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Words by Jono Kennedy
Infographic by Kevin Hawkins

Words by Zoe Efron, Kevin Hawkins, Michelle See-Tho, and Sean Watson

It’s easy to feel selfish when you’re a Farrago editor. Without meaning to boast, the four of us are lucky enough to be getting paid to do stuff we love—putting together a beautiful magazine, making up April Fools’ Day scams, and exchanging our favourite Sandy Cohen quotes. But sometimes it’s pertinent to stop and ask ourselves, “Is this job just a bit of a wank or are we actually doing something meaningful?”

We like to think that the third edition of Farrago for 2014 is a very meaningful publication. It draws attention to a range of important social issues, namely the harsh living conditions of asylum seekers and the struggles they face seeking refuge in Australia. The phenomenally talented (and ever-reliable) Cameron Baker has highlighted this issue with a thought-provoking front cover. We’re also proud to feature Gajan Thiyagarajah’s profile piece on Fawad Ahmed and Mohammad Ali Baqiri, two former refugees who are making significant contributions to their communities in Melbourne.

Our intention in publishing these pieces is not to push a political agenda, but to bring attention to the human side of this issue and add an important voice to the conversation. The same can be said about Christine Li’s feature on the university’s investment in fossil fuels, where she goes beyond the moral arguments to assess the financial feasibility of the university’s current approach.

But, in true Farrago styleedition three doesn’t just cover the serious topics; we like to think it’s a lot of fun, too. Over the following 60 pages, Simon Farley attempts to play muggle quidditch, Jeremy Nadel joins the secret Cave Clan, and Will Whiten takes us through Myanmar. Oh, and Mia Abrahams helps us fulfil our number one goal for the year: publishing a Sandy Cohen quote.

Here are five things the four of us have argued about while making edition three:

  1. The fine line between humour and racism: In celebration of the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, our original plan was to publish a piece arguing for and against being Asian. Kevin and Michelle, who between them are 150 per cent Chinese, thought the piece was hilarious. But Zoe and Sean (both white) vetoed that decision, fearing that some readers might find the piece racist.
  2. Being partisan: The four of us each have strong political views. The question is, is it appropriate for us to yell them at our readers? Half of us shouted ‘YES’. The other half whispered ‘no’.
  3. Letter of the month: Zoe wanted Z; Kevin wanted K; Michelle wanted M; and Sean wanted S. We settled with a happy medium: ö
  4. Advertorial: We weren’t sure whether it would be a conflict of interest for Kevin to commission a piece about Live Below the Line, the charity campaign that invites Australians to live on $2 a day for five days from 5-9 May. Kevin worked for the campaign last year. (Ed: and you can donate to his fundraising page at lbl.com.au/me/hihathawkins)
  5. Who should write the editorial? As writers with big egos, we each wanted to be the author of this page. We even toyed with the idea of writing an editorial each and printing all four of them. For those of you playing at home, Kevin won this round. But the sentiments are shared by all four of us. Guess that’s one thing we could actually agree on.

Zoe, Kevin, Michelle, and Sean

Words by Kevin Hawkins

If there’s one thing to take away from Ronny Chieng’s show Chieng Reaction, it’s that the University of Melbourne is the fifth best law school in the world. Throughout his set, Chieng feels no hesitation in labouring this point, eager to remind the audience of his academic credentials.

Chieng’s unashamed arrogance is part of his comic appeal. He presents himself as far smarter than the average person, and sets out to belittle those who can’t match his wisdom. That said, you don’t need to be a genius to enjoy Chieng’s material. His rants about Asian parents, feminism going too far, public transport etiquette, and poor customer service manage to tap into universal attitudes and everyday situations. The only people who might feel a little peeved by Chieng’s offensive are under 25s, a demographic Chieng dismisses for knowing nothing.

Inevitably, some won’t be able to stand Chieng’s self-righteous demeanour, or his overtly blunt delivery. He even acknowledges this himself by drawing an imaginary bell curve for his crowd (which incidentally draws more attention to his learned nature). But Chieng’s show is hardly about pleasing everybody; indeed, Chieng clearly derives personal pleasure from gloating and complaining in front of a large crowd, and that alone is enjoyable to watch.

Ronny Chieng’s Chieng Reaction is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Hifi Bar until 20 April.

Words by Kevin Hawkins

The only other time I’ve seen Lehmo speak at a live event was on 23 February, at the Reza Berati #lightthedark vigil. That evening, the breakfast morning radio presenter and refugee rights advocate gave an impassioned and thought-provoking speech, defending people seeking asylum. It was a breath of fresh air to hear an Australian personality uninhibited by the commercial or political pressures of television or radio, and just speaking their mind.

