I’m in no position to judge a gay as bad or good, but Toby Halligan is definitely a funny gay. But he knows that already – that’s why he’s doing a solo stand-up show, Bad Gay, at Trades Hall this Comedy Festival. Duh.
Halligan is not your “stereotypical” gay man, whatever that means. He’s not particularly fashionable, he’s not very good at dancing, and he’s also not the best at dating (all by his own admission). So what’s the solution? Do a comedy show which you kick off with a dance solo, wear a terrible op shop jacket, and tell the audience the story of your ex-boyfriend. It sounds strange, but it makes for ridiculously funny viewing. Halligan has a firm grasp on comedy and structure, and has a way of coaxing crowd participation out of the audience, sometimes too well – on the Thursday night we’re there, a man in the front row is hell-bent on commenting quietly on the show as it’s going on. After a few concessions, Halligan rips into the heckler in possibly the funniest display of the night to cheers from the rest of the audience, before returning back to his train of thought.
When he isn’t bewildered by the bizarre heckler’s commentary, Halligan talks the “gay community”, his experiences in Canberra and Melbourne, his high school competitive chess career and politics. His dating experience is the most personal, engaging part of the show – proof that shitty situations are indeed the best comedy fodder.
However, he’s most incisive and most hilarious when talking politics (he acknowledges that he’s a proud leftie from Brunswick), with some brilliant digs at the Liberal party and at the way Tony Abbott is both eating raw, unpeeled onions and bringing Australia together in mutual dislike (now I think about it, the last three Comedy Festival shows I’ve seen have all referenced Tony Abbott, so not only is Halligan funny, he’s very, very right). The audience loved the political talk, which probably says a lot about Melbourne and the crowd that went to see him, but also says a lot about how adept Halligan is at political comedy. The politics talk is perhaps only surpassed by his highly original, highly batshit crazy, incredibly funny take on Canberra as existing in an alternate reality from the rest of Australia – possibly the best take on Canberra I’ve ever heard.
The best thing about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is that you get huge international stars, well-established locals and emerging, up-and-coming comedians all in the same few weeks, affording you the opportunity to take chances on smaller artists in the hopes of finding your next favourite comedian. Sure, you might be in an audience of twelve, or sit through a bizarre avant-garde show you don’t quite understand, but then you go along to a show like Bad Gay that makes it all worth it.
Bad Gay is playing until the 19th April at Trades Hall. Get your tickets online or at the door.