As the lights dim (or rather as overhead fluorescents are gracelessly shut off), an atmosphere of abrasive Australiana is aptly set for the Doug Anthony All Stars to invade the main function room of the Yarraville Club for an encore season of their most recent revival tour for the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.


I was first exposed to the Doug Anthony All Stars long after their heyday when I was gifted with a DVD box set of their collected Big Gig appearances, 1989–91. It only took the first chorus of “I Want to Spill the Blood of a Hippy” for me to be hooked, like so many before me, on their aggressive style, volatile energy, lewd sex appeal and surprisingly lyrical vocal harmony.

Decades later, the group has changed. The trio is older and has undergone several significant developments – Tim Ferguson’s MS means that he now performs the show from a wheelchair, Paul McDermott’s volatility has definitely mellowed with age and ‘The Guitarist” is a different man altogether, Richard Fidler having been replaced by Australian comedy stalwart Paul (Flacco) Livingston. Naturally, as a result, the group dynamic has undergone a definite shift. Ferguson now cops a lot of the flack that Fidler once did, and although definitely the least vocal member of the group, Livingstone is a lot cheekier than Fidler and his persistent endeavours to wind-up McDermott are a welcome addition.

Despite this, they still retain a strong connection to their original incarnation. Revivals of old favourites like “KRSNA”, “World’s Best Kisser” and “Gilbert and Sullivan” are accompanied by new material that is just as salacious and provocative as ever, taking shots at recent scandals in pop culture and politics, and heavily incorporating the indulgent upshots of prescription medication into the workings of the evening.

The most refreshing thing about this revival is that it avoids the familiar pitfall of a group of ageing performers attempting to directly reproduce the well-known format of their glory days and expecting it to pass as the same product. These gentlemen are no longer the youthful punk scumbags that they once were, but through their very vocally acknowledgment of the facts of their evolution, they allow themselves the freedom to incorporate those changes into this new incarnation and allow nostalgic familiarity to coexist with a new, updated vitality.

This is a different DAAS, but one that still showcases these gentlemen ratbags as three intelligent, intuitive and profoundly talented icons of contemporary Australian comedy.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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