Rhys Nicholson: Seminal (MICF)

10 April 2018 | 4:23 pm | Stephen A Russell

"An incredible hour of smart and deceptively silly entertainment that's likely to leave you energised and outraged."

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Something of a recurring phenomenon at this year's MICF, the bottle-boosted burgundy-bouff'd Rhys Nicholson knows just how to whammy you with something heavy right in the midst of an uproarious lol-valanche.

With his laser-guided gags landing at a rat-a-tat pace, the sheer velocity of his musings on everything from an aversion to walks and fraught monopoly games, to his drunken proposal to now-fiance Kyran and the competitive edge the latter brings to their long-term relationship, ensures that your mind has barely processed one gag before he's two or three ahead of you.

One of our most polished local performers, despite his perfectly honed delivery, Nicholson never feels staid or over-played, and is fierce without resorting to the stage-managed shtick of some camp comics.

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Doling out relationship advice (just make sure there's always someone who apologises silently in the background for every partner that gets cranky at wait staff) and a warning for those who'd normally jump at free ice cream handed out on a cruise ship (hint: the morgues are very small at sea), he's all arched eyebrows and razor-sharp cheekbones to match his silver-tongued wit.

There's nothing lightweight about Nicholson's observations. Even if Seminal is a little subtler than some of his previous works, there's a meatier through-line here that threads from early discussion of therapy sessions to address his occasionally crippling anxiety to a refusal to contemplate mind-altering substances like shrooms. He suggests that some dark places in the back of his head are best left locked and bolted.

When the jaunty juggernaut eventually rolls around to the trauma endured by the queer community during the marriage equality survey abomination, you can see that chink in his dapper, perfectly tailored armour again as he swipes at the hatred unleashed and encouraged by our government's craven action.

This is underlined in a startling moment as Nicholson briefly relays the terror he endured on an Upfield line train headed into the city one night as he was menaced by an agro man pacing up and down the carriage, threatening to bash him if he looked at him funny. Though the incident, which Nicholson reported, relayed on social media and which was picked up by several news outlets, remained all threat and no action, it's a frightening and maddeningly sad bolt that silences the MICF crowd momentarily.

But even as he opens up about the fact that, even today, we are so very far from an Australia where LGBTIQ people can live without fear of attack just for being themselves, he self-deprecatingly pulls right back out of serious again. "I'm not Hannah Gadsby, and this is not Nanette."

Perhaps not, but it is an incredible hour of smart and deceptively silly entertainment that's likely to leave you energised and outraged. He deserves better than that train moron and, having once fake-married Zoe Coombs Marr as part of this very festival, I hope he and fellow comedian and broadcaster Kyran enjoy the real happily ever after.

Rhys Nicholson presents Seminal until April 22 at the Swiss Club, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.