ElbowSkin: Sparring Partners review (Beat magazine)

Published in Beat, Issue 1060, 18 April 2007

Ever wondered what would happen if Tripod died in a horrible accident? Here’s what would happen: the guys from ElbowSkin would sneakily take their place on the throne as Australia’s kings of musical comedy. I can see it now – everyone at home watching the Gala on TV; Pa says to Ma, ‘Ma, weren’t there three guys in Tripod?’ and Ma says, ‘Well, there’s Dave, and there’s Ern, and… you know, I think that other guy was just a special guest or something.’ They would have to lose the bad language (‘Tripod in massive swearing scandal!’) but apart from that, it would be seamless. It’s the perfect plan.

I mean, hypothesis. I don’t want Tripod dead, and I doubt very much that the ElbowSkin boys would stoop to anything that dastardly. They’re much too affable. All I’m trying to say is that ElbowSkin is a high quality musical comedy act. This is their fifth year at the Festival and boy howdy, that must been some good practice because I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at Dave and Ern’s catchy tunes and class clown antics. Their show, Sparring Partners, celebrates ten years of friendship that began at Eltham High. Now they live together, work together at the same restaurant, and perform comedy together on the side. Their world of practical jokes and lost bets provides plenty of material as do vegan ex-girlfriends and transvestite parents. The humour is simple and cheeky – nudie runs, chickens crossing the road, and bacon and eggs as a metaphor for life. But they also take on the disgusting and the taboo with glee. They have potty mouths and twisted minds but they get away with it because they’re obviously quite nice, really – Dave even has dimples. But if anything should happen to Tripod – just keep them on your radar.

ElbowSkin: Sparring Partners review (Arts Hub)

Published on Arts Hub, 11 April 2007

How do you celebrate ten years of friendship? A married couple might spend their ten-year anniversary enjoying an expensive dinner, or throwing crockery at each other’s heads. Ten years of service at work might get you a couple of months of long service leave, and possibly a shiny new badge. But there are no such traditions where friendship is concerned, so what to do?

Dave and Ern, also known as comedy duo ElbowSkin, have found one way to mark a decade of mateship – through their show, Sparring Partners, at this year’s Comedy Festival (their fifth). While the title might conjure images of the aforementioned married couple, Sparring Partners is all about the things Dave and Ern do to entertain themselves between (and sometime during) shifts at the local restaurant. Through stand up, videos and musical numbers, the boys give us an insight into the life of pranks, lost bets and failed relationships they’ve been through together since they first met at Eltham High in 1997.

Where comedy was once dominated by stoners and angry, shouty people, the last few years have seen a rise of a new breed of performer – the affable young man. The likes of local comics such as Lawrence Leung, Fox K, Adam Hills and Alan Brough all have a gentle, take-home-to-meet-your-Mum type of quality that provides a welcome antidote to today’s world rage. ElbowSkin belong squarely in this category – cheeky and cheerful and full of mischief, they’re the kind of performers you just want to be friends with. But they have a naughty streak as well, and aren’t afraid to take a taboo topic and run with it.

Along with ivory-tinkler Sammy J, ElbowSkin also form part of the new guard of musical comedy in Australia. Songs like I Love You, But Something’s Wrong show they have comic timing to burn. Slightly Left of Centre Girl, is the story of a high school romance trying to survive the rigours of university life. Mum’s My Dad takes an interesting angle on transvestism, while Bacon and Eggs is just good, old fashioned, silly fun. If Tripod ever hang up their guitars (read: if they can be prised from their cold, dead hands), ElbowSkin are poised and ready to take on the responsibility of providing our nation with its staple diet of musical punchlines.

To give themselves a break from belting out tunes all night, the boys also have a bunch of video treats lined up. Their favourite button appears to be the one labelled ‘fast-motion’, and despite decades of nauseating Benny Hill reruns the sight of a grinning loon running down the street at an unnatural speed is still enough to make my face hurt from laughing. Their exploration of why the chicken crossed the road is another hit, while a homage to Bob Dylan/Guns’n’Roses – Knock and then Run Away – is pure Aussie larrikin glee.

ElbowSkin – two sparring partners who bring their guitars to the ring and walk away with the title of ‘Next Big Thing’. There are a lot of reasons to come to this show. If you’re easily amused, you’ll love it, because so are Dave and Ern. Come if you want to see the future of musical comedy. But the best reason is that ElbowSkin is great, fall-off-your-seat-laughing fun. They won’t be up-and-coming for long, so get in now.

Burlesque Idol review

Published in The Pun 2007

I don’t get this show.

On the one hand, it features three highly polished, superbly entertaining burlesque performances. On the other hand, these are couched within a plodding, cringe-worthy panel-style show complete with fading rock star jokes and mullet wigs. One minute we’re sucked in by a striptease, the next we’re shifting uncomfortably in our seats as the host and judges ‘pretend’ to sexually harass the stars.

The acts change from one night to the next, but we were treated to three consummate performers. Lola the Vamp is classic in the Edwardian sense as she slides out of a corset and satin bustle. Natasha the Pasha’s frothy feather dance is sexy and silly, while National Institute of Circus Arts graduate Marawa hoolas more hoops than I could feasibly lift.

The girls have serious talent, their costumes are spectacular, and most on the roster have toured internationally. So I don’t understand why they’re letting a bunch of C-grade actors ride on their coat tails (well – frilly knickers) when they could do so well without them. Burlesque has had to work hard to separate itself from your garden-variety stripping, and the smutty jokes in Idol are embarrassing and undignified. Feminists will hate this show, but not because of the striptease.

It’s still worth seeing – try to arrive late to miss the dragging introduction. Your choice as to whether you stay until the end, when the abandoned host gets his kit off and takes us somewhere my friend Clem would call ‘Flavour Country’.