American Comedy has a niche of its own. Sometimes it’s an accommodating one and sometimes, well it’s not. But the advantage of watching a show like Headliners is that out of the three comedians at least one (and if you’re lucky maybe even two) will reassure you that American humor can actually be laugh-out-loud funny.
John Mulaney opened the night and building a slow but fairly sustained rapport with the audience shared some iconic glimpses into American culture. Ranging from television shows like Law and Order ( there’s a reason L&O doesn’t air on SBS), Mulaney enlightened us on all and sundry, including the despotic affects of music and the potential for a psychotic frenzy to break out in a diner when a song is repeatedly played; over and over again. 21 times. The effect was mind boggling but hilarious. Mulaney’s strongest point however was not the affirmation of American stereotypes, though he did occasionally wander down that path, but instead a strong fascination with the Australian possums! Having never encountered such creatures the comic seemed to be on the verge of articulating some very real fears about these shady animals who stalk the paths of the Botanical Gardens once the sun sets, certainly giving the audience plenty to laugh about close to home.
Twenty minutes later and second up was Greg Behrendt and, unquestionably, he was the stand out amongst the stand up comics of the evening. His jokes were riveting, the laughter genuine and the energy tangible in the room. From issues surrounding growing old (he’s 46), to talking about the size and worth of one’s crown jewels, Behrendt left no anatomical space unprobed. And he was very thorough.
Last up for the evening was Todd Barry and while previous reviews have always commented on his razor sharp wry humor it just wasn’t there. There were a few uplifting moments but on the whole the last 20 minutes of the show was uncomfortably slow, with the energy from Behrendt’s performance slowly fizzing out of what could have been a very snappy and sharp conclusion to the evening.
However, with a triple bill you do have a chance to get a taste of the sweet (and sour) offerings of an American buffet dinner. Be open, be ready to experiment and even if you don’t end up enjoying everything on your plate there’s always sure to be something that will take your fancy – just don’t always expect it to be the dessert.