In what is the first major change to the festival’s branding since its inception, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has very quietly parted ways with longtime cartoonist and noted anti-vaxxer, Michael Leunig.
Leunig had designed the logo and official branding for the festival in every year of its existence bar the very first, with the cartoonist holding down the position since 1988.
But in recent years, performers across the festival have expressed extreme concern over being tangentially associated with Leunig’s work, which has routinely promoted intensely controversial (putting it mildly) views on vaccinations. In addition, his work has was widely derided thanks to a series of utterly baffling takes on the marriage equality plebiscite in the latter half of 2017.
Note to Age: I'm sure Grandma loved my Uncle. But he was one of the 40,000 Australians who contracted paralytic polio pic.twitter.com/5NI8cyZSWv
— Chris Uhlmann (@CUhlmann) April 15, 2015
Even as recent as yesterday, the Melbourne-born cartoonist was producing pants-pissing standard takes on PC culture like this.
A growing disquiet amongst comedians built to a head prior to last year’s festival; performers, all of whom pay large registration fees, are in turn required to put Comedy Festival branding on their show posters and promotional material in order to be considered part of official proceedings.
Today, however, MICF unveiled new branding for the 2019 Festival, and in doing so revealed that Leunig appears to have been very quietly given his marching orders. In his place, artwork from longtime cartoonist for The Age, Judy Horacek will serve as the festival’s branding artist for at least the next two years.
New year, new look! We’re excited to bring this bright and bubbly colour and character to the city next year. Massive thanks to @JudyHoracek – our illustrator for 2019/2020. Bring on #MICF 2019! pic.twitter.com/s1HistmCDx
— MelbourneComedyFest (@micomfestival) November 9, 2018
The new figure remains vaguely consistent with Leunig’s original caricature, but deviates away from his ordinary distinctive style.
The Festival has not issued public comment on the change, and did not address the Leunig controversy when asked for comment last year.
The Comedy Festival maintains links to controversial entities, with its primary press media partner remaining the Herald Sun, and its flagship award being named for Barry Humphries who has repeatedly made derogatory comments about transgender people, calling them “a fashion” and “mutilated men” in various interviews throughout recent times.
However in moving away from Leunig, the Comedy Festival shows it is at least partly committed to moving in a direction that fully embraces its current and future comedy communities, rather than just doggedly clinging on to its antiquated past.
The 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival is scheduled to kick off across a litany of venues in Melbourne from March 27th next year.