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My second show of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival was ‘Fool’s Gold’ performed by Frank Woodley. It was held downstairs at the Melbourne Town Hall in a sort of art deco (quite big) dungeon . Now Frank is what you might call a veteran performer, and is well known to the Australian audience, first appearing (according to wikipedia) in 1987, the year my younger sister was born, and having made various appearances on Australian TV over the years.

Woodley’s style has often been very physical, part clowning part slapstick he used his body as the site for his jokes, so when I came into the show tonight that is what I was expecting. It’s what I got, but I also got more than that.

Things I noticed in particular:

  • he heckles himself; if he makes a silly statement, for example a tautology, he calls himself out on in. It’s quite endearing and I suspect it originated in a place of insecurity, but perhaps now is a bit more of a stylistic choice.
  • quite a lot of his punchlines are not lines; what I mean is he sets up the joke, and then the sentence sort of trails off. We laugh because we know what he would have said, and it’s funny even if not spoken out aloud.
  • he still does some excellent physical comedy and clowning and we loved it.

Given that I went alone to the gig, and the seats were unallocated, I got to sit in the second row. Being that close to a performer is really thrilling in a way I haven’t experienced much before. I now appreciate why some of my friends are obsessed with getting to the front row of rock gigs.

MICF gigs seem, by and large, to last about an hour, and by the end of Woodley’s hour I wasn’t ready to go. The shambolic style in which he delivers his material makes the time pass in a very weird way and everyone was dragged along in the whirlwind of Frank’s logic. Overall, I spent a large portion of that hour doing my silent wheezing laugh (some of you may recognise this) and wiping tears from my eyes.

Here’s a clip which is fairly representative of Frank Woodley’s work: