Now in it’s 32nd year, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is back with a record-breaking line-up of 612 shows featuring a sensational mix of local and international artists. With so much on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at fifteen shows worth checking out:
The 29th Annual Great Debate
Melbourne Town Hall: Saturday 7 April
Where critical thinking and comic timing collide, The Great Debate is back – bigger, bolder and braver than ever! The sharpest tools in the comedy shed will once again take to the stage for the ultimate competition of minds and mirth. Six competitive comedians will battle it out using laughs, logic and all manner of wily words to prove their team supreme. The moderator for 2018 is the legend herself, Magda Szubanski! She is trusted with the task of keeping order in our court as wily words and powerful punchlines are thrown about!
The Butterfly Club: 16 – 22 April
If you’ve ever been engaged at 19 or racked up parking fines worth a house deposit, than like Tash York you’ve probably not mastered Adulting – the process of doing ‘grown-up’ things – like holding down a job, paying your bills on time, cooking dinner (that doesn’t involve Maccas drive-thru) and even doing your taxes. Known for her ballsy voice, witty repartee and wine loving antics, award-winning cabaret artist Tash York (The Desperettes, The After Hours Cabaret Club) explains why we can all relate – growing up is hard!
A Visit With Nan In A Caravan
Caravan – Arts Centre Melbourne Forecourt: continues to 22 April
Eleven audience members in one caravan with three nasty nannas for 15 minutes? It’s horrifically hilarious. Edith Vale, Caroline Springs and Maureen McGillicuddy have been travelling around Australia for 50 years and they want to tell you all about it over a cuppa in their caravan. After a sold out season at the 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival – winning the Golden Gibbo Award, Melbourne’s naughtiest nannas are back for more fun. New stories, new location – same stinky old grannies!
Bread and Circuses
Athenaeum Theatre: continues to 22 April
Brexit. Trump. No more Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off. Things are looking bleak, so wouldn’t it be better to just forget all about it? Comic maestro Stephen K Amos might not be able to provide bread to the hungry masses, but no one else is going to put on a better circus. Leave your problems behind for an evening in the company of the effusively charming Amos and who knows? Maybe the world will seem just a little bit brighter.
Melbourne Town Hall: continues to 22 April
Mel Buttle is a dog lady, a dog fan. In fact once a man in a pub in Perth called her a dog bitch. Despite growing up with a fear of dogs and having an allergy to dogs, Mel has made the illogical decision to work as a casual dog walker around Brisbane. There’s nothing a 70 pack of Telfast and a puffer can’t fix, right? When she’s not filming The Great Australian Bake Off, writing her weekly Courier Mail column or slaying it at comedy clubs all around the country, Mel loves to hang out at the dog park with her RSPCA rescue dog, Lady Ruby April Longsocks Buttle Esquire The First, with a XXXX Gold in hand, swerving dog park politics and eavesdropping on your conversations.
The Coopers Malthouse: continues to 22 April
Fleabag may seem over-sexed, emotionally unfiltered and self-obsessed, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With family and friendships under strain and a guinea pig themed café struggling to keep afloat, Fleabag suddenly finds herself with nothing to lose. The inspiration behind Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hit BBC series of the same name, this blisteringly funny solo show starring Maddie Rice follows Fleabag as she stumbles through a maze of social anxiety, disastrous job interviews and meaningless sex.
From Here to Infirmity
La Mama Courthouse: continues to 8 April
Sue Ingleton is a veteran of Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A trailblazer in feminist/political comedy over the past 30 years, she has won many accolades for her work. From Here to Infirmity is Sue’s hilarious farewell to all her favourite characters: Bill Rawlings – once the world’s first pregnant man who has travelled the globe embarrassing himself and many off-guard lesbians; Gemma Hatchback – drug-hazed, politically incorrect yet amazingly perspicacious, now the newly anointed to-be-avoided-at-all-costs grandmother with the potty mouth is still searching for her true spiritual path; and Edith Wise – 99, irascible, undaunted, unaffected by anything the world can throw at her, a little deaf but fearlessly exposing and denouncing the male sex and their confusing laws and religions.
