Perfect Pitch – Andrew McLelland

- Tim Roberts

Andrew McClelland at The Victoria Hotel
Presented by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, 2 April 2011


I can usually tell when a comedian is really doing his or her job well. That’s because I get an excruciating oxygen-deprivation headache from laughing too hard, which requires me to lean forward for several seconds until the blood returns to my brain. To the consternation of those around me, this happened several times during McClelland’s show.

McClelland’s poster is deceptive. Everything about the poster prepares you for a mildly amusing, erudite, slightly avuncular figure. And that’s how he seems at first – slightly stuffy, old-fashioned, charming. But all this is a ruse designed to distract you from his gaspingly funny anecdotes.

So much of McClelland’s humour is in his impeccable delivery that his actual material seems hard to describe. Suffice to say that he can turn a description of trying to chat up an attractively tomboyish girl in the museum cloakroom into an extended farce about human self-delusion. It’s all done with the gentlest of touches, mind you: McClelland doesn’t possess the ‘cruelty gland’ that now seems de rigueur for genuinely funny comedy. Even his banter with the audience was unfailingly warm – a quality best demonstrated when he turned the frequent toilet breaks indulged in by the front row into an affectionate running gag.

McClelland’s forte is impersonation. He masterfully re-enacts conversations, simultaneously playing the parts of multiple participants, but he’s equally good at the spittle-flecked, implausibly broad French/Italian numbers last seen on 1970s British TV. For example, McClelland’s account of having his hair cut while receiving advice on women and hair maintenance by an Italian Carlton barber stuck in a 1950s time-warp was appallingly funny. Perhaps the night’s most hilarious scene was his recounting of being unceremoniously dumped by his Australian girlfriend (who was living in Paris at the time) for a disconcertingly Jean-Claude Van Damme-like ex-Foreign Legion sniper … whose job it was to smash counterfeit Eiffel Tower smuggling rings. The image of the hapless McClelland pursuing the girl to Paris, only to spend days awkwardly hanging out with the pair as an utterly redundant ‘third wheel’, was hilarious. And his account of being introduced to the confiscated Eiffel Tower storeroom concealed beneath the Arc de Triomphe by the colossal ex-Foreign Legion soldier caused me to experience the aforementioned head pains.

All McClelland’s stories of frustration and heartbreak would be a little gruelling were it not for his obvious delight in taking life’s knocks squarely on the chin. He doesn’t get the girl, and he stumbles his way through every situation in a way that would make Inspector Clouseau shake his head in sympathy. But he bounces back with more than enough verve and zany energy to quash any potentially depressing aspects. I can honestly say that I laughed till it hurt.

- April 2011

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