We don’t blame you if you feel overwhelmed just looking at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival program. With more than 550 shows in almost 150 venues over three weeks in March and April, it can be hard to narrow down exactly who you’ll get the best laugh-to-dollar ratio from.
This year’s festival, which runs from March 25th to April 19th, is the biggest yet, cementing Melbourne as one of the world’s largest comedy festivals (alongside Edinburgh and Montreal). And from international TV stars to local heroes and up and comers who could be the next big thing, there’s no shortage of hilarious folk worth investigating.
Don’t have time to sift through the program or just want some advice on who to shell out for? We’ve done the hard work for you to present our top 10 picks for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are on sale now, so what are you waiting for?
If you watch a lot of US comedy on TV, chances are you’re already familiar with Michael Che. The man last year named as one of Rolling Stone’s top 50 funniest people had a stint as a correspondent on the sadly-soon-to-be-no-longer-with-us The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and these days co-anchors Saturday Night Live’s iconic Weekend Update news segment (choice quote: ‘Cuba Gooding Jr. has been cast as O.J. Simpson in a new mini-series about the football player’s murder trial. Gooding is still best known, of course, for his famous catchphrase “I need the work man.”’). Che brought his edgy, political stand-up to Melbourne in 2013 as part of the Headliners line-up, but this year marks the debut of his full-length live show. Set to just perform five shows, you’ll want to grab your tickets soon.
15th – 19th April | Hi-Fi Bar, 125 Swanston Street in Melbourne
One of our musical national treasures, TISM, made headlines recently when a fan started a petition to get the anarchistic disco-rockers to reform to represent Australia in Eurovision. It remains to be seen whether the balaclava-clad lineup will belt out one of their classics (All Homeboys are Dickheads, anyone?) on the world stage, but at least for now we’ve got the marvelous work of former frontman Damian Cowell to enjoy at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Cowell has recently released a solo album, Damian Cowell’s Disco Machine, packed with boogie-arse beats and biting social commentary, and will combine his tunes with musings and anecdotes in Hara-Karaoke.
7th – 19th April | Forum Theatre, 154 Flinders Street in Melbourne
Come on, guys. You don’t really need us to explain why Noel Fielding is worth shelling out your hard-earned dollars for? One half of The Mighty Boosh, team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and the man behind the mind-bogglingly surreal Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy’—if that’s not enough of a CV for you, bear in mind that our pal was also named one of GQ’s best dressed British men this year. It’s been a long time since Noel was on our shores—with Mighty Boosh partner Julian Barrett, he won the Comedy Festival’s Barry Award back in 2000—and we can expect an exciting night of stand-up, animation, music and if we’re lucky, some of Noel’s best known characters.
15th – 19th April | Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road in Melbourne
Anybody that manages to get a book titled I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids onto the New York Times Best Seller List is OK with us—and that’s exactly what US comedian, writer and actress Jen Kirkman achieved in 2013. Kirkman has a reputation as one of America’s most exciting comedians and has the TV credits to back it up, including appearances on Comedy Central’s excellent Drunk History and now defunct talk show Chelsea Lately. Her stand-up is deeply personal, revolving around her lack of maternal instinct, her sex life at 40 and divorce.
26th March – 19th April | Melbourne Town Hall, corner Collins and Swanston Streets in Melbourne
It’s been a pretty big 12 months for Melbourne based comedian, Ronny Chieng. Following a sold-out season at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival, which earnt him the Director’s Choice Award, he went on to appear on It’s A Date and Legally Brown and support the likes of Dave Chappelle and Bob Saget. Oh, he also found time to be nominated as CLEO Bachelor of the Year. Chieng’s dry wit and social observations make him a safe bet for guaranteed laughs, and although he’s performing in his largest venue to date, you can be sure he’ll be in an even bigger room this time next year.
26th March – 19th April | Forum Theatre, 154 Flinders Street in Melbourne
Celebrity interviewer turned mental health ambassador, Ruby Wax, was last in town two years ago, performing a string of hugely interesting yet hilarious shows about her personal battles with depression. Mental health is again on the agenda at the comedy festival this year in Sane New World, based on her book of the same name. Billed as ‘part comedy, part group therapy’, Wax will attempt to make topics such as sabotaging our sanity and rewiring our minds funny. Since her last stand-up tour, Wax has completed a Masters Degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy at Oxford University, so there’s plenty of weight behind the laughs. A night of laughs that make you think.
27th March – 5th April | Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road in Melbourne
Hailing from Boston, fresh faced 25-year-old comic Alex Edelman picked up the highly prestigious Best Newcomer award at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, following in the footsteps of household names like The Mighty Boosh and Tim Minchin. His debut Australian show, Millenial, is packed with razor-sharp observations about relationships, politics and his life in New York. In some comedy circles, Edelman is described as ‘the voice of gen Y’—the male Lena Dunham, if you will—but don’t let the claim put you off. This guy will be winning laughs for many years to come.
26th March – 19th April | Greek Centre, 168 Lonsdale Street in Melbourne
The bad news? Local comedian, Celia Pacquola, doesn’t have a new show in this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The good news? Let me Know How it all Works Out, her Barry Award-nominated show from last year, is so good it’s worth seeing again. Pacquola has been one of the country’s best stand ups for several years now, and her self-deprecating, relatable tales of homesickness and self-doubt always hit the mark. She’ll perform just seven encore shows this year, no doubt to a new audience impressed by her work on Working Dog comedy, Utopia.
28th March – 18th April | Victoria Hotel, 215 Little Collins Street in Melbourne
What happens when members from two of Australia’s most loved comedy duos join forces? All will be revealed in The 3 Mikados, starring Colin Lane (Lano and Woodley) and David Collins (The Umbilical Brothers). The gifted physical comics have teamed up to present performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado—but a casting mishap means they’re left with a cast of just three. It means the pair take on multiple roles each as their frustration levels rise, with guaranteed hilarious results. Lane and Collins are Melbourne Comedy Festival veterans, so mark this down as a must see.
26th March – 19th April | Famous Spiegeltent, 100 St Kilda Road in Melbourne
If you missed veteran UK comedian Milton Jones’ Melbourne Comedy Festival debut last year, you won’t want to make the same mistake this time around. The master of deadpan, rapid-fire one liners is a regular on British panel programs like Mock the Week, but nothing can prepare you for a solid hour of wordplay-based gags delivered with expert comic timing. Few comedians make you laugh as much as they make you think, but Jones ticks the box.
26th March – 12th April | Melbourne Town Hall, corner Collins and Swanston Streets in Melbourne
Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2015
25th March to 19th April
Tickets to all shows are now on sale
Image Credit: Melbourne International Comedy Festival