Wednesday, 7 April 1999

Good News Week, 7 April 1999

Melbourne Town Hall April 7 and 21, 1999
Melbourne International Comedy Festival

The live recording of Good News Week on April 7 took so long, they should call it Good News expect-to-be-here-all-Week.

It ran two and a half hours and a couple of the overseas guests, Lyn Ferguson and Rich Hall, were looking twitchy at 9.30pm when they were expected on stage elsewhere in the Melbourne Town Hall.

The ex-ABC show, directed by Sydney comedy king, Ted Robinson, derives its format from a similar, if more political and highbrow program, in England. Switch on to Channel Ten on Sunday nights and you might catch one of the four programs recorded live at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

The cast of six were being very naughty. Host, Paul McDermott and regular, Mikie Robbins, were running hot with heaps of ad-libbed material, much of which will end up on the editing room floor either because it was either boring or riddled with swearing.

In addition to regular team captain, Julie McCrossin, other guests, were Julia Zemiro (Totally Full Frontal), and Scottish comedian, Phil Kaye, disappointingly here only for The Great Debate..

Kaye was the star of this program. He, like Robbins, is a rapid response comedy machine but, happily, he resisted pandering to the high proportion of teen-tele-kiddies in the audience. If only he were doing a solo show. I'd be there in a flash to hear what this razor-sharp mind does with rehearsed material.

The writers of Good News Week, (George Dodd, Steve Johnston etc) are witty, smart and succinct, the news media providing them with infinite material for gags. Nothing is sacred: John Howard, Tim Fisher, Phil Coles all get a serve. Even Kosovo can be funny.

In this special program, two of our comedy icons make special guest appearances to thunderous applause: Flacco (Paul Livingstone) and the Sandman (Steve Abbott). Flacco, with his curlicue of hair pasted to his bald pate, babbles about crossword clues in his peculiar way.

The Sandman, if possible even more eccentric, manages to be a loser and a winner simultaneously in his story, "Trying to be remarkable is painful. Trying to be remembered is humiliating."

Then, Surprise Surprise! Billy Bragg strolls on to the stage to sing a mad song he purportedly wrote with the very dead Woody Guthrie. This show never ceases to astonish.

By Kate Herbert

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