Well slap me sideways it’s that time of year again: The Melbourne International Comedy Festival has officially launched its 2018 program, and it is packed to the gills full of sideways splitting, pants wetting, good old fashioned knee slapping brays, guffaws, and chortles.

This year’s program is as daunting as it is mouthwatering: a record-breaking 612 shows will be taking place throughout the festival, from inside well over 100 venues dotted in and around Melbourne.

It’s a marathon of comedy, as anyone who’s run the gauntlet, traversed the almighty Festival Club, and emerged on the otherside relatively unharmed will know.

The Festival is scheduled to kick off on March 28th, and runs all the way through to its bleary-eyed conclusion on April 22nd.

So who to see, mates? With all that time and all those shows, who the bloody hell should you go and check out this year?

Sure, there’s massive returning names like your Celia Pacquola‘s and your DeAnne Smith‘s and your Daniel Sloss‘s and your Dilruk Jayasinha‘s and your Nick CodyWil AndersonJoel Creasey, and even Jim (Bloody) Gaffigan‘s and whatnot.

But we waded through the program and found you 30 tip-top selections to add to your calendar. Some you’ll be familiar with, some you won’t. All of ’em – literally every single one – will be good for what comedically ails ya.

Get ready, friends! Comedy fest comin’.

Here’s our picks of the 2018 Melbourne Comedy Festival from both Australia and abroad, listed alphabetically.

OH YEAH BUT FIRST…

A GRATUITOUS SHOW PLUG

Cam Tyeson – Mainlander

April 10 – 22, Imperial Hotel – TICKETS

Yeah! Hi! Hello! That photo right there is me, Cam Tyeson. I’m guy who wrote this article, as well as literally thousands of other articles on this here website PEDESTRIAN.TV. I’m doing a stand up show all by myself this year. It’s a bit about moving from Tasmania to Melbourne and it’s also about travelling across the United States doing gigs and falling in love and food delivery apps.

It’s gonna be really nice and fun and good. You should buy a ticket! (ohgodpleasebuyaticket)

LOCAL LEGENDS

Alex Ward – Good, Great

March 27 – April 22, Tasma Terrace/Trades Hall – TICKETS

Alex Ward is one of the most genuinely warm and funny comics you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing. Her debut solo show at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival was insanely good, and in the twelve months since she’s only managed to get better. Irreverent without being too dry and extremely engaging. Totally brilliant.

Andrew McClelland – A Seated Walking Tour of Western Europe

April 10 – 22, The Coopers Malthouse – TICKETS

A fair whack of you Melburnians will no doubt know Andrew McClelland from his joyous Finishing School series of regular dance parties where he drops bulk heat from the 1s and 2s while you shake thine butts until the wee hours. His festival show this year is a madcap and, I’m told, extremely well-informed* walking tour of Europe using only Google street view. A high-concept show from a genuinely lovely performer.

Andrew Portelli & Ben Searle – The Malaka Brothers Ride Again

March 28 – April 3, Imperial Hotel – TICKETS

Multi-comic bills are always great bang for your buck at the festival, and there aren’t gonna be many better than the one put on by burgeoning Melbourne scenesters Andrew Portelli and Ben Searle. Already sporting arguably the best show name in the festival, the duo represent an ocean of raw talent and an innate sense for big laughs. Incredibly good value for money.

Aunty Donna – Glennridge Secondary College

March 29 – April 22, Max Watt’s – TICKETS

Aunty Bloody Donna. They barely need any introduction these days. One of Australia’s most raucous and thunderously popular performing outfits – music, comedy, or otherwise – is following up the release of a fully-fledged album with a brand new festival show that, if last year’s Big Boys is anything to go by, will be as unhinged as a bashed-in door. A must see.

Becky Lucas – Cute Funny Smart Sexy Beautiful

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

In between writing for shows like The Other Guys and Please Like Me and appearing in a swathe of extremely good Comedy Central Australia shorts with comedy partner Cameron James, Becky’s stand-up work is somehow also finding yet-another peak. Christ alive she’s good. So good it’s borderline unfair. Go. To. This. Show.

