Paul Culliver has a finger in every piece of the performance pie. An established radio maker and podcast host, Culliver has decided to put as much comedy on his plate as possible. Earlier in March, he started his monthly trivia night, Paul Culliver Controls the Media, at the Butterfly Club, and his debut Melbourne International Comedy Festival solo show Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer opened at the Highlander Bar on March 25th. The poster for the latter features Culliver holding two olive branches around the show title hopefully, armed with his own award.
On paper, Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer has the same premise as Murphy McLachlan Tries Everything; new comedian attempts to be the best at things he’s new to. Onstage however, the two are vastly different. Culliver’s title is a framing device for fifty minutes of stand up.
Culliver is comfortable performing, yet nervous about the audience. His material is generic – some of his early jokes discuss the difficulties of online dating, for example – but Culliver is personable enough to carry it off. He moves around the stage and addresses both sides of the L shaped seating arrangement enough to hold focus and not enough to distract. He’s expressive and gestural, unafraid to dance or pull at his own face in exasperation.
Culliver encounters a few technical and physical difficulties, and talks his way through them. The seeming randomness of it all puts the audience at ease, its interesting how quickly things going wrong gets them onside. It’s Culliver’s doing, of course, and off the cuff quips are definitely his strong suit, most likely a result of his radio background. If anything, the show could use a little more oddity and spontaneity and a little less broad stand up. Culliver’s sharp, long winded weird bits are his best, those that play on the audience’s expectations only to take them down back roads that lead to an uncanny destination, similar to but different from where they thought they were going.
It may not win Best Newcomer, but Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer delights in its premise anyway.
Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer is on at the Highlander Bar until April 18th at 9:45pm every night except Sundays and Mondays. Tickets range from $10 to $15 and are available online or at the door.