One problem with stand-up comedy is the need to come up with interesting and inventive draws. Over the course of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there have been some questionable approaches, and some inspired moves. Diana Nguyen provides a show that sits awkwardly between these two – a lot because her show relies heavily on audience participation. This of course can be problematic when the audience isn’t in the right mood.
Before anything, the venue was well chosen for this style of performance. The Butterfly Club provides a highly intimate venue which suits Nguyen’s style very well. With a deceptively large crowd, the place filled up quickly and generated a buzzing and connected environment. The closeness meant that even from the back, there was hardly any distance between performer and audience, and when there were interactions, then it felt more akin to a conversation than someone lecturing to a crowd.
On the topic of the crowd on the night I attended, Nguyen has to be offered some sympathy. The crowd was definitely not in a participatory mood, often not answering questions asked, and responded lazily to Nguyen’s attempts to generate excitement. Even the laughing (with one loud, notable exception) was pretty average – which is a shame, because there was some gold in the performance. The unenthusiastic crowd was counterpointed by one person who laughed very hard and would on occasion heckle Nguyen, who handled those unintended interruptions with a grace that highlights her training and skills.
Unfortunately, tough and unenthusiastic crowds are part and parcel of performing, and so Nguyen does need to take some of the blame. Although many of her jokes, which covered a broad range of topics, were inventive and amusing, they relied a little too much on audience participation. With an enthusiastic crowd, that would make for a phenomenal show. But the ideal crowd and the reality are different things, and because the audience was flat, the show hit some slower moments.
This is not to downplay the entertainment value of Nguyen’s show. It was certainly good fun, and, without giving anything away, it comes to a very interesting conclusion.
The structure and theme of the show was also a little lacking, and some of the jokes felt a little out of place (and perhaps a little bit under-prepared). There were good attempts at emotional journeys, but sometimes the punchlines weren’t enough to bring us out of the lower points of the show. Also, whilst at the end the theme becomes apparent, throughout the show it is a little bit absent. Not entirely – it is subtly in many of the jokes, but it is perhaps a little too subtle. Perhaps it is a show that would be better received at Fringe festivals.
Critique aside, it must be stressed that the show was enjoyable. A more enthusiastic audience, as well as material that is a little more structured (or where her style was more fully committed), would make this a stellar example of stand-up comedy. The ending itself is enough to make up for most of the flaws of the show. Naked is an excellent early start to a comedy night out.
Naked is on at the Butterfly Club on the 8th & 9th of April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available online or at the venue.