POLITICAL ASYLUM: COMEDY CAUCUS 2010
In October last year a group of local comedians took to the stage at the Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Fringe Club, and performed two hours of topical political comedy. The gags were fresh, and often brutal. Jokes referencing parliamentary front benchers, conservative pundits and marginal electorates flowed freely. It was niche comedy, not to everyone’s taste. But the crowd? They lapped it up, and clapped for more. It was the first night of a new brand of comedy, Political Asylum, and they had found their audience.
The founders of this new experiment, political comics Mathew Kenneally and Courteney Hocking, had long been looking for a regular venue where they could test their latest material in front of politically astute audiences. “Other comedy rooms can be very hit-and-miss when your idea of a great call-back joke involves multiple references to Barnaby Joyce.” says Hocking. And so the idea of Political Asylum was born, a place where comedians and crowds could come together and enjoy like-minded material. Fart jokes not allowed.
Since that first show, Political Asylum has run once a month at The Brunswick Green on Sydney Road, and there’s barely been a spare seat yet, with the back half of the room usually packed like sardines as people squeeze into the limited amount of standing space available. Regular performers do brand new sets every month, punctuated with guest spots from other established Melbourne comedians wanting to test their topical chops. There are only two rules for performers: it has to be topical, and no joke can appear twice.
For the regulars this presents quite a challenge. Says Kenneally, “You have to be constantly working on new stuff. As soon as one gig finishes, the clock starts ticking on next month”. Comedian and resident science nerd Ben McKenzie agrees. “But there’s no complaint. It’s really helped me focus, and develop lots of new material well in advance of the Comedy Festival, which always seems to sneak up on us every year!”
And indeed, after 6 months of gigs, the Comedy Festival seemed the perfect opportunity to show off what has quickly and quietly become a well respected fixture on the local calendar. Comedy Caucus 2010 will feature all the regulars doing their best material from recent Political Asylum gigs, plus two high profile guest spots, together in one big showcase performance. Despite the “best of” nature of the show, Producer Simon Barber confirms that fresh material will still feature prominently. “Of course, there’ll be a liberal spread of brand new gags throughout the evening. Barring all else, there’s always a new crazy quote from Wilson Tuckey to make fun of.”
Rod Quantock, custodian and traditional owner of Australian political comedy, will be doing a guest spot, as well as a well-known young gun of political comedy from the United States. However popular local boys Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain from Fear of a Brown Planet may be the biggest drawcard for the special. Although they’ve both been contributing members from the beginning, this will be the first time they’ve both performed at the same Political Asylum night.
Ultimately, the hope is that this one-off show as part of the Comedy Festival will help grow the Political Asylum brand by exposing the concept to a wider audience. “We know there are plenty of people out there who love edgy, political humour” says Barber. “Hopefully they’ll come along and check us out.”
Political Asylum Regulars
Mathew Kenneally (Best Comedy, Melbourne Fringe ‘07)
Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain from Fear of a Brown Planet (Best Newcomers, Melbourne International Comedy Festival ‘08)
Comedy Caucus 2010 is this Friday at 11pm, at Swiss House, 89 Flinders Lane. Tickets are $25/$20 from Ticketmaster 1300 660 013 or www.comedyfestival.com.au
Political Asylum normally runs every second Sunday of the month at 7:30pm, at The Brunswick Green, 313 Sydney Road, Brunswick. Tickets are $10/$5 at the door. More details at www.politicalasylum.com.au
Simon Barber Ph: 0402 142 569
Melbourne Comedy Festival Media Contact:
TS Publicity on (03) 9419 8837
Tatia Sloley – M 0403 305 395 E firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Thompson – M 0415 745 910 E email@example.com