The city and surrounds will become a hive of happiness as the much-loved Melbourne International Comedy Festival returns from 30 March 2022. With a crammed program of comedy’s biggest stars and all the next-big-things, it’s time for audiences from near and far to come together and have a laugh. With so much on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at twelve shows worth checking out:
Olivia McLeod: PASH
The Motley Bauhaus Black Box: 29 March – 3 April
Max is on a mission. Her 25th birthday is in just one week, and she’s desperate to have her first kiss with someone (anyone) before she hits her quarter-life crisis. She’s no longer waiting to pash Romeo, Rapunzel, or the masked musical genius that lives beneath the Paris Opera House. It might end up being Davo from the local, but that’s better than nothing, right? Starring Olivia McLeod, this is an open-hearted monologue about making out with the back of your hand, studying the Top Ten movie kisses and navigating the hellish underground of your early 20s when you feel just a bit… behind.
Sweeney Preston and Ethan Cavanagh: Presentation is Everything
Loop Project Space & Bar: 30 March – 21 April
The antidote to every bland lecture, dull pitch and boring presentation you’ve ever had to endure. Presentation is Everything is an hour of fast-paced stand-up comedy that, largely, is visually complemented through the medium of Microsoft PowerPoint. This split-bill show is written and performed by two of Melbourne’s fastest-rising and extravagantly overdressed comedians, Sweeney Preston and Ethan Cavanagh. This brand-new show is packed with slides full of images, news cut-outs, maps, animations and (you guessed it) graphs to punctuate their quick-witted stand-up. After an interstate tour, Sweeney and Ethan are returning to Melbourne International Comedy Festival following a sell-out extended season of their previous show in 2021.
Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night
The Famous Spiegeltent at Arts Centre Melbourne: 31 March – 23 April
Variety is back! Since 2006 Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night has been enticing audiences at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and beyond. It has become a cult late-night show that draws the biggest comedy acts, the sexiest burlesque, heart stopping cabaret and the most jaw-dropping circus acts from around the Festival. Hand-picked by Ali, this variety show is a carefully curated night of quality entertainment. This season promises to have more spontaneous headline guests, higher notes and more gin than ever before! As always Ali’s show-stopping vocals will be backed by one of the finest jazz trios in town led by pianist Sam Keevers. Guests of previous years have included Tim Minchin, Hannah Gadsby, Denise Scott, Adam Hills, Rich Hall, Eddie Perfect, Jason Byrne, Ronny Chieng, Sammy J & Randy, Geraldine Hickey, Lady Rizo, Hamish & Andy and The Doug Anthony Allstars.
Geraldine Hickey: Now I’ve Got A Boat
Arts Centre Melbourne – Fairfax Studio: 31 March – 24 April
Not to brag, but Geraldine Hickey has had a pretty incredible few years. She got engaged, won some awards and now she has a boat. She can’t start it yet but that hasn’t stopped her from discovering some of the wonders of the ocean. An hour of smart, observational comedy at its absolute best. Winner Award for Most Outstanding Show 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Judith Lucy & Denise Scott Still Here
Arts Centre Melbourne – Playhouse: 31 March – 24 April
Denise Scott and Judith Lucy know what the whole country is wondering, how did they cope with a global pandemic and the endless lockdowns of the last two years? Well, it turns out they were in lockdown together dealing with the same big questions as everyone else: how many meals can I eat in one day? Do I have a drinking problem? (Specifically, if I go to the toilet in the middle of the night and on my way back to bed I stop and have a gin and tonic, does that mean my drinking problem has gotten worse? Or does it mean I’m living my best life?) Will I ever wear a bra again? Should I trim my goatee or go the full on beard? Join Jude and Scotty for what could loosely be called a play – think Waiting for Godot meets Flying High – that is not only full of shameless gags but sees them confronting their greatest fear. Intrigued? Don’t be. Just buy a ticket.
Reuben Kaye: The Butch is Back
The Malthouse – Merlyn Theatre: 31 March – 24 April
After a whirlwind Australian tour in 2021, escaping lockdowns one by one, Reuben Kaye is coming back, with a bigger band and brighter lights. This star is rising and taking the comedy and cabaret world by storm. With acid wit and casual sensationalism, Reuben is fast, on the edge and brutally funny. Winner Best Cabaret 2021 Adelaide Fringe!
