What is it exactly? – Every year, Melbourne becomes the melting pot of laughter, celebration and entertainment, and it has been going on for 30 years! For at least a couple of weeks in the autumn, ‘the Second City’ gears up to host one of the biggest international comedy festivals in the world. Melbourne Comedy Festival provides platform to hundreds of events each year, ranging from stand-up comedy shows, theatre performances, cabaret, film screenings and some of the most innovatively rib-tickling audio-visuals acts.

And since this year the grand festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary, you can expect some extra fun and obviously some extra bouts of uncontrollable laughter. Last year, more than 20,000 people fell sick with laughter (joking) as the festival was concluded with more than 550 acts (not joking), featuring an exciting mix of local as well as international artists. And on its thirtieth birthday, the festival has planned an even bigger party! More than 800,000 people are going to be a part of it, which is equal to almost half the population of Perth. Oh! Didn’t I tell you yet, it is the largest cultural festival of the country!

What is there beside the gigs? – More laughter of course. Besides all the shows and gigs you can attend the ‘Humour Us – Exhibition’. The festival has collaborated with the Arts Centre Melbourne in order to showcase its 30 years of existence in the form of photographs and video clippings. It’s a journey worth taking! Plus, this year Rod Quantock is going to be the host of some of the exhibition tours. Who could better narrate the story of this festival than a performer who has appeared in each of its instalment since its inception?

You can also be a part of a ‘Live Discussion’ or the ‘Comedy Quiz’. There will be live panel discussions on the Saturdays with Nath Valvo and on Sundays you can attend the ‘The Decades That Were’ – a look back event with Cal Wilson. If you like quizzes, be a part of ‘The Big Fat Comedy Quiz’ with the most popular artist of the festival, Lawrence Mooney.

Competitions and Other Popular Events – The only time serious competition is really not serious is when it is between a bunch of comics. Of course it is pretty intense when the most talented artists from around the country gang up on thousands of people and make them laugh; it can become hard to breathe mind you. And in case you remember a joke that everyone laughed at the other day, you too can flex your funny muscles. And even if you end up losing, all you have to say is “hey I was just joking”.

There are plenty of events you can be a part of, like –

  • RAW Comedy – It’s one of the most popular national open mic comedy competitions in the country. The participants perform 5 min acts in front of a live audience, which are judged by a list of legendary comedians. Those who get the most laughs get to perform at the annual MICF, besides getting experience, exposure and the opportunity to become a legend themselves!
  • Class Clowns – Open to students in the age group of 9-12 and 14-18, this is the perfect platform to discover your hidden talent of slaying people with your amazing sense of humour and comic timing. There are workshops and a national level competition which can get you prizes worth $2,500.
  • The Funny Tonne – If you love this festival so much that you are planning to watch 6-7 shows daily on an average, till it ends on 17th April, you might just win a prize for that as well! Last year’s winner Sarah Trevarthen attended 178 shows in 26 days. That’s 6.8 shows everyday on an average! Now that’s called working hard for happiness.

Who were last year’s favourites? – Several connoisseurs of the comedy game from Australia and abroad made their presence felt last year. Some of them were the regulars who never disappoint, like – Wil Anderson, Daniel Kitson, Steen Raskopoulos, Denise Scott, Arj Barker, AdamHills, Dave Hughes, Stephen K Amos, Noel Fielding and Jason Byrne. But newcomers like Corey White, Juan Vesuvlus, Heldi O’Loughlin and Sam Campbell truly won the hearts of the attendees with their fresh perspectives and out-of-the-box thinking. Others whose acts were really appreciated include artists like – Alex Edelman, Jen Kirkman, Michael Che, Jim Jefferies and Neil Hamburger.

A number of artists from Indian sub-continent made us feel at home. Papa CJ, Nazeem Hussain, Dilruk Jayasinha and Ruchir Ash (he won the RAW Comedy India) tickled our funny bones last year with their outstanding shows while Rohan Desai and Vivek Mahbubani entertained us with their ‘Comedy Zone Asia’ acts.

