It’s the most laughable time of the year, mates. Today marks the beginning of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and for the next four-odd weeks, the Victorian capital will be positively overrun with comedians and comedy fans alike treading the boards at a truly eye-watering 628 different shows at a stack of venues around town.
That’s enough to wrinkle even the most seasoned of festival veteran’s brows. So instead of having you fling yourself at the board at Town Hall like one of those inflatable velcro walls from the 90s, we’ve done a bunch of the leg work for you and have found 33 shows absolutely worth your while.
These aren’t just your ordinary 33 shows but; we don’t need to tell you to go see Hannah Gadsby or Wil Anderson (even though you should because, y’know… it’s fucken Hannah Gadsby and Wil Anderson).
These are 33 shows from up-and-comers, almost-there’s, overseas champs, local weirdos, and everything in between.
Get yr calendars out and start circling, champs! It’s bloody go time.
AARON GOCS – Divorced… with Children
The Victoria Hotel – Boardroom, March 28 – April 21
He barely needs any introduction but I’m gonna give him one anyway: Gocsy is well known, widely watched, and deservedly beloved by just about all who’s either seen him on-stage or online. The battlers’ prince of Australian comedy. Your great old mate. It’s Gocsy, folks. Absolutely get around him.
AMY CUNNINGHAM – Funbags
Crowded in the Vaults: Vault 1o, March 26 – April 7
A Canadian vegan coming to the Antipodes armed with bone-dry writing and superb command of a stage. Cunningham was a low-key highlight of last year’s Comedy Festival and thank christ we get her out here again this year. The mighty Commonwealth does us yet another favour.
BABY GOT BACK – Size Queens
The Melba Spiegeltent, March 28 – 31
A cult favourite of the Fringe Festival circuit – with good reason – this absolutely wild, raucous, celebratory extravaganza of all female forms sports dancers, strippers, showgirls, puppeteers, and, yes, even comedians among its cast. It’s part burlesque, part performance art, part absolute car crash, and all insane spectacle. Four shows only, but. Get in quick.
BEN RUSSELL – Fylleangst
Campari House, April 8 – 21
Arguably one of the funniest performers in Australia, Ben Russell and critical acclaim tend to follow each other around like a pair of bad smells. His first “solo” show since the Golden Gibbo-nominated The Tokyo Hotel – which later became an incredibly good ABC Podcast – Fylleangst will no doubt be the comedian’s choice of the festival. It should be yours too.
BIG HEWY’S FOOTY SHOW
Coopers Inn – The 70, March 28 – April 20
The best shit at any Comedy Festival takes place in the absolute dead of night, at shows that force you to leave any and all expectations at the door. With an 11:30pm start time, Big Hewy’s Footy Show is one of them. A loose sketch show skewering commercial TV footy shows featuring reported “big special guests,” this is a must-see for anyone even casually interested in the not-so-beautiful game.
THE BREAST OF THE FEST
Trades Hall – The Evatt Room/Archive Room, March 28 – April 21
As well put-together as any ensemble show could ever be, The Breast Of The Fest again showcases some of Melbourne’s brightest up-and-coming comics on stages that by all rights will be far too small for them in no time at all. Each show features a special guest performer (last year’s iteration had Celia Pacquola and Claire Hooper drop in, among others) and a ripping flow that doesn’t want for pace or laughs. Buy tickets immediately.
CAMERON JAMES – Strawberry Blonde
Greek Centre – Aphrodite, April 9 – 21
You might have seen him on his Comedy Next Gen special on the ABC, and you may have seen him hanging shit on politics on SBS’s The Feed, but until you see Cameron James live you’re doing yourself a great disservice. One of the warmest and most genuine blokes in Australian comedy. An absolute treat.
CARLA WILLS & URVI MAJUMDER – Sass Attack
Crowded in the Vaults: Pilgrim Bar – March 26 – April 7
Split bills are a spectacular way to start an evening at the Comedy Festival and the pick of this year’s bunch is easily that of Carla Wills and Urvi Majumder, two complimentary but different enough comics joining forces on the very edge of the Yarra River. Between Wills, who has taken Adelaide Fringe Festival by storm, and Majumder, whose confident self-deprecation has few rivals in the country, this is just about the pick of the pre-dinner shows this festival.
CASSIE WORKMAN – Giantess
Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room – March 28 – April 21
Less pure stand-up as it is remarkable, life-changing performance art. Workman has long been one of the most inventive and spectacular performers in the country, and her long-awaited solo return to the Comedy Festival is coming not a moment too soon. A show that interweaves music, comedy, storytelling, and illustration, Giantess reportedly explores deeply personal themes revolving around gender identity and self-acceptance. A masterful performer at the height of her powers.
COREY WHITE – X-Ray
Greek Centre – Mykonos, March 28 – April 21
Four years after he took out the coveted Best Newcomer Award, Corey White returns to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival a little older, maybe a bit wiser, and with the exceptionally good Corey White’s Roadmap to Paradise ABC series under his belt. There are few better storytellers, and few better human beings, than White. A comedy force.
DEMI LARDNER & TOM WALKER – We Mustn’t
Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room, March 28 – April 20
Bloody hell I don’t even know where to begin with these two truly demented lunatics. All the information the show description provides is they are “young twin brothers left alone at home. They mustn’t get up to mischief, for father will be cross.”
It starts late, whatever happens in the show will likely be very crook, and you’ll wind up leaving a different person. Sink a few looseners and piss your pants during this one. Demi and Tom will probably love it.
DOUBLE DENIM – A Very Fancy Dinner Party
The Victoria Hotel – Acacia Room, March 28 – April 21
Featuring frequent Aunty Donna collaborator Michelle Brasier, Double Denim have been operating as a madcap, raucous, incredibly tight double act for quite some time, drawing rave reviews and sell-out crowds virtually wherever they go. Whip-smart, incredibly clever, loud and – above all else – fun as hell. They’re the real deal, mates.
ELEANOR TIERNAN – Success Without A Sex Tape
ACMI – Studio, March 28 – April 21
After emerging as the standout of last year’s New Order UK showcase, Irish sensation Eleanor Tiernan is bringing a full hour-long show to Australia for the very first time. A chronic over-thinker and an unbelievably dry wit, the new show focuses on a conveyer belt of topics from sex tapes to bitcoin to something called a super rat. Whatever the hell that is keep it away from me, but definitely go see Tiernan do her thing. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll probably learn something.
FERN BRADY – Power and Chaos
ACMI – Cube, March 28 – April 21
Scotland’s own Fern Brady is making her second solo trip to MICF armed with a tongue that’s only gotten sharper in the past twelve months. Between Brexit, the rise of feckless anti-feminist movements, and everything in between, turns out there’s quite a bit for a proud Scot to be mad about. So Brady’s not exactly light on for material this year. One of the absolute brightest on offer in the Northern Hemisphere right now. Hurls gags like throwing knives.
FIVE AT FIVE
Imperial Hotel – Hooper Room, March 27 – April 21
There’s no better way to kick off a day at the festival than with an early showcase show, and Five At Five ticks every box your could ever possibly want. Packed rooms, a lineup of comics in red hot form, and all without bashing your wallet. Unquestionably the best value for money this festival.
GILLIAN ENGLISH – 10 Things I Hate About Taming Of The Shrew
The Coopers Malthouse – Shell Room, March 28 – April 21
Indisputably the only show this festival bold enough to tear strips off of 90s teen Shakespearean film adaptations that’s also presented in listicle form. Gillian English, a fast-talking Canadian now based in Hobart aka the two greatest places on the planet, is a tenured performer who never stops touring. The show is road-tested, battle-hardened, and English is a powerhouse performer. Highly recommended.
GREG LARSEN – Useful Idiot
Melbourne Town Hall – Lunch Room, March 28 – April 21
Just about anything legitimately funny on ABC screens over the past god knows how long has had Greg Larsen’s influence in some form or fashion. Between openly calling sitting politicians… ah… “kents” on the dearly departed Tonightly, to featuring repeatedly on Get Krack!n, Larsen has been just about everywhere. As a performer, unashamed, unapologetic, and likely some form of deranged genius. The last time I saw him at the Comedy Festival four drunk assholes in the crowd talked all the way through it while openly vaping and it still kicked the ass of anything else I saw that night. He’ll most likely hate his name appearing on this website. Go see him anyway.
Max Watt’s, March 28 – April 21
Headliners has forever been among the best shows of the Comedy Festival and this year’s lineup is a corker. The annual showcase of the US’s best and brightest has put together its hottest lineup in years, with the likes of Jo Firestone, Joel Kim Booster, Emmy Blotnick, Chris Redd, Liza Treyger and more to feature on a rotating lineup throughout the festival. Combined, they’ve appeared on every major US late night talk show as well as The Daily Show and SNL. It’s gonna be so tight. I’m going twice. Get into it.
KIRSTY WEBECK – Chipper
Imperial Hotel, March 27 – April 21
Kirsty Webeck is the great mate you never knew you needed. Charming, brash, and – dare I say it – chipper. Webeck is a snappily-dressed tornado of light and positivity. Her shows feel less like formal stand-up and more like an hour-long hug from an old friend. Incredibly funny, incredibly smart, and most of all, incredibly, incredibly good at what she does. The good gear.
LUKA MULLER – Haha Cool
Trades Hall – The Evatt Room, March 28 – April 21
It’s truly infuriating how good Luka Muller is at comedy. It’s even more infuriating how bloody lovely he is. Hands down the most delightful comic currently kicking around the Melbourne circuit has had a hell of a twelve months, which if nothing else should provide ample fodder for a truly solid hour of comedy from a man ready to ascend to the next level. Go see him now so you can say you were there then.
MARIA BAMFORD – The Irrelevant Redundancy
The Forum – Downstairs, April 9 – 13
In comedy circles, Maria Bamford is spoken of with the same kind of revered awe as the likes of Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock, and with good reason. A game-changer, a genre-definer, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. An extremely rare opportunity to see one of the all-time greats in Australia.
MATT STEWART – Bone Dry
Chinese Museum – Laundry Room, March 28 – April 21
A more “goods as advertised” show title there ne’er was, but by no means is that a bad thing. Matt Stewart is bone dry in every sense of the phrase; deliberately monotone, creatively restrained, and gut-bustingly funny. There are few comics in Australia that the kind of innate sense for laughs that Matt Stewart has. On the dartboard of comedy, he’s a straight-up 180.
NINA OYAMA – Needs a Lift
The Forum – Ladies’ Lounge, March 28 – April 21
It’s no secret we here at PEDESTRIAN.TV are huge fans of Nina Oyama, whether it be from her appearances on Tonighty, or the truly excellent The Angus Project which she co-created for the ABC. So it goes without saying we’ll be first in line for her solo show Needs A Lift, which explores her life as a – get this – black-market taxi driver in a country town. A real thing that happened. So incredibly funny it’s barely fair. Hell yeah, Nina.
PERRI CASSIE – Soft
The Tickle Pit at Rozzi’s, April 9 – 21
Perri is, by his own admission, a very soft boy. But don’t let that fool you into thinking his stage presence and gag-writing abilities are anything other than hard as nails. Always funny and always in control, Perri Cassie is the kind of comedian you’ll walk in knowing nothing about and walk out being an ardent fan of.
