDE!” to those he wishes to attract. With his hipster slouch and longish untamed hair, he was a great – and hilarious – way to show that not everyone on the queer spectrum conforms to visual expectations.
Next up was the always offbeat and hallucinogenic Demi Lardner. At first pass, her zany use of non-sequiturs and sound effects may not be for everyone, but her utter charm and enthusiasm for her act would make even the grouchiest puritan get onboard. She is always a delight, and the absurdity of her performance contrasted well with the rest of the line-up.
An unexpected highlight was Jude Perl, who sings! Again bringing something unique to the stage, Jude has an outstanding voice, and her lyrics bought giggles from the audience while also delivering strong, heartfelt messages of importance to the community. She received standing ovations as she left the stage.
The curation of this show was spot on. Although Rhys’ manic MCing delineated each act, the energy of the show dipped and arced, keeping the audience fully engaged. Alex Ward’s more deadpan approach accentuated the frenetic nature of those preceding her, and gave the audience a chance to more quietly listen to her stories. Cassie Workman too was a breath of fresh air, and a quieter performance that gave the audience a chance to reflect, rather than constantly being dialed up to an 11. Cassie’s approach to comedy is stylistically different too, with more musing and provocative pondering than obvious jokes. The way the show was put together highlighted each and every performance, giving them the chance to be unique within a stellar line-up.
It seemed like the whole community was well-represented, with performers identifying as gay, queer, and trans, demonstrating that there are a lot of voices to listen to, and laugh with.
Tom Ballard brought the show home, and boy did he go big. A great thing about queer performers celebrating queer culture with a queer audience is that they can really let loose with jokes that they may refrain from with a more traditional audience. Tom really went there, talking about gay sex, and Grindr, and fantasies, in a way that will hopefully just become part of mainstream (albeit R-rated) comedy sets if it isn’t already. He also riffed off current affairs and the real estate plague that is the baby boomers, much to the (mainly millennial) audience’s delight.
Which raises the final highlight of the night: the audience. Full props must go to the lady sitting in front of us, whose laugh was so full throated and infectious that she deserved her own stage show. As she enjoyed one particular joke, Tom Ballard called from the stage: “Thanks, cackling witch in the dark!”...It was great. When the lights came up, the audience wasn’t so much flying the rainbow flag as really representing every aspect of the community. There were grandmothers, straight couples, and conservative-looking baby boomers (who may now be fearing for their lives thanks to Tom’s set) in addition to members of the queer community, and that support and inclusion helped to make a great night even better.