Months before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, comics are expected to write their own bios and show descriptions, promising the world even before they know if they can draw those jokes out of their brains. DeAnne Smith’s ‘Worth It’ was posed as a “post-industrial, consumer-based, sustainable comedy show for the new economy”.
Luckily I was drawn to attend her show because of her personality, not her content, because even before her own introduction Smith snuck onto stage to tell us that she didn’t write a thing about the economy, setting the scene for the wonderful hour of no-theme storytelling that followed.
Smith – or as she would like to be called, “joy manifested in human form” – is exceedingly relatable, wandering around the intimate stage with trademark awkwardness and tinges of anxiety, and the audience are immediately drawn into her personable stories, whether or not they want to be a part of the show.
Smith is a master of interacting with her audience, pegging an older gentleman as the spitting image of her Dad, and referring to him as such for the rest of the show. She’s friendly towards latecomers, making fun of them for missing some call-backs later in the show, and is gentle with those in the front row that she calls upon to describe their greatest fears.
A highlight is when Smith discovers she can use members of the audience as her own voice, whispering to a lady in the front row and insisting that reviewers use her phrases as their own, so I will have to note that she was so good “the audience demanded an encore”, despite an encore being something exceedingly uncommon at anything other than a rock concert.
Though most of Smith’s show follows a long (long) story about confronting her fear of pit bulls, she slides in mentions of feminism, sexuality, and her life with depression as well, ensuring a heavy realism though the overall tone remains light and friendly. Listening to Smith is like chatting with a old friend, warm and fun and full of good humour towards everything in her life.
Early-festival jitters get the best of Smith at one point, as she loses track of her show, and she admits she records every performance so she can tweak it throughout the season. With all that work going into refinement, ‘Worth It’ should indeed be more than worth it during its final performances, although even from the start I would say it’s approaching the top of the recommended list for MICF 2018, so long as nobody goes in expecting her to talk about money.