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Taryn Pollock

MIDSUMMA: Comedian and community broadcaster Nath Valvo excels in his solo stand-up debut at Gasworks Arts Park
In keeping with the nature of the Midsumma festival and all that it stands for, the subject matter of comedian and JOY 94.9 FM breakfast co-host Nath Valvo’s solo debut is self-explanatory: an edifying examination and celebration of the ‘Fag Hag’.

Although a turn of phrase that some may be inclined to find offensive, Valvo will leave you charmed with the concept as an affectionate term for the female friend of a gay man.

Fag Hags, Valvo excitedly upholds, are “the backbone of the gay community,” declaring that from his perspective, “if I was Australia, they [fag hags] are my ocean!”

A comedian’s prowess seemingly lies in his or her ability to maintain the interest and enthusiasm of the audience. How the artist goes about doing so is almost irrelevant, so long as he or she does so with apparent ease; a skill Valvo has unwaveringly mastered.

Within minutes of excitedly announcing his own arrival on stage from behind a curtain, Fag/Hag opens with an intimate slide-show of gay men and their ‘hags’ to the sound of Lily Allen’s song of the same name. Thereafter, Valvo’s audience – largely comprised of gay men and their ‘Fag Hags’ – is bombarded with a veritable feast of hilarity wherein all that is iconic in the relationship between a gay man and his straight girlfriend is brought to the proverbial table almost immediately.

Cue the smoke machine, cue the disco lights, the party poppers, references to Schapelle Corby’s mum, dancers wearing minimal amounts of clothing covering their unspeakables, repeated mentions of Melbourne gay bar The Peel and the social networking site Man Hunt, and finally, cue a soundtrack comprised of Britney Spears’ greatest hits and Geri Halliwell’s rendition of ‘It’s Raining Men’!

Following his excitable opening, Valvo goes on to divulge what it was like for him as a gay teenager growing up in Greensborough, where the gay culture was, at the time, seemingly “non-existent”. From developing an appreciation for the nude sex scenes in late-night SBS foreign films and losing his online virginity, to the trials and tribulations that seemingly came with understanding and mastering the art of the aesthetic importance of being a gay man, and finally coming out to his parents (a story worth hearing in itself!), he leaves no stone unturned.

A well-structured step-by-step lesson on the Fag Hag, including such categories as ‘Things my mum did to make sure I was gay’, ‘Fag Hag denial’ and ‘How to spot a Fag Hag’ rounds off the hour... well, almost. The finale, and all that it entails, is best left a surprise.

Stand-up comedy is an artform that people love to love; it provides a fashionable, eclectic, eccentric sort of night out; an event that proves unpredictable in its varied delivery of light-hearted comedic genius – or so one hopes! It is in its unpredictable delivery of material that a comedy act may sometimes fall short of success, leaving a comedian teetering on the edge of presenting a total flop.

Nath Valvo’s Fag/Hag undeniably, unequivocally is not a flop.

From start to finish, it is a captivating 60 minute mixed bag of hilarity and artistic genius. Its success lies partially in its composition; it is well constructed and thus easy to follow, a crucial requirement to ensure continued audience engagement throughout; but Valvo’s use of controversial language and sweeping generalisations, as well as his constant encouragement of audience participation in particular, is what makes Fag/Hag the success that it is, and the joy that it was to be a part of.

Fag/Hag truly is a worthy indication of a bright and successful comedic career ahead as a solo artist for Nath “Hyphen Lee” Valvo.

Fag/Hag at Gasworks Arts Park
January 27 – February 5
Written & performed by Nath Valvo

January 16 – February 6

For more details, including ticketing information, see the festival’s Arts Hub event listing.

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Taryn Pollock is a reviewer for ArtsHub. Formerly based in Australia, she has now returned to Glasgow, where she also contributes to the website