Must see viewing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival – is there any?


Every year I scan the Melbourne Comedy Festival catalogue which appears in just about every form imaginable from March onward. This year’s festival starts on April 4th. I often go along to a session or two keen to check out developments in what people think is funny. I’m usually disappointed. I don’t think I’m looking for genius or the next great thing, but I am looking for genuine new comedy which I think requires some originality – some presentation of a way of looking at the world, or perhaps just some real charisma.

By these criteria IMO a lot of our comics are not quite there. They’re nervous, too keen to get a laugh and there’s a general pall of desperation hanging over their performances. Where in school we learned the formulas of toilet humour a lot of our stand ups haven’t got far beyond similarly formulaic ideological ticks. I don’t like Will Anderson or Corinne Grant. But I like Hughsey. He’s the least formulaic of the three (actually that’s not quite true but his formula is about his own personality, not really ideological views). I think his blokey humour is genuinely charismatic.

Of course there’s lots of good stuff out there. Barry Humphries and John Clarke are comedy royalty – even though Humphries has done the same shtick for a couple of decades or more (I guess it’s charisma because there’s nothing new going on). The whole Working Dog crowd seem to understand that adolescent ‘try harding’ is the very death of real comedy. I love their whole ensemble though I don’t think they do much stand up these days if they ever did. Paul McDermitt is obviously very talented, but somehow a bit formulaic for me.

Anyway, some people will (obviously) not have my tastes, and in any event I’m in no hurry to go out one night and see any of these people (with the probable exception of John Clarke who I’d go anywhere to see).

If you want to wax lyrical below about your own tastes in these things and reasons for them please be my guest. If you know any good general reviews of what to see – like this one of the 2003 festival that would be great. (One link per comment or you may get done in by our spamifier). But what I’d really appreciate is if anyone has looked at the catalogue and can recommend someone who’s not well known (in which case I’m very unlikely to know of them) and tell me that I really should see them.

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17 years ago

Ross Noble. Saw him in Sydney last year and actually laughed until I cried. Mad as a cut snake in the best possible way.

Francis X Holden
17 years ago

I agree. Most of the current crop of comedians are not funny and blokey, anti-intellectual, crude and schoolboyish – especially those over 30 yo and the women.

I did used to like Shaun’s Show on TV.

17 years ago

Fair enough. It’s all a matter of taste. When I saw him he wasn’t doing Christopher Reeve jokes though.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
17 years ago

I like Adam Hills and Tommy Dean. Jean Kitson isn’t in the program but she is almost certainly the best comic in Australia. I quite like Ross Noble but not Greg Fleet whose entire schtick seems to be about the fact that he used to be a smack addict – which isn’t all that funny after a while. Rod Quantock is a miserable one-note bore and should be chucked down a deep well.

Dave Hughes used to be good but I suspect that – like Peter Garrett – he may be selling out. Paul McDermott is dark, dangerous and incredibly clever.

Wil Anderson is a celebrity.


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