Tuesday, 6 April 1999

Franklin Ajaye, April 6 1999

Franklin Ajaye Trades Hall, April 6 until April 27, 1999

Franklin Ajaye has a voice like a tropical breeze. He croons his stories as he roams about the stage at the Trades Hall, peppering every joke with deep chuckles and chortles. We're lucky he's chosen to settle in Melbourne having left L.A.

His stand-up show is set in musical parentheses. He begins and ends with some very cool improvised jazz pieces played with Eric, his brother, a musical whizz who evidently played with Taj Mahal. Ajaye plays some fine clarinet with the exceptional Eric on electric bass and soprano saxophone.

This was a clever and comfortable show which ran as smooth as silk for nearly two hours with the audience responding heartily to Ajaye's intelligent comedy and quirky observations about the world at large, his past in the US and his present in Australia.

His laid-back, smoky jazz club style of chat seems to suit what he observes to be the Aussie temperament. "In Australia, the black man wears sun block and the white man is relaxed," he tells his US mates.

He teases us about our innumerable and inexplicable public holidays. Why celebrate the Queen's Birthday when we want a republic? ('Cos it's a day off, dummy.) He has a go at the hapless Melbourne weather forecasters who still never get it right.

He compares Melbourne with Seattle -the most livable US city which has rain almost 365 days a year - and with San Francisco, one of the most breath-takingly beautiful and cultured cities on the planet. Be happy with those comparisons.

He tosses his plaited hair and quips about trams. "No-one would ever make an action movie on a tram." He compares our cops favourably with the LA thug police.

There are leisurely tales about being a student at Columbia in the late 60's early 70's. His story of coping with an "F" for Physical Anthropology (What on earth is that subject?) by virtually giving up studying is hilarious.

He goes global with a nod at dictators, Milosovic and Saddam and at the chaos which is Russia under Yeltsin. It is hard to get laughs out of poverty, inflation, war and tyranny but Ajaye manages to do it.

Ajaye is seen often on The Panel but do not hold that against him. he is stylish, funny, easy on the ear and the eye and has an oblique view of the world which is worth hearing.

By Kate Herbert

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