If you think that a comedy show is just someone with a mic cracking jokes, or if you’re lucky someone with a puppet… still cracking jokes than The Umbilical Brothers brand new show The Distraction is going to change your view of comedy forever.
To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show which is now on as part of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival. My first ‘real’ introduction to The Umbilical Brothers was way back in my High School years when the talented duo came to my school and ran a couple of drama workshops. They were nice guys and their act, which was inventive at the time, largely revolved around mime and making noises with their mouths.
At the time it was pretty cool, hey the guys I saw on Hey, Hey It’s Saturday were at my school, but comedy has changed since then. Even the Umbies acknowledge this in their new show when they joke about how tired it would be if they hadn’t moved with the times and were still performing the same act they were thirty years ago. They acknowledge it and that’s great because what they deliver here is not only up with the times, it has probably started a new evolution of comedy that I certainly didn’t expect to see.
For those that have missed out on the evolution of the Umbies over the years. It has been something pretty spectacular. David Collins and Shane Dundas met while studying 30 years ago and from there became an Australian comedic institution with their rare brand of comedy that mixed old fashioned mime with audio effects. From hit show after hit show on stage the Umbies sound found themselves on television both here and around the world as even the likes of David Letterman embraced them.
When I walked into the Fairfax Theatre I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ll admit that aside from seeing them pop up on television commercials here and there I hadn’t seen one of their shows for a long time, and I was I first saw when I walked into the theatre was strange to say the least. On the stage were cameras, a mini city made of cardboard, actual baby dolls strewn everywhere, a guy sitting at a computer, a couple of green screens and an ominous warning on a huge screen that read “your face may appear on this screen but it will not leave this room.”
Yes I’ll admit that I was trying to put together this jigsaw puzzle worth of clues together in my head and try to work out what was about to happen – what I didn’t expect was what did happen – basically the Umbies made a live sketch comedy TV show, littered with special effects, happen right in front of us.
And the sketches, I have to say were literally out of this world. From a inquisitive American who likes pushing buttons accidentally finding himself on a space station to a city being attacked by a Giant Baby – this was a show full of laughs and witty jokes that had its audience never knowing what to expect next.
You wanted to keep your eyes on the big screen so you didn’t miss any of the ‘live’ special effects but at the same time you wanted to keep an eye on David Collins and Shane Dundas so you could see how the effects were being done with very little other than the human body and some props. Take your eyes off them even for a second and you would even miss the cute looks and smiles the two share together when something catches them off guard… for most of the show it felt like you were watching a Behind The Scenes featurette for a movie or television show being made right in front of you.
Aside from the laughs throughout the show I also found that I was watching something pretty special play out in front of me. The Distraction is new, it is fresh, it is a comedy game-changer but most important that it is just damn funny. The Distraction is for teens and above (unless you want to explain to your kids why kicking a doll is okay) and runs throughout the festival until the 17th April.