Quite simply, Rich Hall doesn’t have the patience to muck around. This Montana-dwelling, straight-talking curmudgeon can’t even be bothered giving his show at Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) a title.
If you don’t know why you would want to see Rich Hall live, his is a tough proposition to describe. There are many, many things about the United States and the world that irritate Hall, and he’ll vent about them venomously.
However, through musical interludes and his unusual perspective on life, Hall shows that he’s a lot more than just an angry man. The volume and consistency of laughter he extracted from the large audience on this preview night showed that he hit many relatable targets.
Hall is a veteran of over 20 years of stand-up, which includes his jailbird redneck character Otis Lee Crenshaw. Past honours include the Barry Award from 2013 MICF and a Perrier Award from the Edinburgh Fringe. In this outing we get Hall, or at least some exaggerated version of him, a guitar, and thoughts on a diverse range of topics.
These start with his disdain for US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, leading nicely into a ballad lampooning the businessman’s ridiculous hair and other lesser-known foibles. There was also some combative interaction with the audience, the spiky banter culminating in a very funny improvised song. Hall’s also interested enough to have rants on some local issues. There were plenty of punchy remarks, such as on the dubious nature of shopping at Target: “Clothes make the man. Kids make the clothes. You can’t go wrong.”
TV viewers have had the opportunity to see Hall’s caustic observations on spots on a comedy gala or the UK’s Live at the Apollo. I hadn’t seen him live before, and given the longer time allowed by a solo show, his act charts a delightfully eccentric course along the spectrum of darkness. Surprising ideas arose from everyday matters, such as having to prove your identity to a bank. This mutated into a self-interrogation on life satisfaction or otherwise in the song Existential Security Questions, greeted by enthusiastic applause.
Another unusual offering was a song from the point of view of a retired racing greyhound. The character has reached a state of being at peace with never having caught the rabbit. This self-acceptance was completely upended by the revelation of what he was actually chasing all those years as Fur on a Stick hits its chorus, and that’s so damned catchy that you’ll be stabbed by your housemates for singing it in the days afterwards.
I enjoyed not knowing where Hall was taking us in his show, as well as his range of musical styles. If I could have wanted anything more, it would only be that Fur on a Stick (quite a new song Hall informed us) would link back to the Donald Trump material.
Fans of dark emotions, or the skewering of privilege – and people who don’t mind the odd F-bomb – will find this grouch with an unconventional perspective delivers a solid hour of big laughs.
Lower Town Hall – Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 24 March 2016
Season continues to 4 April 2016
For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Rich Hall (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte