Top Picks for the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

AAR-MICF-Melbourne-Town-Hall-photo-by-Nick-RobertsonMelbourne International Comedy Festival is back with a bumper program of over 600 shows set to take over the city and suburbs throughout April.

With performances spanning across stand-up, cabaret, sketch, circus and more, there’s something to tickle everyone’s funny bone. Australian Arts Review takes a look at 20 shows worth checking out!

MICF-Andy-Balloch-AARAndy Balloch: Am I the Drama?
Campari House: 10 – 23 April
Shut the front door and lock it behind you!  A new ride has opened up at Warner Bros’ Movie World, Hollywood on the Gold Coast, and you’ve got fricken VIP access baby! Journey through the mind of unhinged homosexual Andy Balloch, where you’ll meet some truly borked characters, like: Clingy Nazis! Desperate real-estate agents! Truly terrible radio hosts! … and Harry from Love Island, who just wants to f*ck the pool jets. Please keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times, because this high camp, fast paced romp through the things that make us, has no brakes! (and maintenance refuses to help, even though we have called them multiple times).

MICF-Heres-to-youBilly Williams: Here’s to You
Errol’s – North Melbourne: 10 – 23 April
Join Billy to kick off her first round of wine for the night with all stories that have driven her to drink… Billy Williams, a stand-up comic who started her career in New York City (Dangerfield’s, NYCC, West Village Comedy Club, Eastville Comedy Club where she performed with Janeane Garofalo), created the show to celebrate all the wacky and wonderful things that have happened in the last three years – from cats getting COVID to Martha Stewart doing time. Stop by and watch Billy drown her sorrows the only way she knows how – comedy.

MICF-Get-in-the-BootBits Akimbo: Get in the Boot
The Butterfly Club: 3 – 13 April
Psst. Hey, you there. Yeah, the one with the cool disposition. It’s time. Time to get in the boot. Listen buddy, this is 100% genuine, bonafide boot and you don’t wanna miss out. There’s a party inside, and Bits Akimbo are gonna do some of their signature quick-draw sketch comedy. It’s primo stuff, the likes of which you’ve never seen before (in a boot). Look champ, I don’t wanna be too direct about it, but you’re really gonna want to get in the boot. We’ll even sweeten the deal – you get in the boot and we’ll get in the boot too, capiche?  That’s it punk, if you’re not gonna get in the boot, we’re gonna have to put you in.

MICF-Circus-OzCircus Oz
The Forum: 7 – 23 April
Melbourne’s original world-famous and ground-breaking Circus Oz is back at Melbourne International Comedy Festival after 30 years with a fresh and all-new show. A fun-filled extravaganza performed by a multi-generational ensemble for a multi-generational audience that you don’t want to miss. Experience a collision of comedy, clown, acrobatics, skipping, bows and arrows, beauty, muscles, music, flying trapeze, juggling, slapstick, crazy antics and daredevilry by the hand of an eclectic ensemble spanning six decades. It will leave you breathless, laughing, and wanting to cartwheel home.

MICF-Dan-CrowleyDan Crowley Fantastic. Great Move. Well Done Dan
The Vault Theatre – Speakeasy HQ: 3 – 20 April
Dan’s got the special satire sauce. He’s got the secret political-comedy seasoning. And he’s ready to whip up a piping hot plate of funny comedy. (He’s also ready to abandon the cooking metaphors). Dan was a RAW Comedy Preliminary Finalist in 2019 and won the Melbourne Uni Comedy Competition. He’s written for The Chaser and the Law Revue, and this Comedy Festival he’s finally read to strike out on his own. Fans of power-points will love him (he has them). Fans of political comedy will love him (he does that). And fans of mullets will love him (he sports one).

MICF-MT-Grey-Arias-Le-Gateau-Chocolat-and-Adrienne-TruscottGrey Arias
The Malthouse: 30 March – 16 April
Le Gateau Chocolat is a gay, black, English-Nigerian man and drag artiste. Adrienne Truscott is a cis white feminist American female performance artist and provocateur who enjoys chocolate cake, up to a point. They are dear friends and here, as in everyday life, they perform a multiplicity of identities – perceived, lived and projected. As their comical banter turns personal, political debates erupt and grey areas (and arias) are exposed. Between musical numbers, they spring rhetorical traps designed to catch any who overstep the blurred lines of the politically correct and interrogate the boundaries of allyship. In a multifaceted face-off they ask: “How does one walk the fine line that delineates marginalised perspectives?”