While Lehmo wasn’t particularly funny that evening, his speech that night gave me the impression that he would be one person worth seeing at the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I didn’t expect him to preach his political values at his audience (only Tom Gleeson can get away with that), but I expected him to bring intelligence – or a sharp wit, at the very least – to his performance.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but LEHMOOOO!!! (Get Involved) failed to deliver. While his set was amusing, one gets the impression Lehmo didn’t work particularly hard on writing his material. He took aim primarily at the low-hanging fruit*: the Corby family, the Southern Star, his nagging girlfriend, cheap airlines, and bogans. I’d be lying to say I didn’t laugh at anything, but there wasn’t much in Lehmo’s repertoire that I hadn’t heard before. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is that Lehmo’s best material was a running gag about cats, and a joke about MH370*.

Lehmo’s formulaic routine certainly doesn’t compromise the great work he does as an ambassador for Welcome to Australia, Make It Possible, and Live Below the Line – among other initiatives. But those hoping for something more intelligent than your typical stand up routine might be better off waiting around for the next asylum seekers rally.

LEHMOOOO!!! (Get Involved) is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall on 14 April.

Words by Kevin Hawkins

If you voted for either the Coalition or the Greens in the last federal election, chances are that you won’t appreciate all of Tom Gleeson’s comic material. With mic in hand and audience at his feet, Gleeson’s one-hour show Quality is an opportunity for him to speak about his political beliefs (and specifically his hate for Tony Abbott). And there’s nothing the audience can do about it.

Two things save Gleeson from crowd heckling and mid-show walkouts. The first is that his show is part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, a cultural event in arguably Australia’s most progressive left city. The second is that Gleeson is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Even if you’re ideologically opposed to some of his rants, it’s difficult not to appreciate his clever critiques of the government’s demand for a surplus or their lack of action on climate change, not to mention his caricature of Tony Abbott as a bumbling idiot.

While politics is a prominent theme of his set, Gleeson is smart enough not to limit himself to that arena. Gleeson speaks in depth about his experiences as a parent, and is brutally honest about his struggles with alcoholism and his sessions with his counsellor. Gleeson’s confessions may make some audience members a little uncomfortable; laughing at Gleeson’s expense has more than a little bit of schadenfreude to it. But Gleeson’s self-deprecating style and ability to read the audience means the show is more than just a sad AA meeting.

While converting his crowd into Labor supporters probably isn’t Gleeson’s intention, it wouldn’t be surprising if a few audience members leave the show with a few reservations about Tony Abbott, or a few question marks over the Greens. In doing so, Gleeson demonstrates how powerful comedy is as a persuasive tool. While my personal allegiance to Sir Tony was not shaken by Gleeson’s repertoire*, the quick-witted comedian nevertheless convinced me of his natural comedic talent. And for this reason I’d implore you to give him your vote.

*Disclaimer: Don’t worry. I didn’t actually vote for Tony Abbott.

Tom Gleeson’s Quality is on at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at the Melbourne Town Hall from April 10-20.

Welcome to episode two of Farradio.

Farradio is a monthly podcast, where the articles and issues of each edition of Farrago are dissected. Each episode will feature interviews and conversations with Farrago contributors, as well as some lighthearted banter and games.

In this month’s episode…

MEDIA_tim_640x360Timothy McDonald opens up the long-lost Farrago fax machine

 

 

MEDIA_anasha_640x300Sarah Dalton, Adriane Reardon, and Sean Mantesso discuss Scout Boxall’s piece on heroin use and celebrities.

 

 

MEDIA_mantesso_640x360Sean Mantesso and Simon Farley chat about Ned Kelly and other Australian “heroes”.

 

 

Farradio episode two

Produced by Ash Qama
Hosted by Adriane Reardon
Featuring Sarah Dalton, Simon FarleySean Mantesso, Timothy McDonald, and Emily Weir
Video edited by Kevin Hawkins
Music by destinazione_altrove (ccmixter)

Welcome to episode one of Farradio, the radio show… on camera… for Farrago.

Farradio is a monthly podcast, where the articles and issues of each edition of Farrago are dissected. Each episode will feature interviews and conversations with Farrago contributors, as well as some lighthearted banter and games.

In this month’s episode…

MEDIA_lesh_640x360Adriane Reardon chats to Matthew Lesh about his edition one opinion piece on the University of Melbourne’s new smoking restrictions.

 

 

MEDIA_tim_640x360Timothy McDonald offers his three best tips for saving money at university.

 

 

MEDIA_mantesso_640x360Sean Mantesso chats to Simon Farley about his edition one Declassified piece about Vietnam draft dodgers.

 

 

MEDIA_quiz_640x360

Timothy McDonald tests the other presenters on how closely they read edition one.

