My Pick of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Posted on 14 March 2013

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is host to MANY wonderful shows. In 2012 people could choose from more than 400 comedy events. I do my best to get to as many shows as possible. Last year I managed more than two dozen. A couple didn’t get reviews: one because it was late at night and I was so exhausted my short term memory blotted it out the next morning…eek!

My thing is to be supportive of the up-and-comers, the little known, and the B-listers. Largely because many of these people are good, but they don’t get the media attention they deserve. Of the shows I have seen and the artists I have come to trust, here are a few of my 2013 recommendations:

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall: Trying Hard

Tremblay-Birchall’s marketing of this show is appalling. During his performance he wears some of the most glorious costumes that are laugh-out-loud funny in their own right. And he doesn’t use a single one in any of his posters or on the Comedy Festival site. Visuals like that are pure gold for convincing the media to put your image in their magazine/newspaper/Website. The show oozes charm and Tremblay-Birchall’s laconic wit keeps people in stitches.

Barry Morgan: Organ Is Not A Dirty Word

I have not seen this show, but if it’s anything like Morgan’s previous organ show, it should be loads of fun. His cheesy sales character is loveable. He plays the organ beautifully, if somewhat ironically. He has a wonderful rapport with the audience and keeps people involved.

Ben McKenzie & John Richards: Splendid Chaps

It’s Dr Who‘s 50th anniversary this year and who wouldn’t want to spend it with the amiable Ben McKenzie and John Richards? This is the live recording of their podcast, where you will hear a little something about a different Doctor each episode along with the exploration of a Whovian theme. They bring in a fascinating array of guests, from other comedians to academics. McKenzie is knowledgeable, lighthearted, and deserves a TV break. Watch him here before he becomes cool.

FanFiction Comedy

Fan fiction is the ultimate bastion of geekiness. Here fans of this or that media creation revel in their fantasies related to characters and situations. Theirs is an indulgent love that paints in large letters what they crave in life. Even among fans they poke fun at their own lavish excesses. Take this aesthetic and convince a group of skilled comedians to bring their craft to the form and hilarity is bound to ensue. FanFiction Comedy was good fun last year. I particularly loved David O’Doherty’s fan take on Grand Designs! I’m glad to see this group of New Zealand comedians bringing the show back this year.

First Dog on the Moon: Cartoobs and Other Typos

This was my absolute favourite show at Melbourne Fringe last year. I still lovingly use the jazz paws tea towel I received. Andrew Marlton, the star of this show, is the in-house cartoonist for Crikey. For Cartoobs he draws cartoons, tells stories, and whips up a mean PowerPoint presentation. His sense of absurdity is exquisite.

Girls Uninterrupted Are Good Value

Louise Joy McCrae and Nicolette Minster are the top flight team making Girls Uninterrupted work on so many levels. Their sketch comedy is multi-layered and their performances are explosively funny. Rarely do you see comedy teams who know how to support each other’s performance so well. It’s a real joy watching them.

Jason Geary & Jimmy James Eaton: Sketch-ual Healing

Eaton’s One Small Sketch for Man should have won some sort of award at last year’s Comedy Festival. The show’s story structure was exceptional, Eaton’s characterisations were impeccable. Joining with the equally talented Jason Geary who has done work with Shaun Micallef and Thank God You’re Here, I expect this show to be something special.

Jennifer Wong is Spineless

Wong is a masterful storyteller. Her shows blend beautiful snippets of her life, with interesting facts, and a bushel load of hilarious wordplay. The authenticity and vulnerability she brings to her performance engages audiences such that you don’t even notice time flying by. Her show Spineless will delve into all things bookish and writerly. Should be a delight for those of us who keep our noses stuffed between pages (yay!).

Josh Earl Vs The Australian Women’s Weekly Childrens Bithday Cake Book

Earl has rightfully been able to milk this show for all it’s worth. This is a return engagement with the Comedy Festival. I attended a performance in 2010. The show has also toured throughout Australia. Earl is inventive, making excellent use of multimedia. The stories he tells are full of warmth and family humour. His songs are catchy and tuneful. If your mother or father ever tried making something a little creative in the kitchen with varying results, this show will strike your funny bone.

The Man Who Planted Trees

I do not know the Puppet State Theatre Company, but The Man Who Planted Trees is one of my all time favourite animated films. The story illustrates how much one person can do to bring life and beauty back to our planet through conservation work. My description really doesn’t do this tale justice. I’m looking forward to seeing what these people will do with the material.

Michael Workman: Ave Loretta

Workman’s shows have been achingly beautiful. They include cartooning, original music, and striking storytelling. Workman mixes the absurd with the painfully real. He explores suffering and love. Despite the surreality of his stories, they strike home as emotionally true. Ave Loretta promises to be a “black comedy”, but I can’t imagine a Workman show without an intense ray of light shining through. We shall see.

I may kick myself for recommending shows I’m hoping to see using my participant pass. If I help to sell them out, I may not be getting a seat! Nevertheless, these are all people I want to see succeed, because they merit an appreciative audience’s attention.

Peace and kindness,


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