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January 23, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Adam Hills – Inflatable

Published 27/4/09 at

If you had a barbeque and beers with a few mates at your house, Adam Hills is the man you’d most likely find there—he’d be the one telling all the jaw-dropping stories. Capable of seducing his audience into a pin-drop silence in order to hear him speak, Adam Hills’ Inflatable is the kind of show that comes across as endearingly sweet-centred, even when it asks a thirteen-year-old audience member to declare the worst swear word he’s ever heard. Set in the cosy confines of the Princess Theatre, Hills darts from hilarious tales of travel, to his ideas on the appropriate sign language symbols to describe Australia.

Like any good comic knows, humiliating latecomers always provides great comedic fodder; Hills was overwhelmed by the choice of late arrivals and couldn’t get to each fast enough. The first fifteen minutes was a display of natural quick-wittedness—admittedly honed by years on the comedy circuit—but which nevertheless delighted the audience. The idiotic Bombers supporter was lampooned for his automated response to a passing mention of Essendon, and a middle-aged man unsure of whether to declare the woman next to him his ‘girlfriend’ took the brunt of Hills’ humour in a series of good-natured jokes.

It’s clear that Adam Hills has seen many parts of the world; his show relies on many of his travel experiences, such as his Bon Jovi-singing antics with a group of shy Belgian comedians, the overly polite Dutch audience, his bunny ears experience in Edinburgh and astonishing acts at the Beijing Paralympics. Julia Gillard also makes a rather weird appearance in his catalogue of stories, while the thought of Jeff Kennett shyly hanging around waiting to be introduced to the Spicks and Specks comedian will make anybody’s imagination flutter into life. I will also give Hills credit for his various foreign accents, because lack of commitment to a joke is a major weak point for many aspiring comics, and Adam Hills doesn’t lose focus for one moment.

One segment that did seem out of place was his imaginary son: while I imagined the idea to be a source of humour, I think in the end it was intended as a touching testimony of Hills’ eagerness to pass on all his comedic knowledge to the future generation. This kind of moment doesn’t really detract from the show; it’s more a kind of quirky, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sideshow that may have actually been an attempt to tread uncertain ground for more comedic material. If that was the case, it was well done, because even though it wasn’t the funniest part of the show, it certainly didn’t detract from the genial atmosphere.

As opposed to the very worst of comedians, Hills is able to make the audience laugh without humiliating his subject—unless the subject is himself. In that case, very few areas are sacred; even prostate exams provide ground for comedic gold. Perhaps that is the secret to the reason why Inflatable is so pleasant to watch; you may hear a tale of re-swallowed hangover-induced vomit, but it’s not your story, so you can laugh as heartily as Hills laughs at himself.

Adam Hills – Inflatable: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Date: 2 – 26 April 2009

Times: Comedy Theatre (2-12 April) Tue-Sat 9pm, Sun 8pm
Princess Theatre (24-26 April) Fri-Sat 7.30pm, Sun 5pm

Duration: 75 minutes

Venue: Princess Theatre
163 Spring St, Melbourne
The Comedy Theatre
Cnr Exhibition & Lonsdale Sts, Melbourne


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