Comedy comes to our shores

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 12th October 2010.

Comedy enthusiasts are set for a memorable couple of months ahead as several comic legends hit our shores for tours. With average ticket prices easily over the $100 mark, none of the tours will be a cheap night out, however, the calibre of the comedians almost certainly justifies the cost of a ticket or three.

Robin Williams will embark on his first ever stand-up tour of Australia in November. The Weapons of Self Destruction tour has already sold out three nights at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with a fourth show now on sale. Considering the modest set-up costs for a comedian as opposed to say, a Pink concert, Mr Williams is set for a decent payday.

No stranger to our shores, having visited Australia numerous times to promote his films, Robin was most recently in Sydney in February to record the voice of Ramon and Lovelace for Happy Feet 2. During this time, he made an impromptu stand-up appearance at The Sugarmill Hotel, much to the delight of the surprised audience members.

Whilst Mork’s recent films have been awful, in particular RV, Old Dogs and Licence to Wed, there is no denying his filmography, which includes his Oscar winning turn in Good Will Hunting, as well as memorable performances in The Fisher King, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Insomnia and er, FernGully: The Last Rainforest. Of course, my favourite Robin Williams performance is as the titular spinach loving sailor is Robert Altman’s bizarre megaflop musical Popeye. I yam what I yam.

The Big Yin, Billy Connolly, will perform three shows at the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House and then two nights at the Hordern Pavillion in February / March next year. It has been six years since Connolly graced our stages so The Man tour will be an absolute treat for fans.

With a career in stand-up spanning over thirty years, Billy is at his most interesting to me when he extends his range to dramatic roles. Recent memorable turns include a priest with a dark past in The X-Files: I Want to Believe and Noah MacManus in The Boondock Saints movies.

Hopefully Billy will stick to comedy during his shows and not be flogging ING financial management products as he can so often be found doing on Australian TV.

 Star of the Deuce Bigalow movies, Rob Schneider, was set to tour Australia for the first time in November, however, due to “unforseen scheduling conflicts” will now play in February for two nights at the Enmore Theatre. With a filmography mostly based on supporting and character roles for Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison productions, Rob’s brand of comedy may not be to everyone’s taste.

Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher will be bringing her Wishful Drinking show to Sydney this month. Based on her memoir of the same name, this one woman show is a self-deprecating look at her life so far. With a history that includes electroshock therapy, celebrity parents, scandal, addiction, bipolar disorder and Ewoks, this intimate look at a life lived in the spotlight will be hilarious and sobering at the same time.

Unfortunately for local comedians and fans, The World’s Funniest Island event which was to be held over two days on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour this coming weekend has been cancelled due to a “sponsorship shortfall”. With over 200 acts now left in the lurch, including Michael Winslow, Will Anderson, The Umbilical Brothers and Kath and Kim, this may well be the death knell for the comedy festival in Sydney.

With a strong Aussie dollar against the greenback, touring Oz is even more financially profitable and profitable for international artists. Let’s hope the favourable exchange rate will entice other comedy legends such as Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Peter Sellers to our shores. Boom boom.

Boxing Day: The Movie

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 1st December.

Despite being a Saturday, this Boxing Day sees a number of major film releases. In the past few years, the major chain cinemas have been opening their doors mid-afternoon on the 26th of December and relaxing at the movies has quickly become a new Boxing Day tradition. Let’s have a look at what we can expect to catch at the flicks in a few short weeks.

“Old Dogs” stars Robin Williams and John Travolta as friends and partners in business who unexpectedly have to care for 7 year old twins. This family comedy sounds a little too close to Three Men and a Baby. Two men and two babies anyone? Robin Williams’ track record with comedies has been pretty poor lately (RV, License to Wed, Night at the Museum 2) so I’m not expecting much. And John Travolta starred recently in a similar sounding film, Wild Hogs, also about men coming to grips with middle age. I’d suggest this one to see with your family, if they’re still around on Boxing Day.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker star in “Did You Hear About The Morgans?”  This comedy is about an uppity city couple in the throes of a relationship breakdown when they see a murder and have to relocate to small-town USA as part of the witness protection program. The trailer features Grant playing a foppish Englishman and SJP looking glamorous. That must have been quite the acting challenge for both of them. Although not of particular interest to men, I’m sure we will all get dragged along to this romantic comedy if the ladies get to choose the film.

Jason Lee and a bunch of CGI creatures return to the big screen for “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel”. Surely this must be the most unanticipated sequel of the year. This time around, the boys have to deal with the arrival of a female chipmunk singing group. If you found the high-pitched, squeaky voices of Alvin, Theodore and the other one annoying in the original film, then hearing protection is recommended to deal with the even higher pitched voices of the female fluff balls. Take the kids and a few panadol to this one.

The director of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Kiwi Peter Jackson returns with “The Lovely Bones”. Starring Marky Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and that creepy girl from Atonement, Saoirse Ronan, this film is based on the novel by Alice Sebold. Ronan plays a 14 year old girl who is murdered and from heaven, watches over her killer and family. Expect this tale of revenge to pack an emotional punch. This would be one of my top two choices for Boxing Day. Peter Jackson is a powerful director and I can’t wait to see him turn his powers to the real world after a long stay in Middle Earth. This film is highly recommended for those who need a break from the feel-good throes of Christmas.

After a run of disappointments such as Revolver (a straight to dvd failure), RocknRolla (too similar to his previous gangster flicks) and the failure of his marriage to Madonna, Guy Ritchie hopefully will triumph with “Sherlock Holmes”. Starring Rodney Downey Jnr in the titular role and Jude Law as Dr Watson, the trailer features explosions, witty lines, bawdy humour and explosions. This is my other top choice for Boxing Day. Expect this one to be the top grossing film going into the New Year.