Review: Charlie Pickering

11 April 2016

Charlie Pickering’s intriguingly named show How to Tame a Wild Squirrel subverted my expectations. From the moment he strolled onto the Comedy Theatre stage accompanied by Jay Z’s ’99 Problems’, there was a clear sense within the audience that this show could go in any direction.

If you’re looking for more of the slick, polished Pickering charm that Charlie has become known for on The Project and more recently The Weekly, his return to stand-up at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival won’t deliver.

Fortunately, the alternative was so much better. Pickering began his hour long set with a technique straight from the stand-up handbook: audience interaction. Managing to weave quality comedic banter out of dubious subject matter including spas, boats and the crossover between the spa and boating communities, Pickering’s improv game was strong. The only point at where this faltered was in his repeated ribbing of a pair of latecomers who, despite claiming otherwise, were clearly more embarrassed than amused.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Charlie is at his best when he sticks to his pet subject areas, Australian politics and news media. His parody news bulletin, highlighting the strangeness of something we all take for granted, was spot on in the most cutting of ways. There’s something extremely satisfying about hearing a former face of the news describe the latest bulletin as “exactly the same thing, but with slightly different dead people”.

With topics jumping as often as Charlie literally jumped up and down, it’s hard to identify the common theme to this show. But don’t let that be mistaken for a criticism. After ten years away from stand-up, Pickering’s meandering stories and seemingly impromptu additions are pleasant deviations from his TV persona. He’s definitely self-aware, at one point accurately exclaiming that “this whole thing is digression”.

If you’re wondering how the squirrel-y title fits in with the show, I’m afraid you’ll have to watch it to fully understand. But until you have the chance, just make sure to NEVER FEED A COLD SQUIRREL.

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