A couple of years ago, I turned up at the Comics Lounge for a show featuring Adam Rozenbachs. Upon our arrival, we found out that there had been a glitch in the online calendar and that the show was not actually on that night. Rather, it was a night for new comics to cut their teeth onstage in front of family and friends. Very disappointed, we had a think and eventually decided to stay. We were very glad we did.
This very first night that we saw her, Tegan Higginbotham shone through the stream of sweet, young, and terrified newbies that came onstage with a confidence, razor sharp wit, and sarcasm that immediately commanded the audience's attention and seemed to retain it even after she left the stage. Since then, Tegan has exploded onto the Melbourne comedy scene, finishing the Melbourne International Comedy Festival last year as a nominee for the best newcomer and Golden Gibbo awards, which I believe was just the beginning.
On the comedy timeline she is still just a baby, but performs well beyond her years with sharp observations and a quick wit that usually take years of standup experience to develop. She mixes this in with a unique style of self-deprecation that is humble and entertaining without becoming gratuitous or themed.
This fine-tuned skill may be in part because she has been fostered by Melbourne's comedic father, Justin Hamilton, who directed her last Comedy Festival show (Million Dollar Tegan). However, a large part of her abilities seem to be organic. I would imagine she works very hard to write her shows, but by the time they are onstage, they are performed with the instinct and flow of someone who has found where they belong in the world.
I was originally a bit put off by the title of this year's show, Touched by Fev, as I have no interest in AFL whatsoever but after last year's excellent solo debut, I took a leap of faith. It paid off. In Touched by Fev, Tegan explores the nature of idolisation and the fallibility of idols using her own prominent examples from adolescence; Harry Potter and Brendan Fevola (not usually seen in the same paragraph). From the outset I should warn you that the show is not entirely about Fev or the AFL. Nor has Tegan slept with Fev, which she is extremely quick to point out.
Spleen is an unexpected sanctuary for comedy, hosting regular Monday night shows throughout the year, and several regular shows during the Comedy Festival
In the tiny space of an hour, Tegan weaves a familiar story of an awkward adolescence, interspersed with sardonic and hilarious anecdotes and acute and fantastically articulated observations of human nature and behaviour. She ends with the realisation that not only are we held accountable for the mistakes we make, but that some are held accountable even for the mistakes they don't make or haven't made yet, heaping paranoia onto social anxiety with her poignant and entertaining words.
There are a few reasonably priced shows at this year's Comedy Festival by comedians that will not stay reasonably priced for very long. I believe Tegan is at the top of this list, and is currently teetering on the brink of her full comedic actualisation. If you are a fan of droll and intelligent observational humour that will guarantee your diaphragm a work-out, I recommend you go see Tegan Higginbotham while her shows are still affordable.
It's not the prettiest or largest venue, but the stage in the upstairs Spleen Poolroom has helped fledge many a quality comedian
Touched by Fev is playing upstairs at Spleen on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 7pm and is only $15-$20, which works out at amazing value per laugh.