I guess you could say I had high hopes when I headed out on Monday night to the Melbourne International Comedy festival. My beloved city in early April can truly bring the goods in terms of weather, and looking back, I think the mild evening was what had put me in such a good mood. On the menu for comedy that night was someone I had not heard of before, save for well-received online reviews at fringe and comedy festivals around the country. I read only the one-liners before promptly deciding that Elizabeth Davie’s content would appeal to me. I’m pretty superficial like that. The show’s title, Super Woman Money Program had appealed to me too, things were looking good.
Unfortunately, my pleasant mood was short lived. Allow me to set the scene.
From the moment I entered Tasma Terrace (the venue for the evening), I was thrust out of the still, autumn evening and into a heat box. I awkwardly took my seat, performing a balancing act with two glasses of red. I reluctantly chose a seat close to the back, finding myself sandwiched by my sister and a fireplace facade. Not long after the show commenced, the lady sitting behind me asked me in a low whisper if I could move forward so that she had more space. She had long legs, you see. While I apologetically obliged, I regressed to childhood and the backseat of the car, feeling like my sibling had just insisted that I stay on ‘my side’.
Things really went downhill after the lady with the legs.
My level of focus at a show is generally a pretty good measure of how much I am enjoying myself. Did I check my phone surreptitiously for the time? Was I tempted by the thrill of the vibrations from the depths of my jacket pocket? Due to the intimacy of the space, I couldn’t, in all good conscience perform the aforementioned acts but due to my disconnection with the content of Super Woman Money Program, I found my mind wandering. I began to wonder just how difficult it would be to escape from a majority of the comedy festival venues. I concluded that by and large, they’re not great ‘in case of emergency’ spaces. I had also concluded that Elizabeth’s show was whole-heartedly, from the get-go, not for me and while it was indeed not to my sister’s liking either, the audience appeared to love it. I could tell because I observed the regular signs- thigh-slapping, the dabbing of moistened eyes and knowing smiles being shot around the room.
By contrast to this warm reception for Elizabeth, no show has ever instilled so much rage in me and I’m usually a pretty even-tempered person. I have also found it so difficult to write this review. This is because the show was essentially an opinion piece and by fundamentally opposing the opinions presented and the prism in which Elizabeth sees the world, the show was very difficult to enjoy and critique objectively.
What I do know is this, I had come out for a night of comedy and rather, I was served an evening of woeful whinging. I should have packed my pint-sized violin for some back-up music because it was truly one thing after another. Elizabeth’s main targets were predictably men, superannuation companies, baby boomers and University debt collectors. And while I am certainly partial to a rant, I need a good punch line or some expertly incorporated satire for it to be enjoyable, not to mention, funny. I saw very little comedy in this show.
I am by no means encouraging people not to see this show. As I have said previously, my sister and I appeared to be the only ones in the audience not to have enjoyed ourselves. What this said to me was that Elizabeth Davie has an audience and despite my disdain, I have to admit that the show got me thinking. It’s an interesting time that we live in.
When it comes to feminism, I feel a tangible pressure, as a woman to laugh and support ‘the cause’ when I am at a show like this. While Davie’s show is celebrated elsewhere as ‘joyous feminism’, for me, it posited women as powerless to the system. Call me naïve, but I refuse to accept this viewpoint. If anything, I find it disempowering and uninspiring. Furthermore, it was not just the content and opinions that didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t enjoy performance aspects of the show either. For example, Davie performed two show-tunes, Hey Big Spender and This is my life. She did this (perhaps on purpose?) off-key. This frustrated me. If I’d wanted to hear some off-key singing I have two very clear choices available to me. I could stay in the car and listen to myself sing whatever Beyoncé album I have on high rotation, or I could go to karaoke. I also found her incorporation of hand puppets as an avenue to deliver jokes incredibly naff.
Now for a rant of my own. This will hopefully give an insight into the content. Elizabeth Davie is frustrated by the fact that she will undoubtedly retire with less superannuation than her male contemporaries. Bear in mind that Elizabeth is a comic who went to clown school. I was unsure as to whether she was comparing herself to fellow male comics or whether she was comparing her financial status to more lucrative career choices. She is also frustrated that she spent tens of thousands of dollars at University and her parent’s generation did not. As a person in the arts myself, I am unsure how a HECS debt really affects life when you’re perpetually ‘below the threshold’ come tax time.
As a privileged, middle class woman one thing that does frustrate the hell out of me is that I can’t buy anything but pale blue, yellow and pink pyjamas at Peter Alexander when the men’s range bags all the cool colours like navy, red and dark green.
After the show concluded, my sister and I headed for the nearest cinema to see if Amy Schumer’s new film was out. We’d gone out on a school night to see some comedy, so we were determined to find some. Unfortunately, it doesn’t open until June 28. We opted for some rage-releasing tenpin bowling at QV’s Strike. Boy did you fire me up Elizabeth Davie. Kudos for that.