MICF-MushJeromaia Detto: MUSH
The Motley Bauhaus Black Box: continues to 5 April
Jeromaia (Celebrity TheatreSports, The Lost Cabaret) is back and excited to present another journey of absurdity of wild and wonderful characters and concepts, that will make you laugh, cry, and ponder why? This show delves into the mushy brain of a man who once believed he could run faster in little athletics by ‘swimming’ through the air. He came last every time. There will be moments of tomfoolery, chicanery and other similar shenanigans. Nominee Best Comedy Award & NIDA Emerging Artist (Producer) Award 2022 Sydney Fringe.

MICF-John-Glover-Must-DieJohn Glover: Must Die
The Vault Theatre – Speakeasy HQ: continues to 11 April
We gather here today to witness the death of John Glover. Welcome to the farewell tour to John’s worst self and all his past regrets: a misplaced dedication to his church (boring!), that time he auditioned for Big Brother (double boring!) and not hitting on more of his straight friends (you never know!). This chaotic-neutral, sassy yet sweet comedian is a two-time RAW Comedy State Finalist, seen at Improv Theatre Sydney and on Osher Günsberg’s NTNNNNN. After selling out his solo debut show at Sydney Fringe Festival in 2022, join John on his quest to finally self-actualise in this triumphant hour of stand-up comedy. Vale! For the new John Glover to live, first John Glover Must Die.

MICF-One-Man-Performing-A-Two-Man-ShowJon Walpole: One Man Performing A Two-Man Show
The Motley Bauhaus – Cabaret Stage: 14 – 23 April
It’s show time. The lights are down, darkness suspending the audience in anticipation. Jon is onstage, warmed up and ready to perform a brand-new duo show with his partner, Tim. The lights come up, but Tim is nowhere to be found. Jon has no choice but to attempt to perform all the scenes and sketches from a two-person show, by himself. How will Jon wear a two-person horse costume, apply sunscreen to his back, or do a trust fall all on his own? Come and witness Jon trying desperately to achieve the impossible! From comedian and improviser Jon Walpole comes an exploration of loneliness wrapped in a chaotic hour of high-energy physical character sketch comedy that you’ll never forget. Seriously, you’ll be telling your grandkids about this one (probably not).

MICF-No-One-SpecialJulie Kim: No One Special
Greek Centre: 11 – 23 April
In this one-hour of (slightly exaggerated) biographical stand-up comedy, Julie Kim shares hilarious anecdotes and stories with wit, sarcasm, irreverence, high energy and a bit of a giant feminist chip on her shoulder. She seamlessly traverses through topics such as her white husband, pregnancy, too beautiful bi-racial baby, parenting and her childhood. Her childhood was like a real life Kim’s Convenience but with smaller kids, child labour, theft, violence, food obsession, eating disorders, porn and more. Time flies by watching Julie’s show. It feels like a long and juicy personal conversation.

Mandy-Nolan-AAR-On-the-CouchMandy Nolan: The Candidate
Regent Room – Melbourne Town Hall: 30 March – 23 April
Ever wonder what it’s like to run for politics, come breathtakingly close… and lose? Comedian Mandy Nolan was the Greens Candidate for Richmond (Northern NSW). And she wants to tell her story. In her gonzo inspired stand-up show, The Candidate, Mandy Nolan gives the inside story on the agonising decision to run for politics. The impossible struggle to look neat for election photos, the fear of what probity might uncover. The conversations with conspiracists and climate change deniers, and then a mighty flood. The Candidate is about hope. It’s about what it means to be a woman in the male-dominated world of politics.

MICF-MaryellenMaryellen: Anecdotal Evidence
Queen Victoria Women’s Centre: 30 March – 15 April
Maryellen is a RAY OF SUNSHINE … and she’s falling asleep. Stand-up comedy, storytelling, feminist, LGBTQI+, late diagnosis ADHD, and even later diagnosis narcolepsy. This show is about dreams … literal and metaphorical. When others look up at the night time sky they are humbled and comforted by how insignificant they are. Not Maryellen. Maryellen wants her life to mean something. Queer, quirky, driven by empathy and empowering others. Throughout this 60 minute piece, Maryellen weaves anecdotes together in her signature high octane style, with characters, physical comedy, and surprises.

