Monday night saw the South Australian state final of the RAW Comedy competition take place at Adelaide's Arts Theatre, where an ensemble cast of local comedic talent sharpened their funny bones in the quest for glory. With the winner of the State Finals set to head to the National Final at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and the National Champion destined for a spot at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the world's largest annual comedy festival), tensions and expectations were high.
The MC for the evening was David Williams, who (along with daggy hair and a Motörhead singlet) brought the right dose of disparagement to bookend each competitors set, while giving Adelaide's rosy cheeks a comedic clip around the ear. The second bracket of the show even saw Williams officiating two punters from the crowd taking some absent seats in the front row, much to the dismay of the original holders ("Did you forget something on the way back in, like, a clock?"). Williams did a good job of setting the mood as up-beat and encouraging, while still inserting his own material without it seeming out of place.
The great thing about RAW Comedy competitions is that the audience is presented with enough variety that it's likely at least one of the entrants will match up with personal taste where others may will fail. Great comedians have unanimous appeal to most people's basic observations, which earned Lewis Garnham a deserving win.
Stand-up comedy is an art which can grow stale fast if the crowd isn't feeling the vibe of the act on stage; comedic timing of jokes combine with lengths of sets to capitalize as much as possible, which is where RAW's SA finals exceeded (with ten competitors, one MC, and two guest performers packed into about two-and-a-half hours).
First on stage was Nick Munday, a man from generations of gynecologists, affixed with a bow-tie that had Snowtown asking if he was "a poofta". Nick brought, with his posh demeanor, some pretentious poetry that was mixed-up with calculated absurdity. Nick's style of humour could easily have diversified the crowd, but the warm up from MC Williams kept most people surprisingly receptive.
Second on stage was dread-locked supermarket over-thinker Brad Hollis. Hollis' articulated reasoning of calling people (like the fourth act on stage) "pretty-boy" and faux-nervous explanations for the way he walks depending on who's around conveyed the perfect mix of aloof humour with the borderline-neurotic. Hollis did a spectacular job, particularly with carefully constructed over-explanations, and an act peppered with accidental shock humour throughout.
Duncan Turner took to the stage third in line, armed with a beard and sarcastic cynicism about how bullshit the idea of a magic show is. Turner made his political perspectives clear, particularly when he gave closet-racists "Reclaim Australia" a well-earned run for its money.
The man predicted by Brad Hollis to be a pretty boy ("Hello, I'll be your pretty boy for this evening"), Mitchell Glazbrook, made his way on stage fourth. Glazbrook dosed out his own flavour of laid-back Australiana and down-to-earth shock humour (the idea of laughing at a baby being drop-kicked may seem cringey, but with the right critiques of the Harry Potter franchise you might find it a pretty apt solution, too).
Taking as off to the intermission was Danielle Shafik, who's ditsy music rendition of "I Will Survive" was littered with frustrations from retail and hatred for the service industry, with allusions to stripper work.
Returning from the break we were greeted on stage by the confident and commanding observations of Lewis Garnham, who went on to win the finals that night. Garnham was laid-back and relaxed, but confident and more than capable of directing the crowd's attention to applause. Garnham's supposed lackadaisical perspective was fostered in part due to his identification as a uni student with a hatred for public transport, but slacker relatability was complimented with larger topics such as gun control in the US that ultimately lead to universal appeal in the audience.
Geoff Stone trailed on after Garnham with a matured outlook that was cynical of the perils of modern life: Marriage, Birth, not having a child grow-up to be a paedophile. Geoff tried to convey he had nothing else going for him, but did so in a manner that made the audience feel comfortable and at home with his humour.
Emily Grace approached the stage at number eight with a fast-paced set (speed of delivery possibly altered by nerves), that had bitter criticisms of gym culture, the commitment of couch ownership, and its similarities to marriage.
Number nine was Arun Jolly, who's material was superbly written, self-referential, and laden with puns. Arun opened with a similar bit as Jeff Stone about negating performance anxiety on stage, but fears of the same premise growing stale quickly dissipated after a set that truly showed it had been carefully crafted, much to the audience's adoration.
Our final performer for the night, Jenna Crowe Riddell, acknowledged that she's a vegan, announced she was a biologist, and in all honestly looked a lot like what you would expect a vegan biologist to look like. What you would not expect a vegan biologist to do is talk extensively about the concept of having two cocks, while maintaining a sarcastic "am I right" style of delivery that was worthy of a spot in the finals.
Before the victor was announced, 2015 RAW finalist Nick Huntley ("they never let you forget you didn't win") kept the crowd in well-written hysterics, with offensive observations about Australia's (lack of) culture and inherent racism, before the surprise special guest for the night, Tommy Little took to the stage. Little did lots to send the crowd off with, at the very least, an unintentional low-brow belly-laugh while concreting the hilarious nature of the mystery of "Australian Culture" at the end of the show. All in all Raw Comedy's state final was a surprisingly impressive show of laughs from the stand-up comedy scene in Adelaide, that felt right at home in the midst of Fringe season.