Review: Star-Spangled Stand-Up @ The Comic’s Lounge

3.5 stars

Though it showed plenty of promise on paper, Star-Spangled Stand-Up – hosted at The Comic’s Lounge – ultimately proved a patchy, hit-and-miss showcase of American talent.
The first misstep was an odd one, local comic Amos Gill appointed as the evening’s MC, contradicting the theme of the show. It might be a minor point, but why not follow the lead of the comedy festival’s own American showcase, Headliners, and have one of the international acts MC, rather than one of the more ocker comics out there?
Indeed, Gill epitomised the rough-around-the-edges, Aussie larrikin stereotype. He wasted little time, getting straight to a pointed takedown of PC culture – among the targets, an overweight tourist that he encountered while overseas. Anybody hoping for a few minutes of fat jokes hit the jackpot. When he doubled-down on body image issues, bringing women into his crosshairs, Gill’s set went straight over the cliff. Ultimately, Gill earned modest sniggers from the crowd, but the whole thing just seemed so out-of-step with contemporary stand-up comedy in the worst way.
Following a distasteful spot from Amos Gill, the first international act of the evening, Megan Gailey, had a chance to cleanse the pallet. It was a tough slog for the talented comic, whose set largely produced randomised spot-fires of laughter rather than united approval. From start to finish, the crowd’s level remained elusive. Naturally, it got to Gailey in the end. “I like that you guys are slow, it’s fun,” she joked. It was puzzling to watch Gailey’s set languish in mediocrity – she was bubbly, energetic, confident and charismatic, normally an enviable mish-mash of characteristics for a stand-up comic. But, for whatever reason, there was a tenuous connection at best between audience and performer. Her set was by no means a disaster, but it just didn’t seem to be her night.
With Dustin Ybarra unable to appear due to illness, it was up to local comic James McCann to rescue things. Initially, with a return to weight jokes and self-referential dick jokes, it seemed as though the evening was doomed to a specific tone. Fortunately, though, McCann showed he had more to offer, his cheeky charm striking a chord with the crowd. There was the sense McCann applies careful consideration to his craft, some gags a matter of formula without being overly predictable. They landed and landed well. Ultimately, McCann did well enough to make up for Ybarra’s absence, distracting from the fact that the as-advertised American showcase was feeling particularly Australian three acts deep.
Al Jackson was the first true highlight of the evening. Portraying himself as a kind of novelty, citing Australia’s skewed “kangaroo-to-black-person ratio”, he was an instant hit. His was the kind of set where you found yourself hanging on every word, as Jackson tackled everything from the diversity quota of The Walking Dead to the biodegradability of dildos. It was a performance punctuated by self-belief, Jackson enviably cool, calm and confident in the delivery of a wholly hilarious spot. In particular, his bit on pornography keywords was perfection.
An ill-timed break in proceedings threatened to sap the show of its momentum, but ultimately, it didn’t make much of a difference, thanks to an outstanding headline act. Like Jackson, Matt Broussard instantly endeared himself to the crowd, with scathing self-deprecation the key difference. Australians famously love to cut down a tall poppy, so to speak, but Broussard beat the crowd to it in spectacular fashion. Overall, Broussard’s comedy was clever and markedly progressive, too – a nice twist given how the evening had kicked off. The change in tone was embraced, inadvertently confirming the difficulty of the room. At times, the warmly-received Broussard battled the same things as Gailey had earlier in the evening. “I can’t read you guys – are you very educated or drunk?” he joked. By the end of his set, though, it felt like everyone in the room was, at long-last, on the same page in support of Broussard, in what had been a fairly uneven night of stand-up comedy.