Entertainment

Wild West Comedy Fest in full swing

BY TOM JOCKEL

Perth fans experienced some of the world’s funniest people during the 2011 Wild West Comedy Festival.

The comedians performed at a variety of the city’s best live venues such as the Astor Theatre, The Brass Monkey, The Blue Room and the Regal Theatre.

Local comedian and worker at the festival, Jo Page, says Perth deserves the festival.

“I don’t like it when people from Perth say, ‘oh we’re so lucky to have all these great performers here’, because we deserve it.

“Perth is a big city and a buzzing place. Why shouldn’t we pull big name performances?

“I like to think of it as a mini-Melbourne Comedy Festival.

It’s all the good acts … the best of the best, if you will.”

She quickly adds: “Not that I mind bad performances at open mic nights because that’s the reserved place for beginners and people honing their material.

“The festival is a great chance for some of Perth’s best local talent to be showcased; but it’s also a chance for some of Perth to be exposed to some of Australia’s best comedians and a few international acts.”

Big names at this year’s festival included Australian acts such as Heath Franklin’s Chopper, Emily O’Loughlin and Dave Callan, as well as international acts such as Jackass’s Steve-O and Tom Rhodes.

“My favourites are Sammy J and Randy, who won the award for the best show at the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and Fiona O’Loughlin, who is undoubtedly one of Australia’s best comedians,” says Jo.

Creating the right atmosphere

As well as showcasing some undeniable talent, the event shows off some of Perth’s best live venues.

“The new room at the Brass Monkey is great. It’s probably my favourite place to watch and perform comedy,” Jo says.

“But the Astor Theatre is amazing when it sells out for some of the bigger names.

“The full floor and balcony create such a great atmosphere.”

This continues the reinvention of one of Perth’s most iconic venues.

Recently the heritage-listed theatre set about to take on more than just films, accommodating live shows for bands, plays, the spoken word and, of course, comedy.

Josh Leslie saw a performance by Tim Ferguson, who The Age has called a “comedic genius”, at a packed out Astor Theatre.

“It was a hilarious show, and the venue maximises the impact of such a performance. As a local and a big fan of comedy, it’s great to see the Astor reinvent itself in this way,” he says.

A West Australian reviewer agreed with this sentiment, saying, “his wit and gift for language is stronger than ever”.

Showcasing a wide range of comic art

The festival is not restricted to live stand-up comedy either.

The film feature, “Over the Fence”, made up of the best comedic short films from Australia and the world over the past 14 years, screened several times over the course of the event.

Tim Ferguson also ran a one-day Stand Up Comedy Masterclass for aspiring local talent, or the odd punters willing to try their hand at something different.

As well as this, there was a showcase of “Funny Sculptures” at the State Library.

The sculptures are made by students from seven WA primary schools, providing an inspiring insight into the minds of children as they interpret popular culture in their own way.

The showcase was on display until 30 May.

The festival ends with plenty of action from both little-known local acts to some of the industry big players.

One such night was the Big Hoo Haa, presenting “The little hoo haa!”

The Big Hoo Haa is one of Perth’s best-known comedy nights, held every Saturday night at the Brisbane Hotel.

The improvised comedy act made its way onto the big stage, giving participating Perth comedians a chance to perform to much bigger crowds of devoted fans of funny.

The Last Laugh & WA ha ha Awards show wound up the festival on a high.

It featured local talent as well as special performances from some bigger names such as Hannah Gadsby, Tom Rhodes and Peter Rowsthorn.

Jo Page is already anticipating next year’s event.

“I want to know who’s coming and when I’ll get my chance to perform,” she says.

“I wish it didn’t have to end, but I guess until then I’ll just have to get stuck into Perth’s local comedy scene.”

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