Now in its 31st year, the 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival kicks off tonight with a program that includes more than 540 shows taking place in over 100 venues and featuring over 2,000 performers. With so much on offer, Australian Arts Review takes a look at a selection of shows worth checking out:
ACT Like a Lady
Basement Cafe: 12 – 23 April
For all those times you’ve been told to act like a lady (or wished someone had told you) we have cooked up a show for you! Hailing from the city of senators and sex workers, Canberra’s female comedy elite (Ellie Windred, Maddy Weeks, Vanessa Conlin, Codie Bell, Claire Hagan, Olivia Sparrow and Laura Campbell), have dug deep and created an hour special that will give you laughter, sadness and (if we time it just right) a little bit of arousal for this year’s Festival!
Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night
The Famous Spiegeltent: 30 March – 9 April
Celebrate with one of the Festival’s favourite late-night shows, enticing audiences for over a decade! Featuring the biggest comedy acts, the sexiest burlesque, heart-stopping cabaret and the most jaw-dropping circus acts from around the globe.
Amelia Ryan is Lady Liberty
The Butterfly Club: 18 – 23 April
Sexy, sassy and side-splittingly hilarious, a night with this critically acclaimed cabaret siren is like a bender with your bestie. From Las Vegas romps to long-lasting love, champagne-guzzling to green-juicing and box gaps to feeling #blessed, she tackles the pressing (and totally first world) issues facing the modern woman in search of liberty… whatever that is? Queen of the parodies, she reworks songs by artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Gilbert & Sullivan and Robin Thicke, so you’ll never listen to them the same way again. With powerhouse vocals and party games to make you blush, it’s the liberation celebration you won’t want to miss!
Aunty Donna – Big Boys
Max Watts: 30 March – 23 April
In 2012, Aunty Donna exploded onto the Melbourne comedy scene with a unique brand of surreal, fast paced, alternative sketch. Their debut show Aunty Donna in Pantsuits was nominated for the illustrious Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Golden Gibbo Award, and the Donna’s have since gone on to create an award winning YouTube channel, garnering over 142 thousand+ subscribers and 19.9 million+ views. Aunty Donna returns to the festival circuit in 2017 with a brand new show, Big Boys.
La Mama: 5 – 16 April
Mai is an Asian-Australian playwright who soon discovers that ‘White Australia’ wants her to write the ‘ethnic’ play, but that’s exactly the kind of story she can no longer tell. Her boyfriend Kevin is a security guard who projects his own frustrated creativity onto Mai’s career; he gives her well-meaning and at times pithy advice. Whilst Mai is away on a meditation retreat, Kevin decides to submit a pitch using her name. The fallout threatens both her career and their romantic partnership. Directed by Beng Oh, Coloured Aliens is a new comedy by Chi Vu about an interracial couple navigating romance in a racist environment.
The Happiest Refugee Live!
Regent Theatre: Wednesday 5 April
Back by popular demand Anh Do returns with his hit show. His bestselling book The Happiest Refugee has made readers laugh and cry, and was described by Russell Crowe as “The most surprising and inspiring read I have had in years.” Anh’s stage show combines stand-up comedy with real life stories, photos and filmed pieces to retell his amazing story.
Isaac Lomman: Comedy Hypnosis! Entranced
Athenaeum Theatre: continues to 23 April
See the show or be the show in this hypnotic experience. Audience volunteers become the stars of the show going on an hilariously entrancing journey through the power of their unconscious minds. No one is forced on stage as Isaac only works with volunteers who want to be hypnotised from the audience – first on stage become the stars of the show. With a 100% audience participation show, each show is naturally different to the last.
Jenny Eclair How To Be A Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane)
Arts Centre Melbourne: 30 March – 16 April
Professional grumpy old woman, amateur soup maker and novice knitter – Jenny Eclair is younger than Madonna but eats crisps and likes wine. Semi-bearded and suffering from outbreaks of gout and hysteria, Jenny puts middle age under the microscope and decides whether to laugh, cry or buy a dachshund! You are most welcome to join her, just button your cardie up properly and wipe that lipstick off your teeth. Eclair has no intention of slowing down, she’s still got a whopping mortgage and a pathological need to show off. Funnier than she’s ever been, you don’t have to be a middle-aged woman to love this middle-aged woman!
Joel Creasey: Poser
Max Watts: 30 March – 23 April
Australia’s Crown Prince of Comedy, Joel Creasey, returns with his brand new show Poser. In 2016, Joel‘s show sold out around Australia and played to packed houses in New York, Montreal and Los Angeles. He also whored himself across Australian TV screens from comedy galas, panel shows, celebrity interviews, the depths of the African jungle, and will soon be seen hosting Eurovision for SBS.
Judith Lucy & Denise Scott: Disappointments
Arts Centre Melbourne: 13 – 22 April
Scotty and Judith couldn’t be happier; every element of their lives is simply perfect. They love their bodies, their careers, the people they have chosen to be surrounded by and they love who they are, the women that they have become. Their souls are fit to bursting! Every day is another perfect gift from the universe! Well that’s certainly what they’ve written on their Facebook pages. Come along and see what a crock of shit that actually is. Truthfully their lives are full of… disappointments. Judith and Scotty will help you embrace your mediocrity along with your shattered dreams and what’s more you’ll walk out feeling proud! They’ll sing, they’ll dance, they’ll lie down a lot and they’ll learn to love their disappointments.
