Canadian freelance writer living in Melbourne. Saw a Kangaroo once. In the Zoo...
Seen tons of snakes though. What's with all the snakes??
Published February 19th 2018
And Now For Something Completely (and Weekly) Different
Every Friday evening in the heart of Melbourne's CBD, The Butterfly Club's stage is taken over by 6 talented performers. The name of the show stays constant, but the contents will never be the same, no matter how many times you visit. Such is the beauty of improv comedy, and no one has been doing it longer in Melbourne than The Big HOO-HAA!
The Big HOO-HAA is a battle for on-the-fly comedic supremacy between two teams; The Hearts and The Bones. Each team engages in classic improv games that are decided upon by the host, with the audience determining which team performed the best. Audience participation is key, and the formula that the show-runners have put in place is a winning one. Upon each seat in the theatre is a card with the insignia of each team printed on either side. When it comes time to make the decision as to who won the round, each guest can hold up their card to show who their favourite is.
Furthermore, as per the very nature of improvisational comedy, the entire night is fuelled by audience suggestion. While the vibe can start out hesitant at first, once those in attendance see that no one is getting picked on, the shoutouts of ideas for places, objects, and weird occupations come flying in. It's very easy to get swept up in the collaborative energy The Big HOO-HAA! churns out.
The show has both history and serious comedy cred behind it. Founded in Perth in 2002 by Sam Longley, Melbourne's iteration of the show began running in 2010 and has been steadily developing a reputation for an alternative to traditional stand-up comedy nights. Tim Minchin and Claire Hooper, Australian comedy royalty, have both performed in the show at one time or another, and the rotating cast of improvisers are all heavily involved in other projects around Melbourne.
On the night I attended the show, there was a great mix of song-style games along with short-form scenes. By far the best of the night, for me anyway, was a scene near the end of the show about a pair of tandem bike robbers who pick up an accomplice on their run around town. The entire scene was dialogue-free and showcased the talents of the Musical Director, who scored the entire thing on the fly.
One of the biggest things that stood out for me in The Big HOO-HAA! was the welcoming atmosphere. There is almost always apprehension in a comedy audience, each and every person seemingly on tenterhooks waiting to be called out or picked on by a comedian on stage. That tension was cut almost immediately by the friendly host, welcoming us all and promising that we're part of the jokes, not the butt of them.
Another welcome change from other improv troupes is the deliberate willingness to turn away from "blue" material. Whenever a crass suggestion was thrown out, the host politely declined and steered it to more MAმ than XXX. In an artform where the lazy all too often rely on toilet humour and crude sexual innuendo, it is refreshing to see talent who don't feel the need to fall back on pantomiming various pages of the Kama Sutra.
While the show could do with a bit of trimming (the evening runs 2 hours with an intermission), it is certainly value for your money. Add that to the fact that any given Friday will give you a completely different experience than the one before it, and you have a recipe for one of the best night outs you will find to start your weekend off right in the city.