I’m going to admit up front that I’m a bit of an Adam Hills fan. I used to listened to him on local radio station in the ’90s, I’ve seen just about every show he’s brought to Adelaide, follow him on twitter, watch his UK show The Last Leg and generally fangirl at anything he does. So understandably, expectations were high going in to see this show.
Giving a stand-up comic a spot in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival seems a little crazy. It’s out of place, there’s little opportunity for singing and let’s face it, in the Festival Theatre it’s not quite so intimate. Yet somehow, Adam HIlls has made cabaret his own and the audience were happy to go along for the ride.
Analysis of what constitutes cabaret aside, it’s also very difficult to review stand-up. Just because I find something funny doesn’t mean the next person will, and most of the audience experience is a “had to be there” style of memory.
For example, unless you were there, you will not completely appreciate the feeling of elation when a room full of people belting out Advance Australia Fair to the tune of Barnsey’s Working Class Man, complete with hair wetting, shirt loosening, throat gravelling delivery from Hills.
Hills made himself at home straight away. If there’s one thing we often do in Adelaide is “get colloquial” where the first phrase most Radelaideans will mutter when meeting someone new is “which school did you go to?” and start connecting the dots to assess the two degrees of separation. While it’s not always our most shining representation of our state, Hills wears it like a badge of honour, spending the first half hour calling out the people he knows in the audience and chatting about local food, locations and history. Only in Adelaide would this work, and it’s kind of nice that we have that special connection that would not appear in any other Adam Hills act.
Local pride aside, the reason Hills is so endearing (and comes across as the nicest man in showbiz) is his “everyman” way of speaking about important issues and opinions. Politics, parenting, bogans, death and illness are all lampooned with a friendly, yet incisive wit that never deprecates the weak or undermines the strong.
Clown Heart at its essence is about finding joy in the frailties of life. Hills’ discovery and now friendship with Craig Coombes, a cancer sufferer who has chosen to “kick cancer in the dick” by establishing Naked Tuesday and finding laughter when things aren’t great because “death gets the last laugh” is showcased, including a special appearance and collaboration with Coombes himself. Whether it’s stripping down to their boxers or professing their manly love for each other, the emotional engagement between audience and the guys on stage reduced the venue to a tiny intimate cabaret room with just a couple of thousand friends, standing on their feet, cheering.
It is a pleasure to leave a comedy act feeling better about the human race, inspired to take on life’s challenges and appreciate the good stuff. Welcome home Adam, have a FUIC on us.