FRIENDLY RICH and the LOLLIPOP PEOPLE with the FUGITIVES at Lula Lounge, February 16. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 150. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Descriptions like "vaudevillian" and "old-timey variety show" might not sound too appealing in this day and age. Friendly Rich 's oddball cabaret show of orchestral laments, mischievous stunts and half-assed magic fit the above anachronisms, but in a twisted way that's uncomfortably entertaining.
The borscht-belt-type crooner is the ringmaster in a circus of black humour that's both mirth-inducing and mean, a comedic balance likely learned as Tom Green's "right-finger man."
Rich kicked off his Lula Lounge show by promising a night of "burlesque puppets, dirty crank calls and much, much more." Breaking into Where The Baker Sleeps, a klezmerish ode to either bagels or the Russian Revolution, backed by 12-piece orchestra the Lollipop People , he commanded the crowd's attention with an edgy, gregarious bandleader persona that intensified between numbers.
Then there's his sidekick Soot ( David Hannan ), who manages to redline the bizarre levels as a pissed-off, egg-obsessed mime. As Rich does his agitated Dean Martin, Soot stalks the room, his chalky face grimacing at patrons as he intermittently performs death-defying egg stunts using high wires, miniature diving boards and - for the grand finale - a hand-held cannon, all as part of his Frying Egg Circus.
Rich's dirty crank call was a squeamishly hilarious show highlight that capped the first half. Connecting his mobile to the mic, Rich dailed a number from an ad in a weekly's back pages, requesting an 85-year-old librarian for some "hot chat." Hearing an old-lady voice coquettishly ask, "Who do you want me to be?" over the P.A. was almost too awkward to be funny, but not quite.
In keeping with the sexual senior citizens theme, Rich unleashed Naked Marvin in the second show. Wearing only an ill-fitting sumo wrestling mawashi, Marvin has the job of interpretively dancing for and brushing up against cringing audience bystanders.
When is the last time you've seen an octogenarian's bare, flabby ass? Put it on your to-do list, under seeing the Friendly Rich Show, which is be a monthly affair at the Lula Lounge.
On the wrong side of funny was warm-up act the Fugitives . This unlikely assortment of individuals was like the Breakfast Club serving detention in drama school. He's the Stomp percussionist; she's a poli-poetry slammer. There's a hippy version of Thom Yorke and an earnest beat boxer who raps like Buck 65. Where's Principal Vernon when you need him?
Coming to a tent near you.