A while ago Steve Hughes amused on a short spot on Live At The Apollo taking the piss out of modern music. I thought maybe the promise that “Hughes tells it like it is” would make his MICF show worth seeing. April Fool!
With his distracting pacing, Hughes doesn’t have the charisma, presentation skills, memory or preparation to be the TED talker he fancies himself as. In any occupation except stand-up he’d be asked to explain his opinions, which would expose just how uninformed they frequently are.
There’s plenty of plain talking that should happen in Australia, towards questioning the various dogmas of our times. Why did the leftie media not cover a story where a Muslim leader said it was ok to beat your wife if you’ve tried enough other things to get your way? If the LNP are so worried about freedom of speech, why do they want to change clause 18C but not the defamation laws that discourage scrutiny of misbehaving rich people. Hughes isn’t interested in this stuff, he’s got a more traditional target to shoot at… Feminism.
Really? In 2017? Don’t we still have Feminism in Australia because women still get the rough end of the pineapple? Men would probably know more about its value if they had any interest in real statistics on intimate partner violence or women getting less pay for the same work.
I wonder if Hughes’ carping is motivated by personal trauma or professional jealousy? He seems conspicuously unburdened by awards that brilliantly funny women like Nina Conti, Kitty Flanagan, Linda Haggar and Fahey Younger (Miss Itchy), Judith Lucy, Denise Scott or DeAnne Smith can draw on to promote their shows.
Hughes knows that this material doesn’t go over well with reviewers. But he’s not sticking with it because it’s edgy, as stand-up comedy was born to be. Whilst he’s advancing a conservative or paranoid agenda, he’s not “telling it like it is” or challenging beliefs at all, he’s telling his fan base what they want to hear.
Other topics showed that Hughes seems to be living quite the unexamined life. He’s happy to throw around unsupported conspiracy theories involving the medical profession and “Big Pharma”, those institutions that keep many of us alive. He praised the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine, yet we know that even Chinese people use modern drugs, like Chinese men eschewing tiger penis for Viagra because the latter actually works.
Hughes believes that the organic industry can make us healthy, yet he complained a few times about how ill he was. Maybe that’s because it makes little difference to most people, who even perceive mislabelled organic food as tastier than the real stuff.
Perhaps this ineffectiveness is why Hughes has to go overseas for further organic treatment at considerable expense. Throw in some superficial takes on Buddhism and he sounded like a person jumping from one belief system to another without any particular interest in evaluating steps along the way. He’s kind of the polar opposite to Tim Minchin’s Storm by lacking both insight and accompanying laughs.
Fair’s fair though, Hughes got a lot of laughs from many during the show that he confessed had no written ending, causing it to be an overlong ramble. A performance might have interest for progressive thinkers still trying to understand the phenomenon of why easy answers are so willingly swallowed by large numbers of people.
Apart from this uncomfortable curiosity, I was thoroughly bored by the often-predictable punch lines, and heard stunned others say on the way out that they were waiting for Hughes to out himself as an “anti-vaxxer”. If you want thoughtful comedy, spend your MICF money on something else!
Melbourne Town Hall, Swanston Street, Melbourne
Performance: Saturday 1 April 2017 – 9.30pm
Season: 19 – 21 April 2017 (ACMI)
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: Steve Hughes (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte