The laughs keep coming: Our reviewers on festival hits and best jokes
Veterans of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, including Arj Barker and Josh Earl have starred again this year, alongside newcomer Grace Jarvis, whose debut solo show Digging a Hole had the laughs coming in spades.
Our reviewers risked side-splitting injury, swapped notes on their favourite acts and laughed their way through some up-and-coming comic stars of the future. Here’s their top picks, the funniest gags they heard and hot tips on which comedians to rush and see before the festival wraps up.
Patrick Horan: Laura Davis is one of Australia’s best and criminally underappreciated comics, and it was so good to see her back in Melbourne in defiantly fine form. Luka Muller and Greg Larsen both delivered personally revealing shows that were frank and hilarious. Rhys Nicholson was typically flawless and Hot Department brought unforgettably sexy silliness to the festival’s ultimate late- night experience.
Hot Department’s Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan merge sexy silliness with sketch comedy.Credit:
Tyson Wray: Rosie Piper’s Goddess is my pick of the festival this year. A glorious juggling act of poignancy, hilarious anecdotes and thought-provoking tales of her transition to become a female. Comedy Zone is a five-course banquet of rising stars (Prue Blake, Patrick Golamco, Nick Schuller, Jay Wymarra and He Huang) in mint condition. There’s also a strong crop of debutants at this year’s festival: Grace Jarvis, Bronwyn Kuss, Urvi Majumdar and Gabbi Bolt leading the charge. Garry Starr has unfortunately had his riotous run cut short due to you-know-what, but he’ll be adding return shows in the coming months.
Garry Starr has gone all out to help bring tourists flocking back to Greece.Credit:
Donna Demaio: National treasures Denise Scott and Judith Lucy crank it up to 11, refusing to rest on their laurels or their creaking bodies. The polished duo vividly share their imperfections, so that we may laugh. Flo and Joan’s peculiar perceptions, swathed in cynicism, are charmingly dispensed with a distinctive musicality.
Mikey Cahill: Geez we needed that. My head is swimming with great lines, risqué anecdotes and elaborate, stuck-the-landing set-pieces. A big shout out to Phil Wang’s deconstruction of the Oedipus Complex (“It’s not complex; my mum’s hot”.), Danielle Walker’s touching tribute to her grandfather which was interrupted by a malfunctioning giant fish, and Sam Campbell’s attempt to destigmatise crowd-work as his face lit up with gnarled bliss.
John Bailey: Fern Brady is as hypnotic and disturbing as a LEGO figure in a bonfire, and she’s quickly amassing a diverse cult following in Melbourne. Ivan Aristeguieta is the Bloody Venezuelan whose early life in a developing country sheds light on our recent travails. Zoe Coombs Marr resuscitates Dave, one of comedy’s most complex and revelatory anti-heroes. All brilliant, all worth your every minute.
Favourite jokes of the festival
Patrick Horan: Newcomer Grace Jarvis talking about a psychologist diagnosing her with narcissism when she was a teenager after two weeks of therapy: “I just don’t know who else he wanted me to talk about?”. Also John Cruckshank’s “I’m not meant to get angry” won’t seem funny out of context but contained multitudes.
Digging a Hole was Grace Jarvis’ debut solo show.Credit:
Tyson Wray: RAW Comedy joint winner Alexandra Hudson had an absolutely scorching multi-pronged routine about an antique statute in Queensland meaning it’s technically illegal to have sex with her as she is deemed mentally impaired due to her cerebral palsy. I wouldn’t dare attempt to try and relay via text as I’ll no doubt butcher it, but luckily you’ll be able to relive it in all its glory when RAW Comedy is televised later this year. Keep an eye out.
Donna Demaio: Sammy J’s notorious word-mastery leaves the crowd (well, maybe just me) keen to add Keep it clean (F— song) to their playlist. And Arj Barker expressly walloping Byron Bay is deeply satisfying.
Mikey Cahill: Damien Power’s breaking of the fourth wall by pointing his finger like a sceptre of truth at Millennials, and Cameron James’ mining bad teen poetry for comedy gold. David O’Doherty’s recollection of sharing a beer with a cop in Arctic Irish conditions as they solved all the world’s problems.
John Bailey: Lou Wall’s humble attempt to give away a bed on Facebook resulted in a crime saga of Hollywood proportions. And an honorable mention to Chimp Cop’s Adam Knox declaring his intention to get intimate with The Thing in no uncertain terms – an abject, brilliant climax to an hour-long joke.
One more show …
Patrick Horan: I’m yet to see Guy Montgomery’s solo show which has been getting raves, but his exceptional opening night show set certainly bodes well. I did witness his consummate hosting skills at his star-studded Friday night Spelling Bee panel show, which is highly recommended.
Tyson Wray: It’s impossible to go past the annual Moosehead Benefit. Held on the final night of the festival at the Melbourne Town Hall, the secret line-up always features the crème de la crème of big name internationals, local heavyweights, rising stars and award winners. Recent years have featured the ilk of Hannah Gadsby, James Acaster, Celia Pacquola, Luke McGregor, Wil Anderson, Adam Hills, David O’Doherty – the list goes on. Best of all, all profits raised from the evening go towards funding innovative and daring comedy for next year’s festival (this year, grants were awarded to Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Andy Matthews, Ben Russell and Maggie Looke, Annie Louey, Scout Boxall, Danielle Walker and Gabbi Bolt). As for solo shows, I’m crossing fingers and toes that Geraldine Quinn puts on an encore of her show Broad, as, although I missed it, I’m hearing nothing but five-star hype. Damien Power and Zoe Coombs Marr are also on my must-see-but-haven’t-yet list.
Scout Boxall was among this year’s recipients of a Moosehead Benefit grant.Credit:
Donna Demaio: COVID-19 has had its way with several performers over the past fortnight, including super comedian Melanie Bracewell. Devastated to miss a slew of shows, she aims to squeeze in a few toward the end of the festival. Go see her joke about eggs.
Mikey Cahill: Judging by the bonhomie on the streets, in the bars and bustling venues, Victoria certainly enjoyed its booster shot of comedy. In the last days and nights, hit Comedy Republic early then hang around for the Late Show with a cornucopia of hot comics. Things are off the cuff and off the hook.
John Bailey: Josh Glanc’s Vrooom Vrooom is the weird palate cleanser you need by the end of the comedy festival. Hairy, haunting and hilarious, he’s one-of-a-kind.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs until April 24. The Age is a major media partner.
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