Those looking for the more ‘TV-friendly’ Wil Anderson need not attend his Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2017 show Critically Wil, which is less ABC’s Gruen Transfer and more post-watershed politicking and social commentary.
The backdrop slung across the Comedy Theatre for Anderson’s show is a portrait of a collection of Wils, a variety of miniature versions of himself reclining across a giant desk. It sets the scene wonderfully as the audience realises that Anderson’s standup persona is particularly different to his TV persona – where he has become a household name – and is likely staggeringly different to his private persona, all those tiny Wils wandering around his brain to build up the brilliant comedian onstage.
2017 marks Anderson’s 22nd year of MICF and he is in top form, coming at the audience immediately with a story about his flight to the US on the eve of Trump’s election, wonderfully expressing the tension on the plane with a few simple ideas. His excitement ramps up throughout the show as he covers other topics – racism, vaccines, bees – and every tale is a laugh riot, where even the storyteller ends up laughing at his own stories.
His coverage on ‘checking his privilege’ and social justice is a wonderful way to round out the performance, allowing for a deeper look into what Anderson considers important. Social justice can receive a bit of a bad rap nowadays, but Anderson encourages his audience – amongst the jokes and laughter – to seriously listen to the voices of those less heard like women, people of colour, nonbinary people, etc. etc., which really elevates him above other comedians, who can often use minorities as the butt of their jokes.
There’s something about Anderson’s performance that makes him seem remarkably friendly and personable; maybe his anecdote about growing up in a tiny dairy farmer town and making it big as an internationally-known comedian, or maybe it’s just his body language, relaxed (if a little fidgety) with his beer always just a few steps away.
To round out the show, Anderson admits that he fudged a few of the details for comedic value, tying a neat bow on the moral of his story: always search for reality rather than believing any clickbait article on Facebook. However, instead of trying to convince his audience that the world and its people are evil – like a certain hotel-owning-billionaire may appear to be – Anderson uses his ‘fake news’ only to prove a point.
Anderson is a well-rounded performer – obviously learnt a few things after more than 22 years in the limelight – and is well worth the ticket price, as long as you’re willing to fact-check him on your way out the door.