Wil Anderson, American Pie, dragon boat racing and Wanda Sykes

Tuesday night

The sixth consecutive year I’ve seen Wil Anderson at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and he did not disappoint. Anderson is affable and self-deprecating, as always. A lot of people I’ve spoken to wonder why he is my favourite comedian. Some say he uses too many dick jokes or swears too much, some say his jokes are lame, others say he just isn’t that funny on the telly. But his public persona doesn’t quite do justice to his more intimate stage shows.

He has an incredibly positive attitude for life, one that he gets across without becoming preachy during the hour-long show. He’s been dealt some crappy cards – I’ll never forget the show he did a few years ago following the break-up with a long-term girlfriend. It was brutally honest, and though it was visible he was still heartbroken, that he was able to get on stage and poke fun at himself is a credit to the man. A sort of self-therapy, but one that few people would have the bravery to do. He revealed tonight that he has suffered chronic hip pain for the best part of six years; no doctor or specialist has been able to fix it. But he shrugs it off, surmising that someone has got it worse. Then he turns it into a series of hilarious jokes, and finally sees the upside when an Asian doctor from a Westfield Shopping Centre – you had to be there – suggests a bit of THC to help numb the pain.

Nothing is off limits at a Wil Anderson show, from mishaps in the bedroom to the abundance of Pie Face shops (they are springing up in this city at an alarming rate), from Adelaide and Gold Coast bogans to “personal charity” – performing a selfless act just to be a good person.

It’s not often that a comedian quotes Ghandi with sincerity. If you enjoy constant laughter, mixed with some touching moments from a man with admirable views on just about every topic, make sure you see Wil Anderson.

Wednesday night

I saw American Reunion. American Pie was my seminal “teen movie” and though I wouldn’t get many of the jokes until a few years later, it has remained a sentimental favourite. The sequel was great too, but The Wedding was a drop in quality and the less said about the straight-to-DVD movies that followed the better.

I had my reservations; sequels are notorious for being poor imitations of the original and what else was there for these characters to do that would be interesting but I figured there’s be plenty of good moments.

And there were. Sorry Leigh Paatsch, but I think this film was worthy of more than one star. (Not many more. Three at most.)

The writing is largely terrible. The set-up just to get all the characters in the one place is laborious and feels very forced. Many jokes are retreading old ground, and fall flat. There are storylines that build but go nowhere; reveals that just leave you scratching your head. Like Two and a Half Men, most jokes are crude and can be spotted minutes in advance.

That’s fairly scathing. But I genuinely enjoyed the last two thirds of the movie. Once the cast is all in the one place, you realise that these are the same characters you laughed so hard with (and at) the first two times around, and despite my criticisms I still found myself laughing at many of them. Jason Biggs and Eugene Levy share similar awkward conversations but they still provide as many laughs. Seann William Scott steals the film with an unexpectedly hilarious reprisal as Stifler, and finally gets even with Finch. (Shitbrick, I mean. Sorry.)

American Reunion won’t go down in the annals of great teen movies, but if you leave your brain at home you’re guaranteed a few good laughs.

Thursday morning

The 2012 Australian Dragon Boat Championships are taking place at Docklands. Who even knew such a thing existed? And it’s massive as well – marquees line the entire harbour, where hundreds, if not thousands of people are standing on the docks watching boats decked out with Chinese dragons being paddled by up to 20 people down the harbour. And, if that wasn’t enough, a drummer at one end of each boat keeps thump-thump-thumping during the races.

Dragon boat racing is said to date back to the third century, when Chinese poet Qu Juan drowned himself protesting a corrupt government. The townspeople got in boats to look for his body, beating drums to scare evil spirits away.

Down at Docklands you can’t sense Qu Juan’s spirit hanging over the event, but in terms of obscure sporting competitions I’ve seen in Melbourne, it’s up there as one of the best organised and most entertaining.

Thursday night

After watching the footy with a couple of pots at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, a friend and I went to our second show for the comedy festival – Wanda Sykes. I interviewed her last week and based on that, friends’ recommendations and youtube clips of her in Curb Your Enthusiasm and doing stand-up (check out “The Real Michelle Obama” for a riotous laugh) I decided I had to go and see her show.

To my slight disappointment, she seemed a little reserved. Don’t get me wrong, it was hilarious from start to finish, but I never really had that moment of uncontrollable laughter I was hoping for. Part of it is due to the material – she talks about the Republican primaries, and unless you’re keeping yourself up-to-date with what’s going on in the States, it will go over your head. I am well abreast of the American presidential race (it’s sure as shit more entertaining than Gillard vs Abbott) but parts of the crowd were not. As the show wore on it got progressively funnier however, and few comedians can discuss family and get as many laughs as Wanda did.

Keith Robinson did a five-minute bit opening for her, and though it was better than his unfunny Comedy Gala spot (I liked his jab at cyber bullying – it’s an issue, no doubt, but his call “how can you get bullied online? By someone who isn’t there?” got a good snigger from the crowd) I wouldn’t pay to see a full show.

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One Response to Wil Anderson, American Pie, dragon boat racing and Wanda Sykes

  1. amieekid says:

    Wil Anderson is freaking awesome.

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