Review: Lords of Luxury

Not luxurious enough for a stogie apiece (L-R): Paul Verhoeven, Matt Saraceni, Dan Debuf, Luke Ryan.

Not luxurious enough for a stogie apiece (L-R): Paul Verhoeven, Matt Saraceni, Dan Debuf, Luke Ryan.

Lords of Luxury
Starring: Dan Debuf, Luke Ryan, Matt Saraceni, Paul Verhoeven
Appearing at: Victoria Hotel, for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

ratings-5

These self-styled aristocrats (take a closer look at their initials and laugh out loud, as it were) run a podcast that’s popular with ‘da yoof’. They are also professionally yoofful. Paul Verhoeven is a triple j presenter, while Dan Debuf and Matt Saraceni are two-thirds of the Nova 919 (Adelaide) breakfast crew. Luke Ryan had a well-regarded MICF solo show in 2009, and writes for yoof lifestyle website The Vine (as, incidentally, does Verhoeven).

Their similarly yoofful audience lapped up this show – well, except the girl who was dragged onstage to stand like a rabbit in headlights while dating guru Guns Libido (Debuf) described how to seduce her.

They should do well – they’re handsome, charming and hip, and they somehow manage to look good in the overly shiny hired tuxedos in which they disport themselves on stage. Yet the shaggy, drawn-out sketches and lowest-common-denominator gags here give off the impression they’re just mucking around.

Plenty of well-known Australian comedians get their start in undergraduate sketch comedy troupes. Not just the D-Generation, but also younger personalities including Charlie Pickering and Lawrence Leung, and in Sydney, the 3rd Degree crew including Felicity Ward, Dan Ilic and Heath Franklin. Among the 15 shows in this year’s festival explicitly billing themselves as sketch comedy is the Deakin University comedy revue.

However, the fact that sketch comedy is often performed by undergraduates doesn’t make it a place for undergraduate humour, and I’m afraid the Lords of Luxury fall into that trap. Lowbrow silliness can be wonderful, but it still has to be quick and clever.

I feel I should single out their odd fondness for gay jokes. We saw Verhoeven fellating a stick of carob, Verhoeven joining Debuf and Ryan in an offstage menage à trois that might have been happening inside Saraceni’s head, and Saraceni being teased for having a “cute little lisp”.

I have no idea if any of them are actually gay, and I certainly don’t have a problem with sex jokes, but it was almost as if they felt the idea of dudes doing dudes was a standalone gag. It isn’t.

This is frustrating, because they are likeable performers. Debuf’s height and wild-eyed facial expressions lend him a goofy charm, while the Rove-sized Saraceni is an impish physical comedian. Ryan has a dry, witty delivery, and Verhoeven is quite good with accents.

Like all sketch comedy, the best moments came when the performers started improvising and struggling to hold character. There were touches of Theatresports in the way they’d egg each other on, and watching Ryan flinching and stifling laughter while being threatened with a water pistol, it was impossible not to join in.

But with more, quicker and cleverer sketches, this show would be much more grown-up.

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