Monday, August 3, 2009

Coopers Local Laughs - Great first night

Brad Oakes

Rather than tell you about the first night of Coopers Local Laughs in Darlinghurst myself, I'll let explain!

Review: Cooper’s Local Laughs Aug 2nd ‘09

This was the opening night for a new comedy room in Sydney – Cooper’s Local Laughs at The Local Taphouse on the corner of South Dowling and Flinders Streets, Darlinghurst. Always keen to look at a new room, I went along.

First: the pub. It used to have another name, but now it’s The Local Taphouse and it offers an extensive range of boutique beers (including a tasting paddle for the dedicated) and a funky menu of snacks and full meals. (There is another The Local Taphouse pub in St Kilda which hosts Melbourne’s longest-running independent comedy room under the name Cooper’s Local Laughs, and this Local Laughs comedy room is a spin-off from that.) The ticket price for the show includes two half-price Coopers beers – happy days.

The performance takes place in the front bar which has some couches and sofa-chairs near the front, along with some high tables and stools along the sides and some more normal seating in rows in the middle. The room is a wedge-shape leading to the stage right in the street-corner of the building. This means great sightlines, although the sound tends to splash around a bit towards the back of the room near the bar, which makes some words a little unclear there even when the front rows can hear them perfectly. So, get there early and get a seat up front if you want to get every punchline.

The planned opening night line-up was a corker, and despite a hitch with the booked MC being a no-show due to flight delay problems it was still a great night. It’s just as well that room organiser Jacques Barrett has plenty of MC experience, as he had to step in at the last minute. The audience made him work hard at the start, but he had them starting to warm by the end of his set. Englishwoman abroad Julia Clark was the next to take them on with her rapidfire wryness on her new country and the foibles we share. She and Raw Comedy finalist Rodney Todd’s more relaxed free-form style had the audience smiling and chuckling happily but not really letting the guffaws run free. Melburnian veteran Brad Oakes closed the first half with a set that finally broke through the audience’s reserve with his sheer gag per minute rate and his challenge to them to step up and think even though it was a Sunday night – they couldn’t hold out any more and willingly followed him for the ride.

After the break a younger Melburnian comic, Geraldine Hickey took the stage with her dark cynicism contrasted with delightful recountings of romantic bogan dalliances – so nice to see a comedian having fun with sexual stories instead of being insecure about it. The audience were really enjoying themselves by now. Then birthday boy David Smiedt alternated his slyly charming anecdotes with riffing off audience answers to his questions, followed by Nick Sun’s anarchic and always surprising comic musings, to finish the night off with the relentlessly taking-logic-to-absurdist-extremes one-liners of Bruce Griffiths. It may take the audience a few beats to fully follow Griffiths’ train of thought, but the response is all the bigger for it.

The audience left the pub happy, appreciative and vowing to return another week. Which is very much what this room needs – some regulars who help get everybody else in the room ready to have a fine old time with the comedians. Once the word gets around about the highly appealing beer-food-comedy combination, I don’t think regulars will be any problem, especially since the early start at 7-ish means that it’s all over before 10pm so that everybody can manage to start back to work on the next day. Good planning, that. Highly recommended.

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