Kirsty Webeck: Good One
Imperial Hotel: 29 March – 9 April
Described as the “hottest new name on the comedy circuit” (LOTL), Kirsty Webeck has been delighting sold out audiences across the country with her cheerful comedy that always punches up. Now she’s back for her third year running at Melbourne International Comedy Festival with her hilarious, brand-new stand-up show tackling what it means to be a good person.
Kuah Jenhan Perfect Stranger
Greek Centre: 30 March – 23 April
Malaysian star Kuah Jenhan returns to Melbourne in his sophomore year with a new hour of him friending you so hard, as he works out how to connect in an unwelcoming world. Join him as he remembers being the lonely kid in the playground, tries to understand why countries can’t get along and quotes Meg Ryan quoting a Greek philosopher. He is one of southeast Asia’s most sought-after entertainers. In the last twelve months Jenhan has been nominated for Best Comedy at Perth Fringe World 2016, been featured on Comedy Central Asia, and opened for comedy legend Eddie Izzard.
Make The World A Banter Place
Athenaeum Theatre: 11 – 16 April
He may not be everyone’s cuppa tea but “overwhelmingly politically incorrect” (What’s Good, NZ) Alex Williamson sure knows how to banter. He has smashed out a brand-new, multi-media, joke-heavy live show every year since he decided to channel the genius writing skills that have earned him 3 million social media followers, into writing and performing live shows. He’s one of the hottest tickets at comedy festivals and big theatres around Australia and the UK, and that’s because he talks the talk. Darkly intelligent and crassly funny Shooter’s latest offering is no exception – get in early and see what comedy looks like in the 21st Century.
Ruby Wax: Frazzled (USA)
Arts Centre Melbourne: 30 March – 2 April
Drop dead gorgeous, sassy and smart, Ruby Wax brings her new one-woman show to the stage. Based on her number one best seller A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, Ruby has been honoured with the title of poster girl for mental illness. Once crazy, now less so, she gives a tour of the mind – how to use it, not lose it. By the way, she graduated from Oxford three years ago (at a late stage) so she should know her stuff. Frazzled: A Guide to Mindfulness sees Ruby return to the Australian stage after her hit 2015 tour Sane New World. Four shows only – don’t miss this master of both comedy and the cognitive live!
Tash York: These Things Take Wine
The Butterfly Club: 10 – 23 April
Award-winning Melbourne cabaret artist Tash York (Impromptunes, The Desperettes, Broadway Unplugged Winner) tells her stories from pre-drinks to police encounters, chicken nuggets in your bra, hijacking buskers, and everything in between. After this ride all that can be certain is you’re not going to work in the morning. With songs by Nancy Sinatra, Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone and even a few improvised numbers, These Things Take Wine is a cheerfully tipsy celebration of wine, inebriated hi-jinx and heartbreak that have helped Tash develop into the well-rounded vintage she has become.
Trygve Wakenshaw Nautilus
The Famous Spiegeltent: 11 – 22 April
This award-winning 75 minute tour-de-force of high-octane mime is the widely lauded follow-up to cult sell-out physical comedies Kraken and Squidboy from award-winning and internationally acclaimed idiot Trygve Wakenshaw. Don’t miss Nautilus: the third in the ‘underwater trilogy’ and his most ambitious work yet.
The Coopers Malthouse: 30 March – 22 April
The indisputable hit of the Adelaide Fringe and after sell-out seasons at Sydney Opera House and Brisbane Festival, returns to Australia in 2017 to delight Melbourne audiences with its striking originality. Immediately enthralling and accessible for all ages, SOAP is an intelligent and splash-filled fusion of contemporary circus, comedy, physical theatre and cabaret. A dazzling range of water-soaked routines performed to an exciting and eclectic soundtrack delivers 70 minutes of genuine showmanship with seemingly effortless grace.
The Sparrow Men: Murder on the Pacific Diamond
The 86: 13 – 23 April
There’s been a murder, and it’s up to you to solve it! The Sparrow Men (Marcus Willis & Andy Balloch) play all the guests, entertainment and staff of luxury cruise liner ‘The Pacific Diamond’, aboard which the star attraction, Dame Elizabeth Heinrich, has just been murdered! Solve the case in this hilarious choose-your-own-adventure for the whole family, where the audience gets to play detective!
Wil Anderson Critically Wil
Arts Centre Melbourne & Comedy Theatre: 30 March – 23 April
In 2017 Wil Anderson is back with his brand new show Critically Wil. You might know him as the host of ABC’s top-rating show Gruen or from his various podcasts, but it is on stage where Wil feels most at home. Wil is at the peak of his powers and his 2016 show Fire at Wil was considered by audiences and critics as his best show yet.
The 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs 29 March – 23 April. For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.
Image: Tash York presents These Things Take Wine at The Butterfly Club (supplied)