MICF-Ms-Beige-Brown-Goes-BeyondMs Beige Brown Goes Beyond
Queen Victoria Women’s Centre: 13 – 23 April
Ms Beige Brown – Australia’s foremost feminist performance poet – must impossibly prove her cultural relevance to a world unaware of her existence to win a brand new council grant and the freedom to pursue her art, fully! Ms Beige Brown has been forced to fund her art by unwilling ‘jobseeking’, grappling to quantify her unbounded inspiration for pointless pen pushing bureaucrats obsessed with whether her work is ‘sustainable’! Now Beige must prove her mettle to an Australia utterly unaware of her existence, to win her full freedom to pursue poetry. Faced with hoop jumping requirements to articulate her ‘artistic excellence’ to win a coveted new grant, Beige realises that Much More Oomph is needed to make an impact.

MICF-Not-Finished-With-You-YetNot Finished With You Yet
The Alex Theatre, St Kilda: continues to 16 April
The world premiere of an hilarious and risqué musical. What if you lived in a world where divorce was compulsory? But you were still in love? Lifelong love is unbearable. In this dystopian world where all marriages must end at 13 years, a couple fights to stay together for love.  Kate and Rupert live in a world where love is not forever… in their world, as life expectancy has grown from 35 to 85, those extra 50 years make lifelong marriage unendurable: awful in fact. So, by law, everyone must divorce after 13 years. But Kate and Rupert are in love.

Rachel TunaleyRachel Tunaley: 12 Lies I Told Before 21
The Apollo Theatre (Speakeasy Theatre): 2 – 23 April
It’s Rachel’s 21st birthday and as she reflects on her life so far, she realises one fatal flaw… she has absolutely no idea who she is. There’s only one thing she’s ever truly wanted: Fame! And every lie she’s ever told has been in preparation for her inevitable stardom, (or imminent self destruction). 12 Lies I Told Before 21 is an unapologetic cabaret about delusional theatre kids, egotistical middle children and the larger-than-life dreamers who always felt they were destined for more. The show features a range of original songs as well as popular songs and takes you on an hilarious journey of self discovery, told through the many lies of a fame-hungry child.

MICF-Sam-WadeSam Wade vs The Void
The Vault Theatre – Speakeasy HQ: 5 – 19 April
A brand-new hour of stand-up, served by an aggressively upbeat, neurodivergent comedian, Sam Wade vs The Void is not to be missed! I’d probably be happier if I didn’t spend my time screaming into the void. But here I am, soaking in the darkness, full of fresh inky ideas and anecdotes, preparing you a delicious dessert of everything I’ve got going on. It’s a bleak forest gateau, with layers of self-aware chocolate sponge, topped with an autism icing and the cherries of processed trauma. I will not let The Void win! But, the only way we beat the void is by filling it with laughter, together. And maybe also cake.

MICF-EndingsSashi Perera: Endings
Chinese Museum: continues to 9 April
Is every death a tragedy, every break-up a crisis and every ending a bad one?  Hell no. Let Melbourne’s Sashi Perera squash your fear of endings in this hilarious show. Why are we so afraid of endings? And why do beginnings steal all the glory? The well-travelled improviser, writer and yarn spinner was born in Colombo and raised in Dubai, Muscat and Perth before working around the world as a refugee lawyer. Sashi’s unique international tales, bizarre perspectives and sharp wit combine in Endings to deliver an incredible bundle of laughs and an entertaining night out. If there’s an ending you fear, this show is for you!

MICF-Stephen-Hall-Letters-From-My-HeroesStephen Hall: Letters From My Heroes
ACMI – Swinburne Studio: 30 March – 23 April
For years, Stephen Hall (Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell, Fawlty Towers Live, Monty Python’s Spamalot) has been writing to his heroes – the stars of stage and screen – asking for advice. Tonight, he reveals how they all might have responded if they’d ever actually bothered to reply, in a brand new one-man show, that critics are calling “a convenient way of stringing together a bunch of celebrity impressions.”

MICF-Mind-the-Gap-(Year)Tess Branchflower: Mind The Gap (Year)
Campari House: continues to 9 April
Tess Branchflower is just an Aussie girl doing something very brave and unique… moving to London. Mind the Gap (Year) is a tribute to those that feel fed up with a safe normality and have the desire to move abroad beyond their early 20s. An ethnography of culture and diversity amongst this big smokey jungle and all its boroughs. People of all ages flock to this crowded metropolis seeking change, progress and fulfilment. For some it is a chance to re-invent, to push personal boundaries and step into adventure. But what is it really like to uproot your life and live there? Why do so many Aussies make the move? Welcome to an un-romanticised perspective of why LDN isn’t as banging as you’d imagine. You get me?

The 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival continues to 23 April. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Melbourne Town Hall – photo by Nick Robertson