‘Not Church’ has to be one of the most creative shows that I have seen at this year’s comedy festival. Actually, I should probably rephrase that because I think it is actually one of the most creative comedy shows I have ever seen.
The brainchild of comedian and actor Emmet Nichols, ‘Not Church’ is a satirical look at how easy it is to set up a religion and a church if you happen to have some followers. Given how much audience interaction there is within the show each night, every show is different. On the night I attended, I was greeted by Father Nichols and his alter-woman at the door. Soon enough, I found myself part of the ‘Not Church’ experience.
After having been seated only for a few moments, as a church, we suddenly had a messiah in our midst, a new word to replace ‘Amen’, and we were singing our first hymn which was a catchy little number put together by Father Nichols at the top of our lungs.
‘Not Church’ is a fast-paced show that is pretty much a laugh-a-minute. Nichols made the audience feel part of the show and although that would normally terrify me, I felt completely at ease with this show due to the fact I could see just how much fun those who were asked to participate were having. My feeling of security was also possibly heightened because I was laughing along with everyone and was having an absolute ball.
What I enjoyed most about ‘Not Church’ is that you can never really tell what is going to happen next. One moment we were all raucously singing along with Father Nichols, the next we were eagerly waiting to hear what sins various audience members were going to confess to. Nichols was also helped along by a very co-operative audience member who even threw some interesting things into the collection plate that was passed around.
One of the highlights was the various other fathers of the church that Nichols morphed into. Father Moist was an absolute star and I laughed so hard when he appeared, I was sure I was going to be the next one selected from the audience. There’s obvious joy from Nichols as he played the more outrageous characters, and his happiness and laughter had a truly infectious result on the audience as well.
The use of a television screen also enhanced the show with various images flashing up as Nichols explains what is going to happen in the ‘Not Church’ next. Credit must be given to the altar-woman for adding things so quickly for the audience. Even one of her unfortunate spelling mistakes provided comedic fodder for Nichols.
The interesting thing about ‘Not Church’ is that while it might be a light-hearted and funny show, I found myself reflecting a lot on church and religion when watching it. It was interesting how Nichols referenced that he had attended a Hillsong Church while researching for the show as one of the serious things I took away from it was just how quickly someone can find themselves wrapped up in a church if you have a charismatic leader like Father Nichols, and if you see everybody else around you having a good time.
Although I don’t believe Nichols meant for the show to have such a deep meaning, it was certainly one of the by-products that I took away from it. ‘Not Church’ was one of the highlights of this year’s 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Emmet Nichols uses all his comedic and improv skills to bring this concept together and the result is a cracking show that will have you laughing from start to finish. Thought-provoking yet hilarious, ‘Not Church’ is a winner.
We attended the final show of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival run but for future shows, more information and ticketing, visit: