“Humour is a rubber sword, it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.”
A good stand-up comedian has the ability to draw out and emphasise humorous elements of everyday mundane occurrences and circumstances that most of us don’t even notice. But it is a brave comedian that takes us on a journey to the punch line while wandering through rather uncomfortable territory ridiculing the darker elements in society in order to help generate discussion.
Brave comics play an important function in society as they hold up a mirror and force us to confront realities that we would often prefer to ignore. Beneath their humour lies a rich layer of social commentary about race relations, stereotypes and our behaviour. It offers a unique lens through which we can see the world around us, changing our perspective and sharing a truth that you often don’t find elsewhere, and it can be a very valuable thing.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is currently in full swing so we’d like to share our favourite comics from all over the world who help us confront our own social bias.
Friendly Fire by Wil Anderson
In this book, Australian comedian Wil Anderson explores a diverse range of topics- from childhood obesity to Valentine’s Day, trackie pants to terrorism, aging to four-wheel-drive etiquette, and exercise regimes to VB beer ads- putting his own unique spin on it all. Nothing is sacred as Anderson shifts from topic to topic, stating his views on each and raising some intriguing questions (for example, why is it that you can always come up with the perfect comeback for an insult about thirty seconds too late?). But he also looks at some more serious issues, like the pitiful amount of money that pensioners receive every fortnight and Australia’s binge drinking culture.
Many fascinating points are covered in this funny and often satirical novel. You can hear more of Wil Anderson in his Wilosophy podcasts, as he interviews such interesting characters as Tim Minchin, Jane Caro, Nazeem Hussain, Charlie Pickering and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki.
Storm by Tim Minchin
A storm is brewing in the confines of a London dinner party. Small talk quickly descends into a verbal and intellectual battle between science and belief, as comedian Tim goes head to head with the mysterious fifth guest at the table – a hippy named Storm. With stunning original artwork, Tim’s sublime ranty beat-poem weaves through the world we live in, where alternative medicine is given credence and public funding, psychics have primetime TV exposure and people are happy with mystery rather than answers. While Storm herself may not be converted, audiences from London to Sydney have been won over by Tim’s lyrical wonders and the timely message of the piece in a society where science is attacked as the enemy of belief. STORM is the illustrated book born from the acclaimed internet sensation – the animation that has become an anthem for critical thinking worldwide, attracting over three million views. Now fully reimagined, STORM is a masterpiece that sparkles with beauty, wit, reason and rationality.
The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do
The plight of refugees is in the spotlight once more, making this a great time to revisit this heart-warming book. The Happiest Refugee is comedian Anh Do’s memoir, which begins with his family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam. During their journey in a leaky fishing boat, Anh and his family nearly die from disease, starvation, dehydration and pirate attacks. Even when they are rescued and resettled in Australia, there is no simple Happy Ever After: Anh and his family face many hardships while they rebuild their lives. Fortunately, hard work, determination, a loving family and a sense of humour help them to overcome many difficulties and pave the way to success.
The Happiest Refugee has won many awards, and was so popular that it became a live show that toured Australia. What makes it so special is Anh’s irrepressible optimism – he can find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. Anh Do has written a children’s version of his book, named The Little Refugee, which tells the same story in a more age-appropriate manner.
Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by David Mitchell
Why is every film or tv programme a sequel or a remake? Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing? Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it ok? Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them? These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell. Join him on a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Richard III, Downton Abbey to phone etiquette. Funny, provocative and shot through with refreshing amounts of common sense, Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious modern world.
I Am America (and so can you!) by Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert was The Daily Show’s longest-running and most memorable correspondent. His right-wing, super-patriotic persona, his insight and general rightness led to The Colbert Report, a half-hour TV platform for his views on the issues of the day and, more importantly, why everyone else’s views are just plain wrong. I Am America (And So Can You!) features Stephen’s most deeply held knee-jerk beliefs on everything from The Family to Race and Immigration and provides the ultimate satirical guide to the glorious marvel that is American Life. He bravely takes on the forces aligned to destroy America – whether they be terrorists, environmentalists, or brand-name breakfast cereals – and tackles difficult issues like religion, sexuality, and nature (‘I’ve never trusted the sea. What’s it hiding under there?’) With hilarious illustrations and charts (‘Sports to Ignore’) and a complete transcript of Colbert’s infamous speech at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, this is a brilliantly funny book as well as a very clever commentary on America today.
Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow
Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. Thirty years later, Apatow is still that same comedy nerd—and he’s still interviewing funny people about why they do what they do.
Sick in the Head gathers Apatow’s most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging, and incredibly candid collection that spans not only his career but his entire adult life. Here are the comedy legends who inspired and shaped him, from Mel Brooks to Steve Martin. Here are the contemporaries he grew up with in Hollywood, from Spike Jonze to Sarah Silverman. And here, finally, are the brightest stars in comedy today, many of whom Apatow has been fortunate to work with, from Seth Rogen to Amy Schumer. And along the way, something kind of magical happens: What started as a lifetime’s worth of conversations about comedy becomes something else entirely. It becomes an exploration of creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, spirituality, and the joy that comes from making people laugh.
…and a little something extra…
Three of Australia’s greatest and most beloved comedians performing at the peak of their powers.
Dave Hughes – Pointless
Hughesy’s first love and real passion is stand-up, so much that he threw in his breakfast radio show and gave up the host chair on The Project to set off on an epic stand-up tour. The shows sold out everywhere from Melbourne to Sydney, Darwin to Tamworth and Cairns to Kalgoorlie before heading off to London, Edinburgh and Los Angeles. The result is Hughesy’s funnies show yet, captured here at a secret, exclusive show at Sydney’s iconic Comedy Store.
Wil Anderson – Wiluminati
Wiluminati was performed for 11 months in 4 different countries including a standing ovation at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. Almost twenty years of leaning on a mic stand has brought Wil to this point – a home town show on one of the world’s most prestigious stages.
Adam Hills – Happyism Live
Recorded at London’s famous Hammersmith Apollo, the host of ‘Spicks and Specks’ and ‘Adam Hills Tonight’ delivers a first class evening of comedy, anecdotes and audience participation all delivered in his refreshingly unique, laid back style. Accompanied by BSL Sign Interpreter Catherine King, Adam recounts jaw-dropping tales of meeting the Dalai Lama (and to his surprise making him laugh!) as well as his excitement at meeting The Muppets. Happyism is not only the title, but also his newly formed cult religion and is guaranteed to leave you with a more positive outlook on life.