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Best Of The Fest | 11 Shows You Need To See At The Comedy Festival

By James Shackell
28th Mar 2017

It’s that time of year, Melbourne. MICF is back. Comedians from all over the world will soon be roaming wild in the streets, confused by the rules of AFL and wondering why there are so many rhinoceroses on tram ads. And every year we’re faced with the same problem: who the hell do we see?

There are two schools of thought. Play It Safe and Anything Goes. The safe play is to lock in anyone you’ve seen co-hosting The Project and hope for the best. But I prefer to mix things up. Flick through the Comedy Fest brochure, eyes closed, and stop on any random page. You’ll either hit a diamond in the rough or the most awkward 45 minutes of your life. Either way, it’s a memorable Saturday night.

To help steer you through this dark, tangled forest of funny, here’s our guide to the best and the brightest of MICF 2017. No joke.

Michael Workman | Nothing You Do Means Anything

He’s been called the Nick Cave of comedy, and it’s probably only a matter of time before Nick Cave is called the Michael Workman of music. Workman’s been touring for a few years now, having won RAW Comedy in 2009 and picking up MICF’s Best Newcomer Award in 2011. He’s a dark storyteller with a surrealist edge and an accent that defies scientific description (basically, Peter Helliar this is not). This year Workman is back, rocking his trademark googly eyes with a show called Nothing You Do Means Anything. Catchy title.

Where: The Chinese Museum, The Silk Room
When: March 30 - April 23, 7pm (6pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Rose Callaghan | Will You Accept This Rose?

Bachelor fans, here’s one for you. As polished as Osher’s mahogany hair, Callaghan has been the talk of the comedy town since storming onto the scene in 2016 with her first solo show. It sold out around the country and picked up Best Comedy at the Sydney Fringe. Now she’s back with Will You Accept This Rose?, a look at the terror and wine-filled world that exists between one relationship and another relationship. There may or may not be anecdotes involving dirty-street-pie Lorena.

Where: Forum Theatre, Ladies' Lounge
When: March 30 - April 9, 7:15pm (6:15pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Daniel Kitson | Not Yet But Soon - A Work in Progress Stand Up Show

The bearded wonder from Yorkshire, Kitson is another left-field anti-comic who doesn’t tell jokes so much as weave universes that you inhabit for 50 minutes at a time. His previous shows have had titles like Love, Innocence and the Word Cock and Something, which kind of tells you the sort of night you’re in for. Kitson has arrived at the Festival this year with three shows, but we recommend Not Yet But Soon – A Work in Progress Stand Up Show, his first solo gig in over four years. He promises it should be “pretty good by March, actually.”

Where: The Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio
When: March 30 - April 16, 10pm (9pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Hannah Gadsby | Nanette

Probably the pick up the bunch when it comes to local Aussie comics. Gadbsy is an industry pro who stormed onto the scene as a RAW Comedy winner way back in 2006, rocking suspenders, a bad haircut, and the kind of expression a jellyfish would give if it had eyes. She’s been nomm’d for a Barry Award twice, and might win it this year with Nanette, a show inspired by basically spending a year alone, meditating and making jam from melons. If that sounds like your particular brand of weird, grab a ticket quick. They never last long. 

Where: Melbourne Town Hall, Lower Town Hall
When: March 30 - April 23, 7pm (6pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Becky Lucas | Little Bitch

One of those talented young comics who you want to see now so you can feel superior when she inevitably becomes famous. We don’t use words like ‘rising star’ often, but we’ll take a chance and use them here. Rising star. There you go. Lucas has a laconic, ungimmicky, awkward style, which is nice. It’s kind of like hanging with a funny friend at a pub. She’s written for the Emmy-nominated Please Like Me and opened for Will Anderson and Joel Creasey. Some serious comedic pedigree right there, but it won’t be long ‘til Lucas is packing out venues in her own right. Oh one more thing: it gets rude. Maybe leave Nan at home. 

