Steve Hughes is an Australian comedian with a background in heavy metal. With bands called Slaughter Lord and Mortal Sin, Hughes has a comedic style that’s as brutal as his music. With only a single show booked as part of this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Hughes’ army of fans packed the main hall of the Melbourne Town Hall and provided the 51-year old with a rock star reception.
As soon as Hughes shyly takes to stage, it’s clear that he’s not well. In his gruff, raspy voice, Hughes mentions he considered cancelling the show (his manager said ‘no.’) Nonetheless, the man soldiers on and after material about his recent colonic, getting older and the modern world of ‘dick pics,’ things quickly move into darker and murkier waters. Hughes takes a hammer to society at large, taking jabs at Feminism, social justice warriors and pharmaceutical companies. This is certainly not comedy for the politically correct or easily offended as Hughes manages to be abrasive, offensive and even strangely philosophical all within the one bit. There are a few gasps and squirming in seats but no walk-outs as Hughes’ diehards lap-out the barbs.
When the main set is finished, Hughes is in no hurry to leave the stage. What follows is a lengthy, disjointed and seemingly unplanned “Greatest Hits” set. As the comedian’s loyal fans request their favourite bits, Hughes indulges a couple and chats to some of the overseas audience members, adding 30 minutes to the one-hour running time. Maybe it was a fitting encore treat for fans (particularly given Hughes’ rock n’ roll pedigree) but it did have crowd attention wavering. Finally wrapping up, Hughes expresses his genuine gratitude, mentioning that he’s been ill for the past three years with darker days to come. It was a rare moment of vulnerability and honesty for Hughes that ends an up and down show on the right note.