Reader, I have seen a lot of comedy this Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It's one of the perks of this brilliant job. I've seen some very good shows, but I'd yet to find anyone who had that certain something I'm always looking for in comedy, the ability to make me laugh until my stomach hurt and tears were threatening my mascara. Was I being too harsh on comedians who hadn't performed in two years? Should I be grading on a curve? We have a saying at Time Out, "you'll feel a five-star show in your waters". And finally, here it was: Gentle Man is a five-star show.
Chris Parker is a household name in his native New Zealand, but this, surprisingly, is his Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut. And what a debut it is. Parker has boundless enthusiasm and a rapid-fire delivery that brings to mind Rhys Nicholson at his finest. He's constantly in motion, using pointed side-eye and constant mugging to emphasise his points. Unlike most of the shows I've seen this year, this show isn't about lockdown or Covid-19, and its timeless material therefore feels more fresh and vibrant than the tired "remember when we had remote learning" schtick of many of this year's shows.
There are a few too many F-bombs for this to count as a family-friendly show, but Parker isn't a comedian who has to work blue to land his jokes. Somehow everything from book week dress-ups to his grandmother's funeral to his childhood obsession with Anne Frank is both fresh and screamingly funny. His delivery is pitch-perfect, with a high-octane energy that never wavers. Here, at last, is a show that had the audience scream-crying with laughter. Parker will make you laugh until your stomach hurts. Wear waterproof mascara for tears of laughter.