Indian stand-ups Daniel Fernandes and Sharul Channa join the Comedy Zone Asia cast at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. SHRIRAM IYER reports
The Melbourne International Comedy festival celebrates its 30th year this year and has been perceived as a roaring success from all corners. But it was only in 2015 when a strong Asian element was introduced into the festival. ‘Comedy Zone Asia’ was received with great acclaim in its debut year.
In 2016, the ensemble format of ‘Comedy Zone Asia’ is back and the good news is that the line-up is an absolute treat. The show is hosted by Sharul Channa from Singapore who has been described as having ‘balls of steel’. She is spot on as host, sharing her experiences as a Singaporean of Indian origin. She sends the audience into waves of laughter with her observations of in-laws, big fat Indian weddings, balanced diets and yoga, to name a few.
Storm Xu pretty much picks up from where Sharul leaves, kicking up a ‘storm’ as he makes riotous fun of his own community, the Chinese, interspersing jokes with anecdotes from life back in China as well as here in Australia.
The friendly, conversational style of GB Labrador, a stand-up comic from the Philippines, is immediately endearing and hugely entertaining. GB writes sketch comedy for ABS CBN and has been an Esquire Magazine Comedy Ambassador. His references to the multiple colonization of his land are just as much a hit as his jokes about the movie The Karate Kid.
Andrew Chu from Hong Kong doesnn’t disappoint either, with his keen observations and witty comments about the property advertisements in Hong Kong and the nuances of his favourite place in Melbourne, Lygon St.
The final act is from India – the massively popular yet controversial stand-up comedian Daniel Fernandes. Those who are familiar with Daniel, will know that he has over 3 million hits on YouTube. While being an expert at comedy, his topics are often related to the most serious issues that the world faces.
His brand of black comedy, dripping in sarcasm provides superb variety to the show. He covers everything from wildlife to Facebook, from the Syrian refugee crisis to the school shootings in America, from the innocuous to the in-your-face. It is breathtaking!
At a meet-and-greet on opening night, it was fascinating to note Daniel’s views on India’s stand-up comedy scene, which is very much in its infancy. Daniel will also be performing a solo stint as part of the Comedy Festival on Apr 16 and Apr 17. For all lovers of stand-up comedy, this is one of those ‘can’t afford to miss’ shows as an hour of Daniel is an hour extremely well spent.
The Executive Director of the Comedy Festival Damien Hodgkinson, was very excited about a huge Asian presence at this year’s festival. The Indian contingent was bigger than most years and Damien noted that while many had witnessed the impact of Asian stand-up comedy overseas, their presence in Australia had been limited over the years. A trend that, he was delighted to state, was changing.
Directed by Bob Franklin, the show runs till 17 April in the Melbourne Town Hall. It is recommended for mature audiences who don’t mind the use of coarse language. Having experienced it first hand, I can confirm that this team is hilarious and if you have an inclination to not take life too seriously, then this can be a perfect night out.