PETER JONES – They Call Me Peter Jones. Good Morning, How Are You? I’m Peter Jones
Greek Centre – Zeus, March 28 – April 21
Sure, he writes for The Project. Sure, he’s appeared on the ABC’s Comedy Up Late and Why Are You Like This?. Sure, his comedy game is hitting all sorts of ridiculous high notes at the moment. But really, what more do you need to know about Peter Jones‘ show other than the fact that he named it after freakin’ Doctor Worm? Come on. No brainer. Buy tickets.
ROHAN GANJU – Ganju Dig It?
The Victoria Hotel – Vic’s Bar, March 28 – April 21
If ribald, deadpan, often completely fucked up one-line jokes sounds like your idea of a good time, then Rohan Ganju is the pitstop for you. A show that will likely veer off its own rails several times by design. Go in and prepare yourself for an extremely high laughs-per-minute ratio. Just, y’know, remember to breathe in between if you can.
ROSE CALLAGHAN – 12 Rules For Life
Mantra on Russell – Mantra Two, March 28 – April 21
The best thing to come out of Port Melbourne since the ghost of Gary Ayres mullet. At some point over the past year or so Callaghan appears to have completely fallen down the rabbit hole of a YouTube comment section, eventually emerging with this show: A biting, furious stirring of shit blokes and their even shitter heroes. *The* show of-the-moment from a performer about to do gigantic things.
SAM CAMPBELL & PAUL WILLIAMS – Australian vs New Zealand Magic Competition
Exford Hotel, March 28 – April 21
Per the show description: “Warning: If you come to this show there is a 60% chance you will actually die and there will also be a smoke machine.”
What the fuck does that even mean. Campbell won the Barry Award for best overall show at last year’s festival and his follow-up to that is a magic battle against a Kiwi. The only thing you need to know apart from that is immediately go see this.
STEPH TISDELL – The Pyramid
The Victoria Hotel – Vic’s Bar, March 28 – April 21
Former Deadly Funny winner and Best Newcomer nominee Steph Tisdell is more or less the top stone on comedy’s new gen pyramid, and fortunately enough for all of you it’s a metaphor she’s taking literally at this year’s MICF. One of the true pure talents only just beginning to realise her full potential.
STUART DAULMAN – Masterclass
Melbourne Town Hall – Regent Room, March 28 – April 21
A show that’s spawned from probably the same targeted Facebook ads I was copping five times a day for a hot spell in mid 2018, Stuart Daulman’s commitment to a bit is something only a devoted few could ever find remotely possible. Probably the most unique show of the festival, and certainly a masterclass – literally – in the absurd.
TITUS O’REILY – Better Living Through Sport
Imperial Hotel – Hooper Room, March 27 – April 21
One of Australia’s most prominent sports satirists sold out everything with his name on it last year, and this year he’s likely to do the same. Frequent Herald Sun contributor, regular Front Bar guest, and the always online Titus O’Reily has a new show this year skewering Australian sport in quite literally the only way he knows how: Well. A massive crowd-pleaser.
TOMMY DASSALO – Balding Cherub
Coopers Inn – The 70, March 31 – April 21
Good little boy Tommy Dassalo is everything you want in a comedian. Fast, funny, kinda weird lookin’, the works. Known for his wildly popular Little Dum Dum Club podcast and various appearances on TV, Dassalo is an enduring stalwart of Australian comedy at a still relatively tender age. A master craftsman, and a bloody hilarious one at that.
ZACK DYER – Sensitive New Age Bogan
Trades Hall – The Evatt Room, March 28 – April 21
Former RAW Comedy winner Zack Dyer hails from deep northern Queensland and has the kind of mullet-and-flannel aesthetic that makes you think he sweats XXXX Gold. A true rising star of Australian comedy, Dyer is equal parts silly and serious, loud and laconic, and just really, really bloody good at what he does. Drop a rumbo, watch some Origin highlights (eight in a row, etc), and go pay respects to the great man.
You can cop the full Melbourne International Comedy Festival program, along with show times and ticket details, via the festival’s official website.