The irony in its name gets blacker by the day. Only a few weeks ago the venue – a local hub for well-known comedians, where Hannah Gadsby started work on her all-conquering Nanette – was set to be one of the first to reopen with social distancing.
For the time being, it has been compelled to resume a program of weekly livestreamed shows that proved popular during the first lockdown.
Hosted by Adam Hills, Easey Comedy offers a weekly line-up of veterans and relative newcomers taking the mic in an hour-long format. It feels like an ark for stand-ups whose shows were cancelled when this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival was called off, and it holds up remarkably well on Zoom.
Last Thursday, Hills warmed up an audience tuning in from loungerooms around the world before launching into a bit based on Melbourne’s compulsory mask-wearing regulations. Suffice to say, jogging with a dog in tow is not a reliable way to avoid a $200 fine.
One salient feature was the diversity of the line-up and comedic stylings. Transgender comedian Anna Piper Scott kicked off with an entree of light self-deprecation, and more nutritious fare in her biting ripostes to prejudice experienced as a trans woman.
Aurelia St Clair – who has German-Cameroonian heritage and describes herself as biracial, bisexual and bilingual – ploughed into morbid online obsessions developed during lockdown. Then she unleashed a puckish, needling spot that was woke in the most irreverent way imaginable. Impossible to resist a charm offensive delivered with such offensive charm.
Blokey comedy had to improvise a battle plan. Blake Freeman is a young stand-up with goofy likeability and promise but his style is still in search of solid material – straying over the cluelessness of youth, and generational differences to homophobic fare of yore.
Lewis Garnham assayed bogan comedy with less success. Louche sex and drugs jokes aside, you can’t just do a straight-up gender inversion of toxic masculinity, transplanting wholesale the worst excesses of AFL culture to Women’s AFL, and expect the satire to stick. Structural inequality is much more complex than that.
The spiky camp of Rhys Nicholson came to the rescue. He’s one gay man who can stick it to lockdown with sardonic sneer – from what time of the day to go to the gym when they reopen, to being forced to delay marrying his partner of nine years – less of a worry when your wedding is planned with an apocalypse theme.
Observing health guidelines didn’t strictly mean there was no live audience – the heroic efforts of the production crew and other comedians present kept the atmosphere upbeat without canned laughter.