Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following Image

Toni Fitzgerald (Julia Rorke) is a struggling comic. Struggling is the operative word. She’s not that funny, and the recent bomb she dropped at an open mic night is an eye-opening moment for her career in Australian filmmaker Felicity Pickering’s Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following.

Rather than working harder to develop better material, Toni discovers a cult known as The Movement for the Restoration of Societal Order. This group is notorious for entirely shedding the harmful influences of society, including television, social media, and pop culture. To Toni’s advantage, they know nothing about comedy or other comedians.

Immediately, Toni realizes that if the general public doesn’t understand her humor, the cult is the perfect alternative as they have never heard her, or any other, jokes before and will eat her up. It’s the perfect plan as Toni brings her bad jokes and lame catchphrases to the cult’s “Creative Expressions” night.

“…Toni brings her bad jokes and lame catchphrases to the cult’s ‘Creative Expressions’ night.”

Instantly, she’s a hit and given a weekly spotlight with The Toni Fitzgerald One-Hour Extravaganza. But this surely can’t go on forever… right?

I see many comedy shorts, and Felicity Pickering’s short is one of the first to take the “cult following” phrase to its comedic extreme. It’s a good idea, and Pickering turns it into an excellent comedic sketch. Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following is a DIY comedy short, so the audio is not the greatest, and most of its budget was spent on costumes for the cult and not much else. Maybe it’s me, but actors with tongue barbells are not the most articulate actors, just saying.

The shorts only real shortcoming is the final act, the sketch’s “punch line,” if you will. I wish the final “performance” with the cult was funnier or more clever. Also, the danger posed with any story involving stand-up comedy is that the jokes have to be exceptionally funny to prove the character is a legit stand-up, and I don’t think the final act gets to that point.

Shortcomings aside, Toni Fitzgerald’s Cult Following takes a good idea and tells an excellent story with it.

Toni Fitzgerald's Cult Following (2020)

Directed and Written: Felicity Pickering

Starring: Julia Rorke, Jack Gow, Jennifer Rani, Marie McMillan, Paige Hally, Greg Ferris, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

Toni Fitzgerald's Cult Following Image

"…one of the first to take the 'cult following' phrase to its comedic extreme."

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