There's no denying that Adam Hills is a talented comedian, but perhaps he's a little better suited to improvisation than he is to true stand up comedy.
Hills most well known for his television roles. He was the host of musical trivia show Spicks and Specks until its finale in 2011, and went with the show on its live performances across the country. Additionally, he's been the starring performer in his own shows, like his talk show 'Adam Hills Tonight', and British Paralympics comedy review 'The Last Leg'. However, he's also an accomplished stand up comedian, with recorded shows spanning from 1997 to today.
All of this experience is drawn upon in his latest stand up performance, 'Clown Heart'. Named for a conversation between himself and his daughter, 'Clown Heart' varies in topic from the very dark to silly things his kids say, and Hills expertly delivers all of his well-crafted stories with the verve and enthusiasm of a seasoned performer. He really pushes the 'take the piss out of death' angle, recounting the way he reassured his father (dying of cancer) every time he saw him in hospital with a little dance. Following on from that, he explains how he taught his daughter about her grandfather's death, whereupon she took his explanation very seriously, and then – in true young kid fashion – told him she could see his boobies as they bathed together (not as weird in context, I promise).
However, I felt his stories were a little lacklustre in comparison to his opening audience banter (granted, the banter at this show was top notch, which is always a lucky shot for a comedian). Audience members arriving late or texting while the show begins were gently harassed, resulting in a great photo posted to Twitter of a latecomer from Frankston sitting on the knee of the texter – a church elder who strongly resembled Santa Claus – and a variety of inappropriate text messages penned by the audience.
Hills is so good at thinking quickly, moving from one audience member to the next to pick on the ones with the funniest story, that I really think he would benefit from an all-improvisation show. His pre-written stories are good, and touch based with a lot of people in the room, but who can really go past a short guy sitting on Santa's knee?
The show closes with a surprise guest, a friend of Hills' – Craig Coombs – who's been fighting cancer for years by posting naked photos on the internet. Coombs interrupts with a little comedy of his own, which is darkly humourous but lacking the timing a true comedian develops, and then there's a… naked dance moment, which again, is less weird in context.
'Clown Heart' is definitely a must see for fans of Hills, or just those who appreciate really good comedy. But, don't be disappointed if Hills picks on another latecomer and overwhelms his actual stand up show with top tier improvisation before he even begins.