Melbourne International Comedy Festival: CJ Jenkins is a Freakshow

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: CJ Jenkins is a Freakshow

I went to CJ Jenkins is a Freakshow expecting some sort of zany burlesque. I was, however, surprised to find that it is actually a candid, funny and moving one woman show, with CJ playing herself, telling stories about her upbringing and her disability.

Host of Channel 31’s The Comic Box, with extensive experience in Melbourne’s comedy scene, the pink-haired CJ Jenkins initially presents herself as the all singing, all dancing variety performer, entering the echoey gallery space of Dante’s upstairs, twirling her walking stick to circus music blaring out of a tinny portable stereo. However this small performance at the start is used to set up for the central show, CJ under a single light, sitting in a chair, telling us stories from her life. She sits as close to the audience as possible, squaring each member with a straight stare. Her story may not be pretty, but it has to be honest and funny.

Born with cerebal palsy and spina bifida, CJ has in recent years developed rheumatoid arthritis. She tells us what it was like to be the first disabled child in Victoria to attend a ‘normal’ school: the taunts of the bullies, the inability to play like the other kids played. She instead had to make her own fun. A child who fell over a lot, for example, she describes the science behind falling over in hilarious detail.

Moving on to her family, she describes what it was like to live with her homosexual drug taking father and mentally unstable religious zealot of a mother, who, after turning to the Pentacostal church, came to believe that CJ could be ‘cured’ through exorcism and speaking in tongues. This whole section is hilarious in its absurdity, but equally heart breaking.

CJ Jenkins is a Freakshow is hilarious and vulnerable and incredibly well performed because this is Jenkins performing as herself, presenting a painful life in progress in all its absurdity. One moment she has you dancing along with her, another you are moved almost to tears, all because she is letting you into a very intimate story that she has made very very funny. The glibness that seems to be required of the Comedy Festival guide simply does not reflect the complexity and beauty of this show.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: CJ Jenkins is a Freakshow
Tuedays, Thursdays and Saturdays at Dante’s in Fitzroy until the 25th of April

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/melbourne-international-comedy-festival-cj-jenkins-is-a-freakshow-177614

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Welcome to the Freak Show

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Welcome to the Freak Show

Welcome to the Freak Show is musical comedian Darren Freak’s first outing in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Originally from Adelaide, part of his show is commenting on his life in Melbourne since moving here two years ago, as well as some spoken word sections revolving around his family and childhood in Adelaide.

One of his strongest songs was about listening to people who call in on talkback radio. His string of I’m not a [something] BUT quotes came together well. Other highlights include a love song gone horribly wrong, as well as a song about airline safety – or the lack thereof. His set also included a brutally honest little ditty that he was hoping to send to tourism Victoria to try and inject a little more business into the economy.

Darren did garner a lot of laughs from a receptive audience. One aspect that he falls down on, which prevails throughout the show, is a lack of confidence in standing by his material. Let’s be honest, a lot of his material is low-brow – punchy and occasionally well crafted – but still low-brow. A bit of cockiness is needed for this type of humour, for it to be delivered with the middle finger sticking decidedly up.

I can understand why it may be hard for him to bridge that gap. The opening of the show has Freak being disarmingly truthful. He sings a song warning the audience that his guitar skills may be lacking, how he may every now and then forget a lyric. And instead of disguising the small venue in Misty bar on Hosier Lane, he points it out to the audience, asking them to participate in some group photography. He is obviously savouring the experience, while delivering with songs about the fears and prejudices of the white middle class. But it’s that confidence again; if you’re going to make fun of the middle-class, it’s hard to try and be friends with them at the same time. With a name like Darren Freak, he can afford to cultivate more of a character that he can attach these songs to.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Welcome to the Freak Show
Plays at Misty at 7pm, Tuesday to Sunday, until the 12th of April.

Original Post: http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/melbourne-international-comedy-festival-welcome-to-the-freak-show-177621