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The Invisible Dot Cabaret

12 January 2016 | 3:49 pm | Fiona Cameron

"Among the many delights to be found was Steen Raskopoulos' surreal, absurdist sketch comedy — no small thing to pull off live."

The warm wooden interior of the Spiegeltent, calling to mind as it does a blend of 19th century musical hall and Weimar Republic louche ostentation, is a surprisingly apt home for stand-up comedy, an offering not commonly found on a Sydney Festival bill.

Indeed the roster of acts spans the classic anecdotal format to surreal sketch comedy collected together by the bookers at one of the UK's most celebrated modern proving grounds.

MC Josie Long, brimming with a good-natured, wide-eyed optimism, stitches together sets from the UK's James Acaster, Canada's Mae Martin and two gloriously warped local rising stars, Sam Campbell and Steen Raskopoulos.

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Long shared with us her day at Tamarama, duffing up her knee in the process: her gift to us the fun of watching her deliver modern day rap songs in the persona of a 1930s film noir hard-boiled detective. "Jay Z's 99 Problems kind of rankles me as a feminist, but the rest is belting," she says. Speaking from personal experience, it's oddly addictive.

According to James Acaster, in supermarket terms, honey is a loss leader, and for him a surprisingly lucrative racket he once perpetrated on the grocers of England. This fanciful narrative thread tied together some on-the-money (pun intentional) life observations: one, that when things are heading south, the best any of us can hope for is to fuck things up so perfectly; and two, a five-year-old with a to-do list is a problem.

While it probably won't crack the next Hottest 100, for my money Sam Campbell's Mums Vs Dads is a perfectly formed ditty that encapsulates many an Aussie family barbecue. "I can sing that song because I'm half Mum and half Dad," he notes before moving on to other misadventures in which public transport is a welcome relief. "I dunno if you've ever disappointed three generations of women at once but you have to start taking the bus."

Mae Martin says she is a woman with a vivid imagination: "I can picture anything, right now I'm imagining this is the Opera House." She too is a comic accustomed to family disappointments, those she's inadvertently inflicted on her ever-exasperated mother, and the coming-of-age moments when she's realised things are not just as she was instructed she would be. We can see her point after all, we too would be more than a little snakey finding out that orgasms really aren't accompanied by a cascading rainbow explosion. Such an expectation to sew in a seven-year-old.

Among the many delights to be found was Steen Raskopoulos' surreal, absurdist sketch comedy — no small thing to pull off live and incorporating audience participation, a particular highlight was At The Movies With Greek Orthodox Priest Yianni Kostopopoulos' review of Frozen. Now let us raise our voices in praise of Raskopoulos' seamless mash-ups that tether wildly disparate concepts, fearlessness and a rare talent for physical comedy.