Farradio episode one

Produced by Ash Qama
Hosted by Timothy McDonald
Featuring Sarah Dalton, Simon FarleyMatthew Lesh, Sean Mantesso, Adriane Reardon
Video edited by Kevin Hawkins
Music by destinazione_altrove (ccmixter)

Words by Kevin Hawkins

There are moments during Doc Brown’s Of Mic and Men show where you might wonder whether you’re at the comedy festival or in a lecture. Brown often goes minutes without telling a joke, using his set as a platform to discuss his views on race, politics, crime, and parenting in a slow and measured tone. His progressive values and open-mindedness are certainly welcome, but given the educated, cosmopolitan nature of the Melbourne audience, one could dismiss Brown for preaching to the converted.

Brown’s tendency to take long pauses and walk around the stage aimlessly means that his punchline per minute ratio is lower than many of his compatriots. But if you prefer laughs to lessons, don’t worry; Brown is still a funny man. Even when discussing serious topics, he finds a way to make his spiel entertaining, including a bit of irony here, and a verse of rap there.

With a background in hip hop, Brown hits his highest notes—and gets his best audience reactions—when breaking into rhymes. If the noise generated by the audience is any indication, one suspects they wanted more freestyling than philosophising.

Brown’s style won’t be to everybody’s liking, but he brings an intelligent and thoughtful voice to an industry where it can be so much easier to appeal to the lowest common denominator. If less cultured members of the audiences can walk out of Brown’s show feeling a little bit worldly—not to mention with a smile on their face—then it’s fair to say he’s done a good job.

Doc Brown is performing Of Mic and Men at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 27 March to 20 April.

 

Words by Kevin Hawkins

As patrons find their seats inside the Lower Town Hall, the first thing they see is a small slip of paper. It invites the bravest of guests to write down their name, their occupation, and a funny story. These people and their stories form the basis of The Tim Vine Chat Show—a hybrid comedy show of pun-based one-liners, musical comedy, and conversations between Vine and his most willing audience members.

There’s a lot of risk involved in Vine’s approach. Thankfully he is not only hilarious, but experienced. He has a backlog of comic material he can retrieve at any moment, ensuring that his show does not fall flat even if his guests have nothing to offer.

On the night I attended, Vine had two types of guests: the straight guests, and the ‘funny’ guests. The guests who attempted to steal the limelight from Vine—in this case a broadcast announcer and an ex-circus performer—highlighted the vast cleavage between people who are funny and professional comedians. It was clear that Vine was not a fan of their over-the-top personalities and efforts to outshine him, and it was in these reactions that these segments found their humour.

In contrast, Vine’s interviews with the straight guests were comedy gold. Vine has an innate ability to find humour in his guests’ responses, or lack thereof, without personally attacking them. This might sound self-evident, but Vine understands humour and has an uncanny ability to force laughs out of his audience, even when the material at hand is weak.

The nature of the show means that every night will be different, and that judging Vine’s tour on the basis of one night is partly unfair. Nevertheless, one suspects that Vine is comfortable regardless of who comes to the stage, and is confident enough in his own ability to improvise. For this reason, I would recommend against seeing one of Vine’s live performances; seeing him at least twice would be far better.

The Tim Vine Chat Show will be performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 27 March to 20 April. 

 

Words by Kevin Hawkins

If Luke Heggie was the type of person who played amateur football—and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was—he’d be the kind of player who sits at forward pocket, and spends the whole game sledging his direct opponent. Occasionally, he’d pop up to kick the odd goal, but his true value to the team would be after the day’s play, when he unleashes a long list of cynical observations about the opposition.

In many regards, Heggie’s comedy festival show Bush Week is itself a long list of cynical observations about a life’s worth of opponents. And by opponents, I mean people that get on Heggie’s nerves.

Over the course of his one-hour show, Heggie directs insults towards wanky tourists, bogan Australians, and his older brother. Many of the jokes—particularly those involving gender stereotypes—aren’t particularly original, but they’re nevertheless funny enough to generate laughs. Indeed, on the opening night, there were at least 10 audience members—albeit, 10 middle-aged women—who rewarded every one of Heggie’s gags with a loud cackle.

While the majority of Heggie’s stories work as isolated anecdotes, he does well to regularly return the conversation to his travel stories. Heggie takes the audience into his cheap backpacker accommodation, and introduces them to some of the more colourful characters from his journey. Next thing you know, he’s having a rant about asbestos-free egg, or sharing his all-time greatest pranks. But without fail, Heggie is focused enough to return the narrative back to his hostel, providing some structure to a set that could otherwise be mistaken for a stream-of-consciousness dialogue.

Heggie brings his set to a close by performing a musical number with a stringed instrument from his travels. It’s an unusual conclusion, especially given that his singing quality is not sensational, nor humorous, but somewhere in between. Nevertheless, the song—along with a set of good one-liners—gives the show a nice bit of closure.

Luke Heggie is performing Bush Week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 27 March to 20 April.