There are well-established Australian comics, looking to dazzle audiences after years at the top.
There are young up-and-comers, exciting crowds with unique, fresh material.
And there are international acts presenting new points of view in a different accent.
Here’s the best of the best in the country right now.
In early March, in a small room upstairs at the Imperial Hotel, Denise Scott delivered a rousing five-minute set at the free weekly comedy night, Puggs in Space. The audience that night was mostly made up of young adults, but Scott, ever the professional, had the crowd in raptures with bits about crocheted bikinis and trying her best to embarrass her musician son, Jordie Lane.
She is at her autobiographical best in her new show, Mother Bare.
It’s a similar autobiographical bent which make shows from Australian comedy stalwarts such as Justin Hamilton, Wil Anderson and Greg Fleet so entertaining.
Hamilton’s show, Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994, was inspired by a busy 2013 and the result is a powerful hour of very funny and touching stand-up.
His good mate Anderson – a regular at The Shelf, the night of comedy Hamilton curates with Adam Richard – also delivers a hilarious, emotionally gripping show.
Earlier this year Fleet was a guest on Hamilton’s podcast Can You Take This Photo Please?
The pair sat down and over nearly two hours discussed their friendship, life, comedy and Fleet’s struggles with drug addiction, in particular heroin.
It was incredibly riveting, hearing two comedians chat about a topic many consider taboo, and well worth listening to in its entirety. Fleet touches on the topic in his new show The Games Master. Having been there, done that, Fleet isn’t afraid to broach uncomfortable topics on stage.
Having been there, done that, Fleet isn’t afraid to broach uncomfortable topics on stage
On the other end of the spectrum is Frank Woodley, one of this country’s most beloved comedians. Best known for being one-half of Lano and Woodley alongside Colin Lane, Woodley has morphed into a brilliant comic in his own right since the pair parted ways with their Goodbye tour in 2006, and this year’s show is aptly titled Fool’s Gold.
Certain to join the above luminaries in the years to come will be Matt Okine. Having recently joined Triple J’s breakfast show, taking over from Tom Ballard, he says his career and public profile has taken “a step up”.
“Certainly since I was here last,” he says. “Waking up at 4:30am and doing radio and then going out every night doing shows is tiring but I love doing it. Neither of them of feel like work … it would totally suck if I was getting up at 4:30 to clean toilets but I’m waking up to go and talk shit with a mate.”
“The Australian comic scene is just awesome at the moment, and even though technically they’re my competitors it’s been great to see them selling out and moving to bigger rooms … it’s only three, four years ago we were all doing the same shitty little gigs together.”
The Australian comic scene is just awesome at the moment, and even though technically they’re my competitors
Chieng is one of Australia’s fastest rising stars. Fiercely confident and fierce in delivery, Chieng has regularly sold out at MICF and he has been upgraded to the Main Hall at Melbourne Town Hall following a rousing reception to his new show Chieng Reaction. His spot on the Gala thrilled, and also made him stand out – not many others could deliver a five-minute bit on Kanye West’s Bound 2 and captivate an audience so well.
And there are plenty of other rising stars who have received less exposure that are very much worth your money this festival. Kate McLennan, another regular of The Shelf who performed comedy and workshops with Hamilton in India recently, is performing the excellent Duck’s Nuts.
Fellow Shelf alumnus Tegan Higginbotham is also amazing crowds with her unique take on sport in The Game Changer, but something you may not know is she has recently been learning how to wrestle for April 14’s The Wrestling, which will see comedy and wrestling clash at Melbourne Town Hall.
There’s certainly a lot fun being had by comics, and in few is that more evident than Asher Treleaven. After a series of festival shows that were tightly controlled, Treleaven decided to take a different approach to his 2014 show, Smaller Poorer Weaker Cheaper.
“I love this job,” he begins. “But it’s really stressful and really hard at times and I usually get into quite a state during the festival runs.”
The wave of brilliant touring international comics features plenty of silly fun this year. In particular, Paul Foot and Jason Byrne. Foot has been at the caper for over a decade, but endeared himself to audiences with a bit about moist cake at the MICF All Star show in 2011. Since, his esoteric, totally absurd style of comedy has regularly sold out, and his spots at Set List – he followed Okine last Friday – are the stuff of legend.
His esoteric, totally absurd style of comedy has regularly sold out
Byrne’s audience interaction is also legendary, and he has taken it to new heights this year. On posters plastered around Melbourne is a Byrne holding a speech bubble, inviting members of the public to name his show. The winner will be announced on stage at the final show on April 20.
Of course, like the festivals themselves, there is a range of styles on offer among the international guests – not all are as passionately absurd as Foot and Byrne.
Byrne’s countryman David O’Doherty is a favourite of Australian audiences, with his touching, geeky comedy and hilarious musical interludes played on a cheap, tiny keyboard and has again garnered terrific reception for his new show Will Try To Fix Everything.
So be you looking for Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray, or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, there are many great comics to see in Melbourne and Sydney this year.
So get on your way!