Launched in 2006, Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night has provided audiences at Melbourne International Comedy Festival (and elsewhere) with a range of acts. More specifically, it aims to present a “carefully curated night of quality entertainment”. Perhaps COVID-19 has limited the pool of talent?
Around the sprinkling of guest acts, the format features McGregor singing with her jazz trio, led by Sam Keevers on keys with Tamara Murphy on bass and Hugh Harvey on drums. The band provided stylish support to McGregor, who was a class act.
Whilst a R&B/hip-hop medley running from 1980s (Salt-N-Pepa, Push It) to later 2000s (Missy Elliot’s Get Ur Freak On) found her out of breath at times, the tunes allowed McGregor to bring some welcome attitude.
The opening song was followed by a stand-up set by former ABC breakfast radio host Sami Shah. Timing is important in comedy, and after the last 12 months in Melbourne, COVID material probably wasn’t the best choice.
In response to McGregor’s query “Do you want some sexy clowning?” – we were presented with Clara Cupcakes. If her hula hoop offering wasn’t the most outstanding display of circus skills, the routine compensated with enthusiasm, plenty of nuttiness, and some PG-level disrobing that went over well.
Drag performer Dolly Diamond showed her usual coarse humour, clunky crowd-work, and casual acquaintance with the melody of her musical selections. The act seemed to get a reasonable reception from some sections of the crowd.
We were treated to Sammy J’s only appearance at MICF 2021. Sammy’s a little busy with his ABC breakfast radio hosting right now, where he’s gained a loyal following. (Awkward!) Mr J delivered one of his classics: the lament of a father unable to catch up with friends in I’ll See You in Seventeen Years.
Newer offerings related to being unprepared for talking sport with a stranger, and on an unexpected find in a park. The skinny man’s jaunty tunes were greeted with abundant laughs (from audience and performers), and it was nice to see an act that lived up to the advertised promises.
McGregor’s take on The Motels’ Total Control – a tribute to the recently departed fashion “bad arse” Carla Zampatti, finished the night with a bang. Whilst some sections of the crowd seemed to consistently enjoy the programme, notably, some clearly didn’t.
Whilst the charm of the Famous Spiegeltent venue is an asset, and keeping acts off of the floor would have helped most attendees see well (hooray!), the absence of a bar is unfortunate. Based on this line-up, more adventurous MICF-goers might prefer to find their own fun rather than punting on an unknown selection.
Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night
The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 3 April 2021 – 9:30pm
Season continues to 17 April 2021
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: Ali McGregor – courtesy of Arts Centre Melbourne
Review: Jason Whyte