Whether you are looking to take in a show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this month or the Sydney Comedy Festival in late April and early May, or any major comedic event on this year, there’s a good chance you will feel overwhelmed by the number of acts on the lineups.
Australian comedy is having a modern heyday, which means that there are oodles of great acts to see and equally as many to avoid.
Comedic critic, and festival obsessive, Daniel Paproth, has sorted the riff from the raff and navigates the best comedy shows for 2014 for The New Daily.
Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994
After a year off from the Melbourne festival, Hamilton returns with a truly astonishing show. Expertly weaving together stories from his 41 years – political arguments at barbeques, performing for the troops in Afghanistan, love notes encased in hardened concrete – he is truly a master of the craft, packing an emotional punch as well as delivering gut-busting laughs. Playing until April 19 at the Victoria Hotel. Tickets $22 – $28
Felicity Ward – The Iceberg
If you saw Felicity Ward’s brilliant spot on the Comedy Gala, it really was just the tip of the iceberg. Ward’s new show deals with perception and perspective and she is in rare form. From observations on Australian cricket fans to what she really wishes phone-sex hotlines were like and plenty more, The Iceberg is one of the most consistently funny shows of the Festival. Playing until April 20 at the Melbourne Town Hall and ACMI. Tickets $22 – $34
Doc Brown – Of Mic and Men
British comedian and former rapper Doc Brown – who has been in Ricky Gervais’ Derek and The Inbetweeners – is a very funny man with very funny observations and some brilliant rap-aping ad-libs. But beware, if you’re a hip-hop fan, he has begun to turn on the genre and for a man who talks about having an open mind it’s disappointing to see him dismiss modern rap. Playing until April 20 at the Victoria Hotel. Tickets $27 – $35
The Guardian said David Quirk’s show was “Quietly devastating”, so best not miss out. Of all the myriad shows at this year’s festival, chances are Quirk has the most entertaining opening, walking onto stage soaking wet and wearing a towel that he borrowed from the Chippendale’s grumpy German merchandise manager. Clever and witty, Quirk delivers knock-out material with a personable air that makes you feel as if you’re listening to a hilarious friend. Playing until April 20 at the Melbourne Town Hall. Tickets $20 – $28.90
Greg Fleet – The Games Master
Greg Fleet’s new show is as brilliant as you would expect from one of Australia’s most legendary comedians. Not for the faint-hearted, Fleet does not mince words when delivering hilarious bits on drug addiction, North Korean politics or funerals, and the show is all the better for it. Playing at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 20. Tickets $20 – $29.
Jason Byrne – You Name The Show
Fans of Irish whackjob Jason Byrne, who has been called “The King of Comedy” by The Times in the UK, will have a reasonable idea of what to expect – send-ups of Australian culture, unmatched audience participation, exaggerated views on love and life. His off-the-cuff interactions with the audience drive many members of the crowd to tears and he has a brilliant entrance this year. Just sit near the back if you don’t want to be part of the show. Playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until April 20. Tickets $30 – $38.
Wil Anderson – Wiluminati
Quite simply Australia’s best comedian. Wil Anderson has been at this caper longer than some members of the audience, and he gets better every year. Wiluminati has already been treated to several excellent reviews, and sees Anderson at his best – sharp social and political observations, revealing personal stories and an emotional heart. Don’t miss. Playing at The Comedy Theatre until April 20. Tickets $30 – $49.90.
Tegan Higginbotham – Game Changer
Rapidly rising comedienne – and The Age sport columnist – Tegan Higginbotham is very passionate about sport. Her 2013 show explored an obsession with former Carlton star Brendan Fevola and her new show is the third in a line of sport-themed shows, and deals with the balance between sport and society. Playing at the Portland hotel until April 20. Tickets $20 – $24.
Set List – Stand-Up Without A Net
The brainchild of Los Angeles-based comedians Paul Provenza and Troy Conrad, Set List is an MICF favourite of comedians and audiences alike. Established and up-and-coming comedians take the stage, are shown a series of words and phrases they’ve never seen, and then do improv. A rare chance to see big names away from their well-planned shows. Playing at the Melbourne Town Hall and the Victoria Hotel until April 19. Tickets $20 – $22.
Celia Pacquola – Let Me Know How It All Works Out
One of Melbourne’s brightest comics, Celia Pacquola returns to the Festival after time away in London. Her star is rising quickly, having appeared on ABC’s Laid and Ten’s Have You Been Paying Attention? and her strikingly confident new show is her funniest and most enthralling to date. Pacquola figures she might as well go for it – she might get hit by a bus tomorrow. Playing at the Melbourne Town Hall until April 20. Tickets $25 – $30.