Now in its 30th year, the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival has kicked off with a program that includes more than 500 shows taking place in 121 venues and featuring over 2,000 performers. With so much on offer, Arts Review takes a look at 10 shows that are worth checking out:
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
The Lawler – Southbank Theatre: 30 March – 10 April
It’s been ten years since The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was in Melbourne and now it’s back! An eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vie for the spelling championship of a lifetime. While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home life, the contestants spell their way through a series of [potentially made-up] words hoping to never hear the soul-crushing “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake. Six spellers enter – one speller leaves!
Penny Arcade – Longing Lasts Longer
The Famous Spiegeltent – Arts Centre Melbourne: continues to 3 April
Last seen in Australia with her internationally acclaimed sex and censorship show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! – New York’s undisputed queen of underground turns contemporary stand-up on its head. Driven by her magnetic rock ‘n’ roll energy, Arcade’s razor sharp satire is mixed live to euphoric soundscapes charting four decades of pop culture. A passionate and exuberant performance anthem where you can think, laugh and dance and at the same time!
Gillian Cosgriff – To The Moon And Back
The Butterfly Club: continues to 3 April
Gillian has concerns about the future. Instead of seeing dazzling new horizons and exciting possibilities, all she can think about is the impending doom of the probable apocalypse. Garnering accolades for the last five years with her charming and unique style of musical comedy, see Gillian now, before the world inevitably ends.
Dolly Diamond – Alive, Intimate & Up Late
Old Met Shop – Melbourne Town Hall: continues to 16 April
Dolly’s completely in her element when she’s up late and intimate, that’s when she really comes alive. Back for her second year, audiences are in for one hell of a ride. A night of comedy and cabaret and an array of special guests. She’s live and she means business, funny business. Dolly Diamond is one sharp-tongued comedy goddess!
Jake Johannsen is Talking Show
Parthenon – Greek Centre: continues to 17 April
One of David Letterman’s favourite comedians, Jake made a record 46 appearances on The Late Show. With HBO and Comedy Central specials under his belt, and an appearance in the cult filmThe Aristocrats, Jake brings his subtle and intelligent comedic style to Melbourne for the first time.
Isaac Lomman – Comedy Hypnosis! Entranced
Athenaeum Theatre: continues to 17 April
A uniquely different comedy experience as Lomman creates an hilarious show entirely out of volunteers from the audience. You can see the show or be the show in this all ages MICF must-experience event!
Geraldine Quinn – Could You Repeat That?
Bagging Room – The Coopers Malthouse: continues to 3 April
In 2006, Geraldine Quinn performed her first full original cabaret. Ten years on, 30 award nominations, seven wins and two Moosehead Awards later – the rock ponce gypsy returns for a sparkling decade retrospective, resurrecting her greatest song-zombies. A jamboree of Quinnsong – many of which will at last be played with a living band of talented, affordable musicians.
Em Rusciano is NOT a Diva
Palais Theatre: 8 & 9 April
Growing up Em had a simple dream: to be first to win an Olympic Gold medal, an Oscar, a TONY and a Grammy. Now Em is 36 and can’t even crack an invite to the Logies (let alone a nomination). She has also had to accept that she may never be Taylor Swift or Beyoncé and that the only time-appropriate Diva left is Susan Boyle. If you’ve ever sung into a hairbrush and dreamt big but now can’t even be bothered to wear a G-string, then this is the show for you!
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne: 7 – 17 April
Rhonda Burchmore and Trevor Ashley are legends in their own lunchtime. Between them they’ve sung every song ever written and consumed enough French champagne to sink a battleship. Usually solo superstars, they’ve decided to join forces for this once in a lifetime event. Bold, brassy and loud… racy, raunchy and raucous… Trash and Ruda will have you laughing and screaming for more. More? More is never enough with these icons of outrageous glitz and glamour.
The Coopers Malthouse: continues to 17 April
After dazzling audiences around the globe, VELVET arrives in Melbourne, continuing to defy expectations with an electrifying trip to a world of glamour and abandon. A raucous and seductive fusion of disco, dance, burlesque and circus, it shocks, surprises and scintillates at every turn. Channeling the original Studio 54 nightclub, and featuring the legendary diva Marcia Hines, it’s a party, it’s dangerous, it’s a showcase fuelled by an exhilarating disco soundtrack that never lets up!
The 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs until 17 April. For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Gillian Cosgriff (supplied)