The Breast of the Fest

March 28 – April 9, Imperial Hotel – TICKETS

Remember that thing I said about group shows being great value for money? Here you bloody go. Five up-and-coming comics – Claire HaganRose BishopMonica MartinezKatherine Allen, and Aurelia St Claire – sharing an hour of stage time and giving you all a little taste of what they’re capable of. Which is a lot. Five comics. Five distinctly different styles. All thoroughly hilarious.

Cameron James – Chilled Out/Fired Up

March 29 – April 22, Greek Centre – TICKETS

The other half of those Comedy Central Australia clips you’ve been seeing literally all over the social medias, Sydney boy Cameron James’ new hour is fixing to be extremely good gear. A charming and natural comic voice who breezes through punchlines with glorious ease. CamJam’s had a big-ass twelve months. The next twelve look like being even bigger-ass.

Danielle Walker – Bush Rat

March 29 – April 22, Victoria Hotel/Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

The 2016 winner of the prestigious RAW Comedy national open mic competition, Danielle Walker is coming up in a big way. A big, big way. Having seen some of her new stuff at rooms across Melbourne the past few months I can safely and wholeheartedly tell you that if you do not go to see this show you are a moron of ginormous proportions. A wild and supremely weird comedic voice who is in complete control of her performances, even when they seem totally off-the-rails. 100% brilliant.

Demi Lardner – I Love Skeleton

March 29 – April 22, Victoria Hotel – TICKETS

If all you saw of Demi Lardner last year was her truly wonderful turn at the Comedy Gala, now’s the time to hitch the wagon to the hype train. The winner of last year’s Director’s Choice Award, Lardner’s new show this year is almost guaranteed to be an awards contender. A master of the truly bloody strange.

First Dog on the Moon – Surviving the Apocalypse

April 6 – 8, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Australia’s favourite cartoon pup, The Guardian’s own First Dog on the Moon is doing a very limited run of shows promising a quite timely and no-doubt tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving whatever untold horrors we’re all clearly barreling headlong into. Three shows only, and they’ll sell out tout suite. Get in quick for this rare audience with a true (self-proclaimed) national treasure.

Helen Bidou – Enter the Spinnaker Lounge

March 30 – April 21, Victoria Hotel – TICKETS

Fans of the insanely great Get Krack!n are gonna crap their dacks at this. Resident fashion expert Helen Bidou is graduating from the screen to the stage for her very first festival performance in one of those infamous late night slots where literally anything can (and usually does) happen.

*cough*

It’s Anne Edmonds in character for those of you keeping score at home and anyone who’s seen her do late night character slots at MICF before will know that this has the potential to break some brains. Go get weird.

Kate McCartney & Kate McLennan – In Konversation

April 7, Comedy Theatre – TICKETS

Speaking of Get Krack!n, the Kates themselves are hitting up this year’s Festival for one night (afternoon, really) only in a very special “In Konversation” show with guest host Benjamin Law. As if seeing those two on stage shooting the shit together isn’t gonna be worth the price of admission ten times over. Kolour us keen.

Kelly Fastuca – Smokin’

April 9 – 21, Imperial Hotel – TICKETS

Fastuca has been around her fair share of stages over the years – both home here in Australia and abroad in New York – and she’s got the comedic chops to prove it. Big and bold comedy from a seasoned performer who will – almost literally – knock your socks clean off.

Lauren Bok – Between a Bok and a Hard Place

March 27 – April 8, Belleville – TICKETS

After touring her previous show, Is That A Burrito In Your Pocket, across Australia and over to Edinburgh, Lauren Bok returns to the Melbourne Comedy Festival with the pun-tastic show title Between a Bok and a Hard Place. As good at heartfelt storytelling as she is as landing outrageous punchlines, Lauren Bok is a genuine bloody joy. Highly recommended.

Matt Stewart – Dry Ginger Male

March 29 – April 22, Chinese Museum – TICKETS

One of the most purely funny comedians in Melbourne, Matt Stewart’s trademark bone-dry delivery belies a brain for comedy with few rivals. Though the title of his show – Dry Ginger Male – is both a very good pun and a literal representation of himself, make no mistake about it: Matt Stewart is piss-funny.