Where: Victoria Hotel, The Acacia Room
When: March 30 - April 23, 7pm (6pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

David O’Doherty | Big Time

If you are someone that thinks the Irish accent is inherently funny, in the same way potatoes are inherently delicious—go and see this show. Period. It doesn’t matter what O’Doherty talks about while hammering his tiny Yamaha keyboard like a demented organist, it will be funny. He scores The Forum every year for a reason—one dose of O’Doherty is not enough. People come back year after year to see him again. There will be songs, ranting, confusion, long hair and much tweedy dorkiness. Put it this way, his traditional tagline is: The man that puts the ‘aha’ in ‘Yamaha’. Yep. There’s two shows to pick from this year, but you can’t really go wrong with either. A safe but quietly awesome choice.

Where: The Forum, Upstairs
When: March 30 - April 9, 7:30pm (6:30pm on Sundays) 
Fore more information, click here.

Blind Dating Show Spectacular

Does exactly what it says on the tin: each week six comedians will go on a live blind date with a real single person. That sounds a bit like a Channel 9 TV ‘experiment’ but don’t worry, it’s way more ethical. In fact its aim is to “make comedians less lonely”, which is probably a good thing. Blind Dating debuted at the Festival last year and grew a bit of a cult following. This year it’s back to grow and exploit its followers, as all good cults should. It’s hosted by local funny man Dave Warneke (podcaster and Producer at the Project) and is probably a good bet if traditional stand-up makes you sweat and feel uncomfortable.

Where: Melbourne Town Hall, Backstage Room
When: April 3, 10 & 17, 8:30pm 
For more information, click here.

Aunty Donna | Big Boys

For some people, sketch shows are the comedy equivalent of buffet dining (fun at first, but by the end you’d rather eat your own foot than another slice of cheesecake). Other people like them. It takes all sorts. If you’re one of the people that like them (sketch shows, not buffets) Aunty Donna are probably the pick of the bunch. They’re a local Victorian crew who broke onto the scene in 2012 and are gathering serious steam on YouTube. Last year was their first national tour. The sketches are surreal, high velocity fun grenades that usually go off big when they land. Sketch Sceptics, give them a try. They might turn you.

Where: Max Watt's
When: March 30 - April 23, 9:45pm (8:45pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Clara Cupcakes | The Worst

The extent that you like Clara Cupcakes will depend on your enthusiasm for the following: vaudeville, octopuses, feather boas, fun and happiness. If you’re a fan of any of those, go see The Worst, the choreographed story of a video game so terrible that it simple must be played. Anyone who’s sat through a Cupcakes show before knows it’s like watching an over caffeinated Zoe Deschanel attend a Manic Pixie Dream Girl convention. There will be whimsy. Serious whimsy. But if that’s your particular cup of strawberry tea, The Worst may turn out to be the best.

Where: The Butterfly Club, Downstairs
When: April 10 - 23, 8:30pm 
For more information, click here.

Aaron Chen | The Infinite Faces of Chenny Baby

Awkwardly awesome is the only way to describe Aaron Chen, who graduated from winning Class Clowns to the RAW Comedy Grand Final, where he almost took out the top prize (don’t hold it against him, it was probably rigged). Chen’s style is rapid-fire non-sequitur brilliance ala Jimmy Carr or Lee Mack, but with the manic energy dialled right down. The jokes come thick and fast, but Chen holds it together with a weirdly hypnotic stage presence. He promises that each joke in this year’s show “will stand the test of time and will not date”. That’s confidence right there.

Where: Victoria Hotel & Melbourne Town Hall, The Lunch Room
When: March 30 - April 23, 9:45pm (8:45pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Isabel Angus | Bliss!

Angus’s character-driven style has picked up a swag of awards over the years, ever since her first big splash at the Melbourne Fringe in 2013 (she won Best Comedy). This year she’s back with a new alter-ego: Penny Parsons, a #fitspo #blessed active-wear extraordinaire. Fair to say the Southside crowd is gonna cop an irony-loaded beating with this show; but hey, if you spend $30 on quinoa salad you’ve got to be prepared for a little light lampooning from time to time. A good pick if you take your lattes turmeric-style, or just hate the people that do. 

Where: Greek Centre, Zeus
When: March 30 - April 23, 9:30pm (8:30pm on Sundays) 
For more information, click here.

Hold your sides tight, people, these are the best comedy venues in Melbourne.

Image credit: Michael Workman

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