Tom Gleeson: Hard Quiz Live
Melbourne Town Hall – Main Hall: 31 March – 9 April
The Hard Quiz Master, Overlord and Gold Logie Award Winner, Tom Gleeson, is taking the Big Brass Mug out for a spin, swapping the studio for a theatre and adding a third dimension to Australia’s hardest quiz. Hard Quiz is a game show where the host doesn’t hide his contempt and the prize is the chance to stare down a camera while holding a mug. It’s also a ratings phenomenon, now in its seventh season on the ABC. This will be Hard Quiz like you have never seen it, with audience members pulled on stage for a live roasting from the most brutal quizmaster since the inquisition. When Tom isn’t flaying contestants for your enjoyment, he is also one of Australia’s funniest and most successful stand-up comedians who commands a theatre like no-one else.
Bev Killick: Don’t Tell Tony
Melbourne Town Hall – Cloak Room: 4 – 18 April | Mantra on Russell – Mantra One: 20 – 24 April
After 20 years of being with the same bloke, and in her early 50s, Bev shows no signs of stopping her galavanting and naughty ways. Bev is a self imposed Crummy Mummy and Kidult always with a crazy story to tell, and Tony’s heard them all. Or has he? Don’t Tell Tony explores the stories that don’t make it through to Bev’s husband Tony’s ears. There are too many and only so much time. Besides, Tony’s too busy with the laundry, school run, cleaning the budgie cage and walking the dog, as Bev sleeps off another hard night of comedy. Bev retells her adventures to anyone else who will listen and if they’re too shocking the story ends with the line… Don’t tell Tony.
Fabio Motta: Spot
Explosives Factory: 5 – 15 April
Spot is a witty and incredibly funny original solo show that ransacks the question of whether Australia really is the inclusive, multicultural place it believes itself to be? Exploring a contemporary immigrant tale through satire, physical comedy and unforgettable characters, Spot invites audiences on the hazardous adventure of young migrant, Mario, and his devilish alter ego… Spot. With dreams of becoming a ‘very good English actor!’ and one day even tackling Shakespeare (all with no grasp of the English language) Mario ends up finding himself in a ‘spot’ of bother… An insightful exploration of the difficulties of trying to fit in, Spot is a wonderfully comic and captivating journey about language barriers and the deep sense of loss that is an inevitable part of leaving everything you know and love, for the hope of a brighter future.
Lou Wall: Bleep Bloop
Trades Hall – The Quilt Room: 11 – 24 April
Britney gave us Toxic. Beethoven gave us Symphony No.5. And Ginuwine gave us R’n’B smash hit, Pony. Now multi-award winner Lou Wall brings you their magnum opus, a pop-culture comedy album about life’s biggest BLEEPS and smallest bloops. A raucous night of pop bangers, high energy meta-comedy, breathtaking ballads and gossip. This album launch will have you screlting all the way homo. So cut your nails, hydrate and be gay. We’ll see you at the concert. Winner Best Writing Cabaret, Best Production & Outstanding Online Acheivement in Cabaret 2021 Green Room Awards (Lousical the Musical)
Circus Trick Tease: Werk It
Forum Melbourne – Downstairs: 14 – 24 April
From the team that brought you Can’t Face and Neon, Werk It is an all-new, late-night, high-energy, acrobatic comedy romp. Celebrating spandex, high-vis, vitality and vigor! The low carb love-child of a tradie, a spin instructor and a cross-fit fiend, Werk It is a riot of colour and movement – big tricks delivered by an all-star cast with more sass and swagger than a TLC videoclip. This over-the-top ensemble will be hip thrusting their way into an Aerobics Oz Style fever dream all Festival long! Featuring outrageous skills from an all-star cast, including award-winning Vincent van Berkel (Can’t Face), hula hoop sensation Lisa Lottie (Neon), manipulation idol Richard Sullivan (Jug Life), real-life strong woman Cassia Jamieson (NICA) and fierce as hell Malia Walsh (Circus Trick Tease).
Hot Brown Honey: The Remix
Arts Centre Melbourne – Playhouse: 21 – 24 April
Rise and shine motherlovers! Hot Brown Honey is back with THE REMIX – Fierce! Femme! Global First Nations! Everything you love about the smash-hit show, with extra sweet treats filled with radical fierce love and joyous rage – centre stage. Steeped in the Word of The Mother and packing a punch of hip hop politics, Hot Brown Honey is an extraordinary production that spins tradition on its head, going above and beyond to challenge boundaries and embrace resilience. Equal parts theatrical masterpiece and social activism, a stellar posse of phenomenal world First Nations women smash stereotypes in an unapologetic celebration of our similarities and differences. Get ready to laugh until you cry, clap until your hands bleed, dance in the aisles and shake every part of what your mama gave you. It’s time to be the change we want to see.
The 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs 30 March to 24 April. For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Artists performing as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Festival (supplied)