Review: Star-Spangled Stand-up (A feature of US comics and one red-headed South Australian)

Specially selected from the United States, a night with Megan Gailey, Al Jackson, Matthew Broussard and James McCann (filling in for Dustin Ybara) is a wild ride of impropriety, embarrassment and acerbic social insight. The comedic threads of sexual crassness, self-deprecation and criticism of western conventions underpin an exhibition of total hilarity.

The host of the show is Australian Amos Gill, who props up occasionally throughout the night. He is certainly no comic lightweight himself: embracing the stage identity of a laidback Aussie bogan (‘People from the US think Australia is a relaxed, chill country…’). Gill is fast, obnoxiously loud, and in-your-face Aussie style. At times, he threatened to steal the show from the US imports – when he incessantly harassed two audience members awkwardly close to the stage (‘You should fuck. Unless you are brother and sister. Then you shouldn’t’), or when he decried the Victorian governments ‘Dob in a litterer’ policy . Gill provided us a familiar reference point amid a Yank-dominated performance.

The first of the US comics to perform was Megan Gailey: a charismatic, self-aware but unashamed young comedian from Indiana (‘Mike Pence is from Indiana, that should be a good indication of the place’). She confidently shone in her long, interconnected speeches on the shambles of American family life and her place within patriarchal society. Perhaps her best bit of the night was when she admitted she was a big sports fan, and recalled how men constantly try to undermine her knowledge of sports. One man, trying to ‘one-up’ Gailey, asked her if she knew ‘who the 2nd baseman was in the Chicago Cub’s World Series win in 1929.’

Filling in for popular US comedian Dustin Ybara, James McCann was hardly out of place amongst a sea of foreign talent. His South Australian drawl, combined with well-thought out jokes and anecdotes, evidenced his unique stylistic approach to stand-up comedy. It was likely he was called up at the last minute, but not once did it feel he was unprepared.

Following McCann was former school teacher Al Jackson, whose presence and comedic swagger was palpable before he uttered a word. He glided through the performance, mocking the lack of people of colour in Melbourne, and the comparative wealth of kangaroos. ‘Couldn’t Melbourne have both?’ Jackson asked. At 39, Jackson was the oldest to perform on the stage, but his comedy was as youthful and energetic as any. His set on his 15-year-old’s porn habits showcased a sensitivity to finding humour in the everyday.

Matthew Broussard, with the longest set (around 30 mins) made the most of his extra time. While, at times, it felt the other comics paid laser-like attention to matters of sex and personal relationships, Broussard was able to discuss such topics and more. From acknowledging that he looks like ‘all those villains in ‘80s teen films’, to his obsession with making Pokémon figurines, to the stupidity of the US college-based system, Broussard’s comedy is of a kind that is forthright and unapologetic. You even find out that he is a riddler in his spare time.

Despite their fixation on similar issues, these comics take completely different styles and approaches to the art of stand-up. Each of them has something important to say, and it is said with a stated urgency that compels you to listen and to laugh.

Star-spangled stand-up is at the Comics Lounge until the 17th of June. Tickets can be purchased here:


Nick Bugeja

The author Nick Bugeja

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