Neal Portenza – Fafenefenoiby II: Return of the Ghost Boy

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Some shows are a straightforward procession of ordinary jokes rattled off in clinical order one after the other. This will not be one of those shows. I’d tell you what to expect from a Neal Portenza show, but it changes literally all the time. So instead, my suggestion is to go in expecting insanity, and prepare to have your brains boiled. He’s a genius. An insane genius, sure. But a genius nonetheless.

Rose Callaghan – No Way Rosé

March 29 – April 22, Forum Theatre – TICKETS

Brutally honest and hilariously frank, Rose Callaghan is a powerhouse on the stage. Her show this year is full of stories about the piss-poor decisions made while several wines deep which, come on, is relatable as fuck. I’m a huge fan of Rose’s, and it’s almost guaranteed you will be too.

Sam Campbell – The Trough

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Do you like your comedy delivered at break-neck speed from a bloke who might possibly be on the verge of a full-on brain collapse? Sam Campbell is the man for you. The co-winner of the 2016 Director’s Choice Award and a former Best Newcomer award nominee, Campbell’s show promises to be both “for wackos who want to have a good time,” and “inspired by Chicken Run.” What does that mean? Who bloody knows. Let’s all find out together.

Stuart Daulman – Death of a Daulman

March 29 – April 22, Victoria Hotel – TICKETS

A lot of shows are gonna feature comics talking about their own lives, but only this one will feature someone talking about his own death. At this year’s festival, South African-born Stuart Daulman is hosting his own funeral.  The dearly departed Daulman will commemorate his own life in his own inimitable, laconic style. Daulman’s comedy is a real ride, like watching a VHS unspool its own tape in the best, most chaotic way possible.

Tim Hewitt – Hewy’s Cooked Adventures

March 29 – April 22, Victoria Hotel – TICKETS

Who doesn’t love a bloody good yarn? Of the yarnmen on offer at this year’s fest – and there are a few – there ain’t many, if any, better than Hewy. An honest battler from sunny Queensland, Hewitt’s got more yarns to turn than a sweatshop full of spinning wheels. A bloody charming bloke, and a gut-bustingly good comic. Top shelf.

WTF Renaissance

March 28 – April 22, The Coopers Malthouse – FREE

The Comedy Festival ain’t all about the shows themselves. There’s plenty of other stuff to check out in between cramming yourself into a tiny theatre. This IRL exhibition by the hugely popular WTF Renaissance is the pick of the bunch. Taking over the walls of the Coopers Malthouse will be a smattering of renaissance-era art inspired memes that have previously caught the attention of the New York Times, among others. It’s free as hell, and will be available to be seen throughout the entire festival. Go have a wander and a chuckle.

Zoë Coombs-Marr – Bossy Bottom

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Last in our picks of local talent, but by no means least, the almighty Zoë Coombs-Marr is back, baby! After her lengthy turn as open mic character Dave which culminated in the award-scooping and genre-defining Trigger Warning, Coombs-Marr is stepping onto the stage as herself for the first time in six years. One of the nation’s most fearsome and prodigious comic talents. The must see of must sees. No excuses.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOUR

Alex Edelman – Just For Us (USA)

March 29 – April 22, Greek Centre – TICKETS

Of the internationals that are making the trek out to Melbourne for the Comedy Festival this year, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more genuinely endearing than American Alex Edelman. A wonderfully adept storyteller and a young talent with a command of the craft that few achieve at any point in their careers, Edelman’s the one if you like your comedy warm and inviting. A genuine joy.

Beth Stelling – Headliners (USA)

April 10 – 22, Max Watts – TICKETS

With a recent episode of Netflix series The Standups under her belt, the wonderful and good Beth Stelling is making her way out to the Melbourne Comedy Festival as part of the annual parade of up-and-coming US talent Headliners. With previous appearances on US talk shows like Conan and Jimmy Kimmel, Stelling’s wit and acerbic charm make Headliners this year a virtual can’t miss.

