Patrick O’Duffy writes…

Rob Hunter brings his late-night talk show of hatred back to the Comedy Festival for a third year, hellbent on insulting some of Melbourne’s most loved comedians. But is it funny in its own right, or is this the kind of car-crash comedy where it’s uncomfortable but you just can’t look away?

Well, it’s a bit from Column A, a bit from Column B. Rob’s angry self-deprecation and Asperger’s-style aggression are fascinatingly awful, as are his interactions with his guests, but his deconstruction of the talk-show concept is tight, clever and funny in its own right, as is his weird, prickly chemistry with sidekick Luke McGregor.

Every episode of the show is different and has different guests, so I can talk about the show without spoiling anything. The guests this time are Dave O’Neil and Claire Hooper, with Luke acting as Rob’s announcer (at least for the moment). Rob looks like the world’s nerdiest, grumpiest schoolboy in his jumper and tie, sitting stonefaced through his guests’ quick sets and then asking them inappropriate and uncomfortable questions while also having a screaming fight with Luke. Jason English provides a song at the end, a palate cleanser after all that theatre of embarrassment.

This is the third season of Rob’s mean-spirited talk show, and it’s perhaps a bit defanged from previous years; everyone is in on the joke now. But it’s hard to say just how ready the guests are for Rob’s stage persona; both Dave and Claire seem kind of stunned by some of his more horrible statements. Perhaps these segments are largely improvised – It would be hard to maintain this level of bemused outrage knowing in advance that Rob would call you grossly fat or ask you to teach him to pick up girls before insulting you and your husband.

Will Rob and Luke reconcile? Will Jason use the show as a springboard to fame? Will a guest punch Rob right in his goddamn face? It’s not going to be for everyone, but if this mix of schadenfreude and metatext sounds up your alley, then it’s worth checking out Late O’clock on a Monday night.

Late O’clock with Rob Hunter is on at the Melbourne Town Hall, 9:30pm Mon until April 15th.

You can visit Patrick O’Duffy’s website or follow him on twitter: @patrickoduffy.

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