Review: The Big Hoo-Haa!, MICF

Thuy On

Melbourne’s longest running and best-loved improvised comedy show.
Review: The Big Hoo-Haa!, MICF

The Big Hoo-Haa! Photo by Mark Gambino.

If you see a lot of comedy, the slickness and prepared monologues from a lot of the stand-up comics can have a whiff of glib triteness. You know they’ve said the same things, over and over again, with only tiny variations to mark the different cities visited.

The beauty of an entirely improvised show is simply that: no two nights are the same and the audience, like the performers, has absolutely no idea what will eventuate on stage. The Big Hoo-Haa! is billed as Melbourne’s longest running and best-loved improvised comedy show. A bold claim indeed, but this is no hyperbole. On the night attended half the audience had prior knowledge of what to expect; the rest of us were explained the basic premise by the affable compere: two teams (the crossbones and the hearts) have to battle it out armed only with their wit and their fast-thinking antics. A live guitar accompaniment is also there to help with atmosphere and soundtrack.

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And, so, with suggestions yelled out by enthusiastic members of the audience, the young and lively performers on stage have to act, and act fast. And not just act. Sing and prance as well. The theme for this particular night was Spooky (the following Monday sessions include Singing and Sexy) and thus each team must work with the random words assigned to them. Cue much hilarity with the poor sods from both sides respectively trying to mime Bacon and Monday (words needed to exorcise ghosts in this instance).The Big Hoo-Haa! relies and feeds on crowd interaction and on the night attended there was a lot of fun to see how they would integrate the following famous scary lines into their skits ('Quoth the raven', 'I know what your insides look like', 'Here’s Johnny!' and 'What are you doing in my Swamp?').

Individually and collectively both teams are frighteningly good, coming up with entire musical numbers (with a chorus and choreography made up on the spot) as well as mini-plays with meaningful narratives. Puns, rhymes, one-liners and all sorts of clever and silly wordplay are bounced around by these extroverted young ‘uns. They are funny as. And magical the way they can spin comic gold.

4 stars ★★★★
The Big Hoo-Haa!
1-15 April 2019
Melbourne International Comedy Festival

About the author

Thuy On is a freelance literary journalist and critic and the books editor of The Big Issue.