Gillian English – Giant and Angry (CA)

March 28 – April 21, Fad Gallery – TICKETS

Almost certainly the fastest-talking Canadian I’ve ever met or seen, Gillian English’s new show Giant & Angry comes on the heels of a whistlestop year that has seen her tour relentlessly throughout Australia and her homeland. Also, she’s angry. Really, really angry. A powerful voice in a time where it’s sorely needed.

Guy Montgomery – Doesn’t Check His Phone For An Hour (NZ)

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Is it fair to call a New Zealander a true international act? Who knows. No Gods, no masters, no borders, etc. Guy Montgomery is one of the funniest Kiwi’s getting about at the moment, bar none. A quick, dry, and self-deprecating wit capable of leaving a room in ruins. Plus, with the promise of not looking at his phone for a whole hour, it’ll be worth it just to see a tech-addict torture himself on stage.

James Veitch – Game Face (UK)

March 29 – April 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Easily the comedian with the most amount of TED Talks under his belt at this year’s festival, James Veitch is certainly gonna be no stranger to any of you who’s spent enough time on the internet. The renowned spam-replying pest and notoriously antagonistic housemate has turned curing boredom by annoying others into a fully-fledged comedy career, and we simply cannot get enough of it. You’ll laugh your ass off, partly because his pranks are very funny, and partly because he’s not doing them to you.

Kyle Kinane – Dipshittery (USA)

April 16 – 22, Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Quite easily one of the best comedians produced by the US in a long-ass time, Kyle Kinane returns to Melbourne with his gravelly-voiced, laidback, Uncle Barbecue charm. A prior Barry Award-nominee and veteran of multiple Comedy Central-backed specials, including 2016’s Loose in Chicago, Kinane is a master-craftsman at the extreme height of his powers. He’s only doing a week of shows this festival. Don’t be that guy who sleeps on tickets and sooks about it later.

Natalie Palamides – Laid (USA)

March 29 – April 22, Arts Centre Melbourne – TICKETS

You wouldn’t think the voice of Buttercup in The Powerpuff Girls reboot could also be a wonderfully surreal physical comedian, and yet here we are. The winner of the 2017 Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe – the same award won by the likes of Tim Minchin, Alex Edelman, Josie Long, Arj Barker, and The Mighty Boosh – Palamides show was created in collaboration with renowned comedic clown Doctor Brown, and warns patrons with egg allergies to stay away due to the usage of “raw and cooked eggs.” If you can stomach that, get in line.

Rory Scovel – Far From Here (USA)

April 20 – 22, Arts Centre Melbourne/Melbourne Town Hall – TICKETS

Blending highly refined stand-up, wild improv, and truly insane tangents, Rory Scovel arrives at this year’s festival for 3 shows only that should be written in permanent marker on any self-respecting comedy fan’s calendar. With a Netflix special under his belt last year, and one of the all-time great late night comedy performances on Conan the year before that, 2018 is, in all likelihood, gonna be one of those years where he’ll be everywhere. But first, he’s coming to Melbourne. I’m dead serious when I say this: Do not miss him.

UPDATE: Unfortunately Rory had to cancel all his Comedy Festival shows for this year which is a big bummer.

ADDITIONAL GRATUITOUS PLUG

WrestleBrainia 2

April 1 – 22, Imperial Hotel – TICKETS

Is it a shade arrogant for a writer to use a Comedy Festival guide article as a flimsy pretense to promote his own shows? Maybe. But these tickets ain’t gonna sell themselves, baby!!

For the second year in a row, WrestleBrainia is taking over Sundays at the Imperial Hotel. It’s a riotous hour of pro-wrestling jokes and trivia. We’ve got comedians pairing up with actual wrestlers from Melbourne City Wrestling to do battle on stage. Think of it as Spicks and Specks but with suplexes. It sold out last year, and this year it’s gonna be bigger, badder, and potentially bloodier. Come get some!

Now of course, this is but a tiny sampling of the Comedy Festival’s seriously huge 2018 programme. There’s plenty more for you to get your joke-loving beak wet on this year.

Go get stuck into it via the Comedy Festival website, and get out there for some laughs ya chukleheads!

Image: Comedy Festival