A big crowd packed into the second auditorium of the Athenaeum Theatre on Good Friday to see Lawrence Mooney’s latest Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, Beauty. The crowd was mostly over 40 or so, but all seemed up for a good night of comedy on one of the calendar’s most holy days.
Some ’80s classics were blaring over the PA as the crowd shuffled in, before Technotronic’s iconic ‘Pump up the Jam’ blasted Mooney onstage. Instead of being cut suddenly, the music faded very slowly, much to Mooney’s chagrin. But he kept dancing to it, repeatedly asking the crowd to get involved.
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Mooney is clearly extremely intelligent, as illustrated by the source material of his show, as he ties the concept of beauty back to its beginnings in Greek mythology. He went from ancient times to talking about the ways in which beauty is perceived and “achieved” these days, particularly in his recently adopted city of Sydney.
According to him, everyone has had so much work, and so much of the same work done, that everyone looks the same. Mooney bemoaned people’s inability to embrace their character and grow old gracefully.
Mooney’s delivery is first rate, and he comes across really likable, but for a lot of the show his efforts to get the early-evening crowd on board were strained. He took some jokes a lot further than they may have been originally written, and it didn’t make them funnier, potentially alienating some people in the audience.
Comedians have a sort of licence to say things the ordinary person can’t, but even comedians in 2021 have limits on things they can’t – or perhaps shouldn’t – say unless they are a part of that particular minority of subculture. And a few times Mooney used some words that made everyone shift uneasily in their seats.
His bit analysing Malcolm Turnbull was a highlight. If you have seen his videos, or even the Turnbull-themed show he put on during the latter period of Turnbull’s tenure as Prime Minister, you would know how well he does at impersonating and exaggerating the former Liberal leader. There mustn’t have been many Liberal voters in, because this five-minute section brought some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
Yet, over the course of the hour, many of Mooney’s jokes didn’t quite hit the mark and he went for crass a few more times than he probably should have, in a perceived attempt to bring the audience to life.
Crass and foul language are part and parcel of many comedians’ shows and can be manipulated to great effect, but it’s how you use them. Unfortunately for Mooney, it brought some of his jokes down as opposed to elevating them.
Beauty is showing on Saturday April 17 and Sunday April 18 as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets available here.