Many would recognise Paul McDermott as host of the critically acclaimed comedic TV panel show Good News Week, but McDermott fans might say his greatest role was making people laugh through song with the Doug Anthony All Stars. The trio, including Richard Fidler and Tim Ferguson, performed together for eight years before they split to pursue their own interests, which they each did with great success.
For McDermott, The Funhouse is a return to the artform that so completely showcased his talent as a comedian, actor, writer, director and singer (he is also a visual artist, but you can only pack so many things into a single show).
In maroon velvet jacket and platform Docs, he plays host to three performers who haven’t got shows at the Cabaret Festival outside of this one, and it’s a smorgasbord of varied talent.
Captain Ruin, as seen on Australia’s Got Talent, is a sideshow performer who does uncomfortable things with his body (giving away only his props, I say to you: roller skates and a bowling ball). Philmah Bocks is a drag queen whose costumes are ingenious and wigs a work of art, while comedian and actor Dilruk Jayasinha – the standout performer – has recently been seen on reality-TV shows I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and Celebrity MasterChef.
These three performers are specific to this opening week, so don’t expect the same entertainers when you book your tickets near the end of the festival (Claire Hooper is advertised as next weekend’s comedian).
Given that McDermott’s name features in the title of the show, with the other artists billed as special guests, the time he spends on stage feels minimal. His physicality is joyous, even while his messages are pure sarcasm. Calling out Karens in the audience then singing a song dedicated to them, praising Pete Evans and “fascist” anti-vaxxers, McDermott doesn’t mince his words, and the F-bomb drops like a series of Molotov cocktails on giddy victims. Like watching old clips of DAAS might induce modern-day cringing – with call-outs to ugly people and old people – this cabaret show celebrates McDermott staying true to his form.
Guitarist Glenn Moorhouse is an oft-time collaborator of McDermott’s and their chemistry is buoyant, while the house band – Toby Lang, Alex Wignall and Tim Wilson – are musically tight and laugh on cue (you can find them playing after hours at The Piña Colada Room, too).
The Funhouse is a professional gig, although it felt a little like a “fill-in”; something for the 6pm time slot. The authentic show seemed to take place afterwards, outside the Spiegeltent, when McDermott and Moorhouse gave an intimate performance on the Festival Plaza for audience members who stuck around. Beginning with five-second ditties about the Virgin Mary (the most hilarious moment of the night) and Queen Liz’s jubilee, and ending with a group round-robin-type chant of “Adelaide looks beautiful tonight”, we were all wrapped in a warm fuzzy on a very cold night.
Paul McDermott – The Funhouse is at The Famous Spiegeltent until June 25 as part of the 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
See all InReview’s coverage of the 2022 Cabaret Festival here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.