The Umbilical Brothers: THE DISTRACTION {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Comedy Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

If you think that a comedy show is just someone with a mic cracking jokes, or if you’re lucky, someone with a puppet still cracking jokes then The Umbilical Brothers’ brand-new show ‘The Distraction’ is going to change your view of comedy forever.

My initial introduction to The Umbilical Brothers was way back during my high school years, when the talented duo came to my school and ran a couple of drama workshops. They were super nice guys and their act, which was inventive at the time, largely revolved around mime and making noises with their mouths.

At the time it was cool, but comedy has changed since then. Even The Umbilical Brothers acknowledge this in their new show, when they joke about how tired it would be if they hadn’t moved with the times and were still performing the same act that they were thirty years ago. This is great because what they deliver in ‘The Distraction’ is not only up with the times but I believe it has started a new evolution of comedy that I certainly didn’t expect to see.

For those that have missed out on the evolution of The Umbilical Brothers over the years, David Collins and Shane Dundas met while studying 30 years ago, and from there became an Australian comedic institution with their rare brand of comedy, which mixes old fashioned mime with audio effects. From hit show after hit show on stage, the Umbilical Brothers’ sound found themselves on television both here in Australia and around the world as even the likes of David Letterman embraced them.

When attending ‘The Distraction’, admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Aside from seeing them pop up on television commercials here and there, I hadn’t seen one of their shows for a long time. Upon entering the theatre I noticed on stage there were cameras, a mini city made of cardboard, actual baby dolls strewn everywhere, a guy sitting at a computer, a couple of green screens and an ominous warning on a huge screen that stated, “Your face may appear on this screen but it will not leave this room”. After seeing the assortment of objects, I was trying to put together this jigsaw puzzle worth of clues in my head and try to work out what was about to happen. Naturally, with The Umbilical Brothers, everything is improvised. And the sketches, I have to say, are literally out of this world. From an inquisitive American who likes pushing buttons accidentally finding himself on a space station to a city being attacked by a giant baby, this is a show full of laughs and witty jokes that has its audience never knowing what to expect next.

You wanted to keep your eyes on the big screen so you didn’t miss any of the ‘live’ special effects, but at the same time you wanted to keep an eye on David Collins and Shane Dundas so you could see how the effects were being done, with very little other than the human body and some props. Take your eyes off them even for a second and you would even miss the cute looks and smiles the two exchange and share together when something catches them off guard.

‘The Distraction’ truly feels like you are watching a behind the scenes featurette for a movie or television show that is being made right in front of you. No show is like the other, and that is what makes The Umbilical Brothers’ ‘The Distraction’ so special. It is new, fresh, is a comedy game-changer, but more importantly – it is just damn funny.

The Distraction’ is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio theatre as part of the 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and is for teens and above (unless you want to explain to your kids why kicking a doll is okay) and runs throughout the festival until the 17th of April.

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Photography by Gavin D. Andrew.

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