Lawrence Mooney’s Malcolm Turnbull impression has been brewing for about three years. The not-quite PM was born on the airwaves of Triple M and made appearances on the Project, and now, he has been given his own talk show. Sort of. At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival Mooney has gone all in, giving his Turnbull a full hour to run roughshod over the political landscape.
There’s no need to be skeptical about whether the impression can really entertain for an hour: it can. Mooney has Turnbull’s mannerisms and infections down to an art, and he’s happy to discuss the ins and outs of such actions on stage. The character is key here – the comedy comes from personalisations and absurd contrasts to the actual Turnbull’s manicured public presence rather than any tough skewering of the PM’s policies. It’s this angle that makes the show endearing to anyone, regardless of position on the political spectrum. It helps too that the political jokes that do emerge are omni-directional, hitting their targets from the Greens to Hansen and everyone in between: there’s barely a moment where the audience isn’t laughing. There is also a fair amount of crowd work, allowing Mooney to showcase his comedic skill as he improvises lines in someone else’s voice. This is particularly apparent when Turnbull introduces a special guest, in this instance a gentlemen brave enough to sit in the front row, but other nights see current pollies (Jay Weatherill was present in SA, with any luck Dan Andrews will appear during MICF) take to the stage to air their grievances with Malcolm.
The tonight show format gives Mooney a mechanism to switch gears between the light-hearted absurdism of the PM’s casual drug use and darker story beats, giving the stand up the space he needs to keep things interesting for himself as well as the audience. When we spoke to Mooney, he mentioned that people want to love their prime minister, and that this show helps them to do that. It’s true, the candor and wit of this version of the PM leaves the audience utterly enamoured, with Mooney at least.
An Evening with Malcolm Turnbull is on at 6:45pm at the Athenaeum Theatre until 22 April (no shows Mondays) as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, accessibility information and show details can be found via the MICF website.