Sunday nights in the back of the Flying Scotsman, that institution cherished by Perth’s student body, there’s an almost perfect setup. A few rows of plastic chairs before a low stage in a room that somehow manages to have the smoky atmosphere of the classic comedy den without the associated risk of cancer. It’s the ideal place to get you in the mood for Infinite Jest, two hours of experimental comedy from diehards of the Perth comedy scene.
‘Experimental’ comedy, by the way, is what you have before slick stage shows and well-practised sets – this is where local comedians get to try out new, uncertain material in front of a crowd made amiable by cheap beer and good pizza. It’s the fetal form of a solid set, and some of the gags are rough, barely one step above pure improv. It’s not uncommon for a joke to fall flat completely, but it says something about the quality of the performers that they are almost always ready with a self-deprecating rejoinder that can tease a chuckle from the audience. Many of these performers have been working the Perth comedy circuit for a while now and it shows in their comfortable delivery and on-stage poise, and when a newer comedian is stretching their legs the crowd is usually polite enough that you’re not left cringing.
Each show is different. The night I went, MC’d by the energetic Cameron McLaren, the show included Fringe 2015 performer Cieron Lyons, an excellently self-deprecating set by Glenn Grimwood and the eloquent stoner-y comedy of Jeremiah Watts. The highlight of the night was the deadpan Sonny Yang and wordsmith David Tuffley swapping material in the theatre game-styled Role Reversal set and attempting to impersonate one another while gently dissing the other’s work.
There is something very appealing about the raw nature of the performances in such a small venue. It feels very intimate; the small crowd is automatically part of the show, and a lot of humour comes from the way in which the comedians interact with them or with one another. It’s not the smooth performance of a polished stage show, but it is an entertaining way to get a look at the process of developing comedy, and to experience the range of the Perth comedy scene. Infinite Jest runs every Sunday at the Flying Scotsman in Mt Lawley. Doors open at 7pm, tickets are $5 at the door.
Review by Morgan Goodman