Melbourne comedians stock up on Hong Kong jokes for show at Fringe Club

There's always a risk when you work a few local gags into a comedy act, but Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow performers reckon they'll be all right

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 7:05pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 July, 2015, 7:47pm

Working a few local gags into their stand-up patter is a risky business for comedians. A mispronunciation, a backfiring joke which reveals a lack of local knowledge and it can all go horribly wrong.

But when Irish-Australian Dave Callan hits Hong Kong as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow, chances are the local jokes will fit right in. He is a regular visitor, his mother and uncle grew up in Hong Kong while their father worked as a lawyer and his cousin still lives locally.

Despite that connection Callan, who moved to Australia from Ireland at age 15, has never performed in Hong Kong, although he has done gigs in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. A comedy game show regular on Australian television screens and a popular DJ on Melbourne music radio station Triple J, he will be MC for the Roadshow.

Again, to meet demand there are two simultaneous shows featuring Callan and four other Australian acts, so he has to run up and down the Fringe Club stairs to open and close the two overlapping shows.

"I'll drop anything Australia-centric. I will do a shout out to find out which countries are represented in the audience, I'll do a bit for each country and general Hong Kong stuff," he says. He has stored up anecdotes and observations, including things he has seen on the streets, to work into his material.

But he is best known Down Under for his hilarious dances, pouting and tossing himself about the stage. "His premise is that it is inherently funny to watch a lanky, bearded, modestly co-ordinated, heading-towards-middle age, Viking-like bloke attempting to replicate dance moves from the world of pop. And he's correct," an Adelaide reviewer wrote of his latest show.

"I do a little dance to All the Single Ladies, Beyoncé's song; I do her exact moves, I painstakingly learned it. The incongruity of a big, hairy man doing a Beyoncé song seems to amuse people," he says, with some understatement.

Callan, 39, has been in comedy since winning the talent competition while at university in Perth in 1993 — although he says he actually got his start at age eight and a talent competition at the local village in Ireland. He and a neighbour did the routine, his dad wrote the script.

To ensure there are laughs for all tastes, the festival, now offering a Roadshow for the 15th year, and its fifth year in Hong Kong, has put together an eclectic programme of acts to join him at the Fringe Club.

Also appearing at this year's festival are award-winning South African-born New Zealander Urzila Carlson, duo ElbowSkin (Dave Elbow and Ernie Skin), indigenous comedian Andrew Saunders, and 27-year-old Nick Cody.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is an Australian success story — it is attended by more than 600,000, with specials televised to an audience of two million. The roadshow, which began as a round-Australia tour, added Singapore when a former festival staff member moved there, then Hong Kong because of festival director Susan Provan's connection with the Fringe Club's Benny Chia — she met him when touring in her previous job with Circus Oz. In 2012, India was added to the schedule.

"It is our way of taking a slice of the Comedy Festival to people who cannot come to Melbourne. We cast the roadshow with a view to representing the breadth of the people who are in the festival, for example a newcomer, two or three headliners," Provan says.

Hong Kong Fringe Club, July 16-18, 8pm; July 19, 7pm, Fringe Underground, Fringe Club, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, July 19: HK$250 (members), HK$280; July 16: HK$300 (members), HK$350; July 17 and 18: HK$390, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 2521 7251