Herman Melville’s brilliant 1851 novel of Captain Ahab and his insane quest of revenge to hunt down the giant albino whale that took his leg. Considered by many as a great American novel, it has inspired countless other works and artists from Bob Dylan’s music to recently Darren Aronofsky’s film ‘The Whale‘. But most importantly, it has inspired Australian comedian duo, Lano & Woodley!
Performing together since 1986, Lano & Woodley’s Moby Dick tour marks 30 years since the pair first appeared as an official comedy back in duo in 1993. Over those many years, the pair have deservingly won numerous awards and have performed to sold out crowds nationwide. As many collaborative efforts do, the double act called it quits with a 2006 farewell tour simply titled ‘Goodbye’. However, 11 years later, the pair reunited much to the delight of many fans and have been going strong ever since.
I still remember my family and I laughing our arses off at Lano & Woodley during their many ‘Hey, Hey It’s Saturday’ appearances. Their combination of slapstick, acrobatics, music, and banter made them an absolute joy to witness. Later on, I was a massive fan of their sitcom ‘The Adventures of Lano & Woodley‘ on the ABC. I was gutted when the show wrapped after only 2 seasons, and even more so when they announced their split.
So, I was as thrilled after hearing they were getting back together. I never had the opportunity to see them perform live before but this changed with the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Bringing their return season of Moby Dick to the city they call home, the odd couple had the packed-out Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse bent over in hysterics.
As Lano covertly attempts to perform a one-man dramatic performance, Woodley constantly interrupts in a way only he can. Quickly, it becomes evident that the metaphorical white whale that Lano will never catch is a moment’s peace alone!
Colin Lane and Frank Woodley really are a comedic match made in heaven. Lano, the pompous straight man to Woodley’s childlike fool, the two play off each other perfectly. Something I’ve always liked about their act is that you can’t tell which screw ups or breaks of character are scripted and which are legitimate. The pair are just so expertly quick to recover but also so eager to take the piss out of each other, and this flows in their performances magnificently.
With both nearing their 60s, the pair may not do quite the same acrobatic stunts as they did in the 90s, but his doesn’t matter at all as so much of their comedy comes from their banter and ribbing back and forth. Likewise, while Moby Dick does feature some prop work, in no way does the show rely on it. In fact, much comedy is made from just how silly their props are!
The audio and visual effects are also both massive and part of the punch line with Lano trying to tell a big story with rear projection, sound effects and fog, only Woodley to constantly butt in and break the mood. It sounds like this would get old quick, but it never does. These two are just terrific and the show is that hilarious.
Lano & Woodley’s Moby Dick will keep you guessing as to what they will do next. For one, there’s a lot of crowd work. God help you if you arrive late! You will not be able to sneak in unnoticed! Also, the show contains a lot of improv and gags appearing to be just made up on the spot. Even when these adlibbed jokes don’t land, the fact they didn’t then becomes an even bigger laugh! Plus a few more surprises I think are best left for audiences to experience for themselves.
I couldn’t be happier that Lano & Woodley are back and touring again. With catchy music, uproarious gags, and side-splitting wittiness, these two comedy icons deserve to be seen in person. I know I already want to see them again before the week is out!
Lano & Woodley’s Moby Dick is currently playing as part of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse Theatre until April 16th 2023.
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Photography by Ian Laidlaw.