A lightning-fast wit, smart one liners and political incorrectness distinguish my pick at the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The 50-minute set is crammed full of contemporary references and personal stories.
No subject is off limits and Shafar makes that clear from close to the get go, when he starts talking about his second battle with testicular cancer. He weaves a series of quick-fire gags on the subject that, though deeply personal, immediately put the audience at ease … and that includes ignorance around the subject.
Ahead of that he references how he wouldn’t recommend going to see a show on a cruise ship because watching old married couples bickering is far more fun. Then he proceeds to spin a particularly amusing yarn about just that.
Shafar discusses the fact that he is lactose intolerant and how doctors are better at treating testicular cancer. He steps it up a gear, waxing eloquently about the consequences of drinking milk directly from a cow … and juxtaposing his condition with that faced by his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.
Next cab off the rank is COVID-19 and, in that context, home schooling, bats, wet markets and vaccinations. Wayne Carey and Donald Trump get worked into the conversation. Racism gets a bucketing, with a super funny reference to the Channel 7 series Border Security, which he maintains invariably features non-whites being detained.
Later, he relates a yarn about a Chinese friend and a Chinese waiter that brings howls of laughter. Shafar reveals he joined a Pauline Hanson Facebook group to try to understand prejudice.
The federal government receives a serve for an annual letter sent to his parents which asks whether Shafar’s sister, who has a lifelong condition, still has it. In fact, many of his loved ones – including his mum, Susan, aunt, and girlfriend of 12 years, Amanda – get tall tales told about them during the show.
Early on he alludes to skinny jeans, which he comes back to later, but – believe it or not – skinny coffins (who knew there was such a thing) also find favour in Shafar’s routine. Proudly Jewish, he plays on and exploits the Jewish stereotype.
The laughs come thick and fast throughout … and well deserving they are too. Shafar’s transitions from one topic to the next are seamless. Nor does he miss a beat through the entirety of his routine. He sets up a contention and a matter of seconds later delivers the punch line – landing it every time. And there are a few themes he returns to, with great comic effect. He is warm, friendly and readily relatable – topical, irreverent and saucy.
Shafar is living proof that laughter is indeed the best medicine, except when you have testicular cancer … when chemotherapy is preferable. Michael Shafar 110% is on at Mantra on Russell, 222 Russell Street and in Melbourne Town Hall, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, until 18th April, 2021.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Black Santa (Fad Gallery) – stand-up comedy review
- Pants on Fire (Brunswick Ballroom) – theatrical comedy review
- 4 Seasons (Expressions/CCDC) – theatre review
Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.