Comedy Roulette – Take The Gamble

Comedy Roulette

Down one of Melbourne’s scenic laneways on a mellow Wednesday night in Theory bar, Comedy Roulette was about to begin. Hanging plants and disco balls adorned the booked-out show, which was filled with enthusiastic first-time attendees.

The premise was simple and clever – as our two bubbly, enigmatic hosts, Kru Harale and Olga Loitsenko, explained to us – behind the comedians on stage, a large spinning wheel was to be projected, containing a wide variety of prompts from “what Sydney hates about Melbourne”’ (which Hannah Sainty nailed – the good-looking people, and the good coffee) to “self-help titles that won’t sell”.

The wheel would begin to spin when the audience chanted, “Spin…that…wheel!”. The line-up of comedians rotates per show (much like the wheel itself), with this show featuring Suren Jayemanne, Diana Nguyen, Charlie Lewin, Hannah Sainty, Henry Yan, Zach Riley, Chris Nguyen, Aarti Vincent, Oliver Coleman, and the two fabulous hosts. A callout of “Who in the audience likes gambling?!” was met with a chuckle, and the games had begun – with the wheel’s prompts being a surprise to the comedians.

The show kicked off with Olga bantering with the front row and introducing the audience to a winning Estonian Eurovision song (and hilariously noting how widely Eurovision had been expanded for Australia even to be included).

Comedy Roulette

Oliver then made the audience giggle with his ‘enlightened’ persona, complaining about people meditating in public in Coburg. The laughs of the audience were magnified at various times throughout the night when jokes featured familiar Melbourne locations and tropes – later, the famously unclean Flinders Street Railway Station toilets would be the butt of a joke.

The comics employed various ways of engaging with the audience to spin the supposedly “voice-activated” wheel throughout the night, including stating “, We are a cult, and we must chant!”. Charlie didn’t miss a beat when the wheel had a momentary technical delay – he casually bantered with the audience like they were old friends, giving some sage words of wisdom – when your boomer Dad cracks it at one of your siblings – take that as an opportunity to add in your own personal crises to the mix.

After a quick drink break, the comedy took a more introspective turn, with topics ranging from Hannah’s reflections on the absurdities of health food shops to Suren’s thoughts on the complexities of religion, family dynamics, and the true crime genre (which Chris noted he loved listening to, but not partaking in). I laughed particularly hard at Zach’s recollection of a horrible past job in an unsanitary pub kitchen and when an audience member asked Aarti about her ‘worst Tinder date’, as she dryly explained that she was married before Tinder was even invented.

Henry charmed the audience with his awkward and endearing persona and stories. Diana’s candid anecdote about her mother’s horrified reaction to a previous comedy show entitled ‘Naked’ ended Comedy Roulette on a high, leaving the audience in stitches with her unabashed humour.

Throughout the night, each of the 11 comedians delivered an audience-engaging set of observant, clever, and witty jokes—the perfect mix of pre-prepared stand-up material and fast-paced improvisation. Comedy Roulette is a gateway drug to the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival, in which many of the aforementioned comics will be performing. Take a gamble if you dare, as this is a room full of comedians to watch.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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