Who to lookout for this year? – This year too promises a wonderful bouquet of local and international comedy big-shots. Some of the big names which you can’t miss this year include – Alex Edelman, Wil Anderson, Dave Hughes, Hannah Gadsby, Sam Simmons, Matt Okine, Dave Thornton, Tom Ballard, Arj Barker, Sammy J and Randy, David O’Doherty, Celia Pacquola, Danny Bhoy, Paul Foot, Sarah Millican, Zoe Coombs Marr, Aunty Donna, Sofie Hagen, Nick Cody, Geraldine Hickey, Rose Callaghan, Brian Posehn, Steen Raskopoulos, Alice Fraser, David Quirk and Neal Portenza.

Some of the shows are already gathering a lot of rave reviews while some are still waiting for their turn to arrive in the coming few days of the festival. 5 absolutely must see acts of this year are – Annie Edmond’s Eddotainment, Kyle Kinane’s Terrestrial Woes, Ronny Chieng’s You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, True Australian Patriots and Laura Dunemann’s It’s Time for Death.

Although, all of them are epic comedians, they can’t really get the desi laughter going the way Indian comedians can. Here are the Desi comics to watchout for this year –

  • Jeeves Verma – His show ‘He’s Just Not That India’ has received fabulous reviews this year.
  • Vivek Mahbubani – An Indian born, who was brought up in China, Vivek shares hilarious accounts of his dual life. The Cantonese show is a must attend, but of course you need to know Cantonese in order to get most of his ‘Made in China’ jokes!
  • Nish Kumar – He was nominated for Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award 2015. His humour can be defined as intelligent, clever and thought-provoking.
  • Dilruk Jayasinha – All the shows of this Sri Lankan born comedian were sold out at the festival last year. This year too he is effortlessly weaving his magic on the audience and the critics alike.
  • Sameena Zehra – Her political zingers remain with you long after the show gets over. Her humour is dark, freshly-baked and absolutely ‘to-the-point’.
  • Sanjay Patel – This is going to be his debut in Melbourne Comedy Festival and his act looks extremely promising. He performed 3 solo acts in the New Zealand International Comedy Festival not so long ago.
  • Watch shows like ‘Chopsticks and Chakras’ and ‘Comedy Zone Asia’ for more desi fun.

What about drinking and dining? – Laughing is such a workout. You absolutely can’t do without extra calories. Fret not, there are numerous restaurants, bars and cafes in the vicinity of the venues where the shows are being held and a majority of these eateries are offering special treats to those who are attending the festival. Show them your valid ticket of the festival and you’ll be provided with amazing discounts, added treats or exclusive meal combos. Some of the popular options you can look into include places like – Allegro Restaurant, Campari House, Meatmaiden, Nieuw Amsterdam, The Crafty Square, The Metropolitan, Lona, Bar Ampere, San Telmo, Pomodoro Sardo, Red Spice Road, Transport Public Bar, Terra Rossa Restaurant and Bar, Long Room, The French Brassiere, Grill’d, Pole Pole Bar and Kitchen, Transit Rooftop Bar and World Restaurant and Bar.

Now that’s a lot of food and all of them are offering heaps of discounts. It is indeed a happy place.

Where can I buy the tickets? – You can buy tickets for almost all the acts and shows from or you can visit the venue and buy tickets there. You can also book tickets via phone. Call 1300 660 013 and make the bookings in advance. If you are somewhere near the Town Hall, get to the Melbourne Town Hall Box Office Window and buy your tickets from there.

Expert Tip – Online bookings can get you deals and discounts. Use the ‘my favourites’ section of Ticketmaster and shortlist all the shows for which you want to buy the tickets  and then make the payment for all the shows together in a single transaction. This will save you a lot of time. In order to collect your tickets at the venue, you’ll be required to show an ID proof and the credit card you used for making the bookings.

Go laugh your ‘abs’ off at the lol land.

Jenn Patrick

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