Review: Fan Fiction Comedy
Fan Fiction Comedy
Starring: Steven Boyce, Tom Furniss, Rose Matafeo, Joseph Moore and Heidi O’Loughlin with special guests Michael Workman and Andrew O’Neill
Appearing at: Melbourne Town Hall, for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Comedy incubators tend to be young, enthusiastic groups, which in Melbourne have included the D-Generation, the Improbables and Vigilantelope. I’m still not sure how Wil Anderson discovered this Auckland-based troupe, or the input he’s had into the show, but he ‘presents’ it, and introduced the performers tonight.
It says something about generational and technological changes that while the D-Gen are retrospectively chronicled on Wikipedia, the Improbables had to ask to be listed on a website and Vigilantelope used Blogspot, Fan Fiction Comedy host their site on Tumblr.
These totes-adorbz Kiwis are definitely Gen-Y, and they’re lampooning books, movies and TV shows that younger audiences are likely to know most intimately. As they say in the photocopied zine distributed to the audience while we queued: “Fan Fiction (n.) A thing that old people don’t understand.” I laughed a lot – yay, I’m still young!
However, if you’ve never encountered fan fiction before, bubbly host Rose Matafeo (dressed like Enid Coleslaw from Ghost World) has a handy introduction, including the most and least popular texts reimagined by fans, the key tropes of titling and synopsis, and the erotic subgenres of slash and shipping.
The performers sit in a school assembly-style row of chairs on one side of the stage, while on the other side, Steven Boyce acts as a judge/commentator. Each performer writes a fresh fanfic for every show (it’s on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays during the festival), so half the fun is watching the others’ reactions.
Tonight, Joseph Moore was first up with a gory Halloween special on Glee, complete with digs at the show’s character clichés, iTunes cash-ins and obnoxious mash-ups. I was filled with guilty laughter at his spot-on impression of Principal Figgins.
Following him was guest Michael Workman, whose Buffy the Vampire Slayer story delighted in absurdist turns of phrase. I really liked the way Workman captured the self-satisfied quippiness and bickering of the original show.
Heidi O’Loughlin has already demonstrated her Harry Potter fandom in last year’s solo show, Expecto Patronum, and she did some great, perverse work with a story in which she cheats on her husband Severus Snape with Tom Riddle’s diary. Given O’Loughlin’s goofy laughter at her fellow performers’ stories, her style was surprisingly controlled and deadpan.
Massive Doctor Who fan Andrew O’Neill brought his laptop onstage (now we all know his password) to imagine Terrance Dicks penning the Fourth Doctor’s appearance at MICF, where he meets O’Neill for ginger beer and is abused from a ute as a “bloody Brunswick Street hipster!” I found myself wishing mad Whovians Richard Watts and Ben McKenzie had witnessed this, because O’Neill’s in-jokes were so ‘in’ he was reduced to explaining them to the audience.
O’Neill must have had a bad experience this festival, because both his fanfic narrative and his general banter were quite hostile to reviewers (which set the other performers to a frenzy of head-shaking disavowal in the chairs behind him). I found him charming and likeable, which made his weird antagonism baffling. But hey – fanfic can be cathartic.
Tom Furniss provided perhaps the most horrifying – and hilarious! – story, a rollicking piece of maritime erotica starring Alf and Colleen from Home and Away. It’s pretty cheap to elicit laughs from the idea of old people having sex, but what I enjoyed most was Furniss’s occasional awkward pauses, as if he were disgusted by his own imagination.
Matafeo kept the pace tight (the show ran for precisely an hour) while mixing things up by throwing to Boyce for commentary, and offering crappy CDs as audience prizes. (Her celebrity impressions were less successful.) If you’re familiar enough with online fandom to enjoy both the homage and the piss-take, don’t miss this.
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