“What’s the difference between the US election and a kid’s birthday party?”
If finding the best punchline to this setup – or watching others try to with varying degrees of success and hilarity – sounds like your idea of a good time, this is just one reason you’ll love 'The Big HOO-HAA!'
As soon as the week’s MC/Referee Geordie Crawley bounds on stage in his pink overalls, I realise how much I’ve missed the energy and experience of laughing and shouting in a room full of strangers (don’t think it’s lost on Perthlings how lucky they are at the moment).
The main band room of favourite Perth music venue The Rosemount (refurbished in 2017) is seemingly perfect for it. The troupe’s temporary home since gigs restarted (while their former home at The Brisbane was closed), every week’s been selling out and every month’s season extended. North Perth may yet turn out to be their new home. . . Watch this space.
The usually standing-room bar is transformed by small candle-lit tables seating groups of two or four, with a raised level off to one side that feels very VIP.
With a bigger stage to play on, our award-winning (and, to my delight, intermittently dancing) host introduces the two teams of three, representing the red shirted ‘Hearts’ and black shirted ‘Bones’, who’ll battle it out for the night’s trophy.
It’s always a mix of Perth’s best and brightest comedic acting talent, with alumni including Claire Hooper, Jimmy James Eaton ('LEGO Masters'), MICF award nominees Nadia Collins and Sophie Joske; and Barefaced Stories creator Andrea Gibbs – to name a few.
Tonight, fresh and familiar faces Alicia Osyka, Tristan McInnes and star of the multi-awarded 'Feminah', Charlotte Otton, take on Neil Barnard with (an almost unfair advantage of being teamed with) two of the 'HOO-HAA'’s OG best – Tegan Mulvany and creator/founder Sam Longley.
Some of the night’s biggest laughs come from classic improv games: Genre Roller-Coaster delivers a scene as a soap-opera, then horror, noir, doco, anime etc.; and Sing-About-It has players spontaneously bursting into song, enhanced by Otton’s supreme vocal ability and accompanist Robert Wood’s proficient music and sound FX.
Image © Libby Klysz
Observing 'HOO-HAA' daddy Longley watching his fellow performers is uplifting – seeing the joy they reflect in him, seemingly, still delighting in his ensemble’s weekly concoction of spontaneous nonsense some 18 years since its humble Fremantle beginnings.
I’m no student of improv, but Longley’s aptitude for subtly directing the action and narrative of a scene while acting, hilariously, within it surely is the definition of having mastered this art form.
Alicia Osyka’s sleep acting – while others enact animated dream sequences around her – echoes this ability to bring great comic relief with an economy of words and movement.
You know you’re on to a good thing when some of the town’s top comedians (arguably the hardest people to make laugh) come to be part of the audience and are eating up improvised one-liner gold.
Most rounds played over the show’s two halves begin with ‘a suggestion from the audience’, so come armed with some quirky nouns and adjectives to see fantastical scenarios like (some of the night’s highlights): dinosaurs playing Rock, Paper, Scissors; eating nachos with Jack Nicholson; a five minute opera about sewer-dwelling ninjas; or – saving the best ‘til last – a 'Jerry Springer'-esque ‘episode’ on the controversial topic of pineapple on pizza.
Speaking of eats, arrive early and hungry to partake of the pub’s menu (mac‘n’cheese jaffle, yes please!) and lineup of west Aussie beers on tap.
While social-distancing’s in, capacity is strictly limited to get along and be a puppet-master to the weekly changing ensemble that includes special guest alumni popping up (those back home in Perth who are usually based elsewhere), including 'School of Rock'’s Brent Hill and former Nickelodeon presenter Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd.
It’s hard to see anyone not having a great time at 'HOO-HAA' – a night of feel-good silliness your mere presence ensures is completely different every time.
Oh, the US election vs kid’s party gag? You can check 'HOO-HAA'’s socials for the winning punchline, upcoming lineups and details of their farewell to The Brisbane in September.
For now, 'The Big HOO-HAA!' is at The Rosemount Hotel 8pm Thursdays.