Melinda Buttle, MC Anon
When you do a show at the Comedy Festival, you get a pass with your photo on it that lets you sneak into shows that haven't sold out. Twelve years ago, when I was doing my first ever show 'Tragedy' in the Backstage Room at the Melbourne Town Hall at 9:30, that little pass was my first taste of the way celebrities get treated - you don't have to queue, you don't have to pay, and for no other reason than because you are you. It's peculiar.
Last night, I went to see the show that is on in the Backstage Room in the Melbourne Town Hall at 9:30 this year, and it is the very accomplished Melinda Buttle, from Queensland, with her show Sista Got Flow . She has a wicked sense of humour and I did make a nuisance of myself with my extremely loud laugh. 26yo Buttle is frank and confronting, her stories almost grotesquely personal. Her anecdotes about teaching, her parents and her meagre sexual experiences had me doubled-over with laughter. Her delivery is at turns dry and animated, a bizarre combination that never allows much room for the audience to breathe. If I have one criticism of the show, it is that it is too funny. Often, Buttle's stories are so packed with gags, that they peter out at the end and she wanders over to a new topic, instead of hitting us between the eyes with that final, blistering observation or punchline, letting us laugh it out while she sits back and drinks in the adoration.
After Buttle, I ran screaming around and snuck in the back way (ooh! matron!) to see Talking Dirty in the Dark (Cloak Room, Melbourne Town Hall, 10:45pm) which is exactly what it says on the box. The only light in the room is that provided by the exit sign. Comedians sit on stage in a bizarre Parkinson-style talk show hosted by "MC Anon." They all wear black clothing and balaclavas, and speak through one of those voice decoders they use to disguise the identity of paedophiles on A Current Affair or 4 Corners. It is a slapdash and fairly hit-and-miss show, not only because it's not always clear what they are saying through their electronically altered Optimus Prime cybervoices, but because they all seem to have come at the show with a different agenda. There were absurdly filthy stories about Hey Dad!, as you would imagine, and smut for smut's sake, but there were also brutally honest and tragic anecdotes - one in particular, about a depraved attempt at sex with a crack-addicted prostitute who only charged $20, was both horrifying and moving. When the show started, I was tempted to believe that the comedians on stage are not the festival superstars that are promised, but third or fourth tier comics slagging off their superiors, but one of them had an foreign accent. The digital trickery that altered his voice made him sound either American or Irish, which makes me think he might actually have been Canadian. It's not a show for the faint of heart, and it is hard going at times, but Talking Dirty in the Dark is certainly eye opening (if only for the fact that the lights are off and your pupils get a chance to dilate a little).