Melbourne Town Hall: continues to 22 April
A sell-out hit at the 2017 Festival with his show Dot Con – mischievous comedian James Veitch is back for level two. Game Face is a show packed with more geeky comedy about life, love and enabling Bluetooth. Expect Donkey Kong, online dating and time travel as James courageously and somewhat ill-advisedly battles the mundane and pointless bureaucracies of the modern world. Responsible for the fastest ever TED Talk to reach over two million views in the history of TED, Veitch returns with an hour of Powerpoint-fuelled, esoteric, anarchic and unashamedly nerdy comedy.
Melbourne Town Hall: 10 & 15 April
Fiona O’Loughlin’s been on a bit of a trip… of a lifetime. After finishing a masters in how to not deal with some of life’s misgivings, she’s decided she’s learned a few things: how to talk to nurses after being away for a while (in a coma), how to not sweat the sweat and getting back to doing what she does best – making us all laugh with a raconteur’s glide of effortless fun. Fiona sweeps through life’s tales with a frankness and honesty that no-one else possesses. Don’t miss this brand-new show that will leave you wanting more.
The Butterfly Club: continues to 1 April
Repressed femininity explodes onto the stage as comedian Alfie steps out for the first time as Zora. It’s time for her to compere a comedy gig on her own. Starring Katie Reddin-Clancy, Grace is about power, love, letting go, winning the internal war and becoming who your soul intended you to be. Witty, passionate and captivating storytelling that stretches what you dare to believe is true.
My Comedy Festival Show
The Croft Institute: continues to 9 April
Join Andy Balloch as he attempts to overcome his insecurities in order to write a comedy festival show about overcoming insecurities. A solo sketch show from the mind of a man who is beginning to lose his mind. As one half of The Sparrow Men, Melbourne’s premiere improv duo, Andy has toured, written and performed Australia wide for the past four years, sold out shows (and been a premiere act for) Midsumma, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Adelaide’s Feast Festival, and Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He’s equal parts terrified and excited to debut his newest written solo creation at The Croft Institute for the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit
The Coopers Malthouse: continues to 8 April
A musical romp better than the best mod-rom-com, playwright Jean Tong takes the star-crossed lovers audiences know and love, and makes them better as star-crossed lesbians. Featuring an original score, Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit stars a Chorus of Incompetent Dead Lesbians trying to stop Juliet and Darcy from becoming their new favourite, dead, girl-on-girl romance. Drawing from a rich tapestry of intertextual references, it’s the irreverent, laugh-out-loud lesbian musical you and your straight friend deserve.
Cube – ACMI: continues to 22 April
Best known for his razor-sharp, fast-paced and hilarious live shows, Nath Valvo’s charm and brutally honest confessions are winning him fans across the globe. Now, the complete show-off is asking the big questions. Should I donate sperm? Why do night markets exist? Why do people play mixed-netball? How the hell do you pronounce acai bowls? Of course the marriage equality postal vote has him fired him up too – but why exactly may surprise you!
Splash Test Dummies
Melbourne Town Hall: 31 March – 15 April
From the makers of hit show Trash Test Dummies comes a new production of oceanic proportions! Splash Test Dummies are here, ready to roll out their beach towels and spring into a brand-new hour of circus-filled hilarity for the whole family. See a brilliant array of catch-your-breath stunt work, acrobatics, juggling and the side-splitting, slapstick comedy for which the dummies are famous. Join the Dummies and come diving from bathtubs to beaches in this new aquatic adventure!
The Butterfly Club: 9 – 22 April
WHOM is Clara Cupcakes? No seriously, whom is she? A celebrated comedian? An award-winning burlesque artist? A sketch writer? A weird art kid? Do they all cohabitate Clara’s cranium at once, and would they even like each other if they all met? There is only one way to find out – a party. Yes! You’re cordially invited to a shindig in Clara’s cerebral sphere where everyone is welcome, even the weird ones. Especially the weird ones.
The 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival continues to 22 April. For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit – photo by UA Creative