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How to do the Melbourne International Comedy Festival like a boss

Navigating the 400+ shows at the third-largest comedy festival in the world isn't easy – which is why we've got you covered with these handy hints

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Photograph: Emily Godfrey
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The Melbourne International Comedy Festival (running from March 28-April 22) is a major highlight of the city's calendar. For nearly a month, the whole city transforms into a playground for Australian and international funnypeople and comedy fans, with more than 400 shows spread across the city. World-famous superstars pack out the Melbourne Town Hall, up-and-coming locals have audiences in stitches in tiny bars, and surprise guests pop up at the Comedy Club every night.

Your biggest challenge is deciding how to spend your hard-earned comedy dollars – which is where we come in. We've put together a guide to how to make the most of the funniest time of the year, from how to choose the shows you'll love to where to eat and drink after the show. 

Coming to the Comedy Festival from interstate? To plan your ultimate Melbourne getaway, visit our Time Out Guru to get tailored recommendations on where to stay, what to eat and all the best things to do.

6 top tips on doing the Comedy Festival right

Judith Lucy and Denise Scott
Photograph: Supplied

Know your flavour of comedy

Comedy, perhaps more so than other forms of art and entertainment, often comes down to personal taste. Are you a huge fan of political satire, or does sharp observational comedy get you laughing? Maybe you're in search of some clever feminist comedy, or perhaps you're tickled by out-there surreal humour. Spend some time reading up on some of the headline acts and you're bound to find someone who matches your taste. For example, things are bound to get political with Nazeem Hussain, weird with Ross Noble and hilariously relatable with Judith Lucy and Denise Scott. If you're not usually into stand-up comedy, then there's everything from variety-style shows like Briefs to queer musicals like Romeo is Not the Only Fruit

If you're really stuck, then you can't go too wrong with comedians who have featured on your favourite TV shows or radio programs. This year, you can catch Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan (of The Katering Show and Get Krack!n fame), Matt Okine from The Other Guy and Triple j, and Celia Pacquola, who you might have seen on Rosehaven or Utopia. 

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Photograph: Jim Lee

Take a chance on something new

Here's another option: throw caution to the wind and buy a ticket to a show you know nearly nothing about. Part of the magic of MICF is the buzzing atmosphere surrounding the Melbourne Town Hall. Arrive in the evening and you'll no doubt be approached by comedians handing out flyers for their shows. They're always up for a chat, and if they tickle your funny bone, then you can be pretty confident that you'll enjoy their show.

Another option is to buy a ticket to a show featuring multiple acts (a comedy tasting board, if you will); we recommend Deadly Funny, the Raw Comedy grand final or, for families, the free Very Big Laugh Out.

If you're feeling really adventurous, you could also simply approach the giant blackboard at the Town Hall and have a look at what's on offer for the night (tickled by the pun-tastic name of a show? Go on, take a chance!). The MICF staff at the ticket booth are also more than happy to help you find your perfect comedy match.

Matt Okine, comedian
Photographer: Daniel Boud

Venture further than the Town Hall

The Town Hall is the MICF hub, but it's only the tip of the festival iceberg. There are LOLs to be had across the city, from large venues like ACMI to the back rooms of pubs like the Exford or the Imperial Hotel. Head out beyond the city and you'll find top-notch comedy at Malthouse Theatre just south of the CBD, or Hares and Hyenas in Fitzroy.

Below, we've got a map with some of the major comedy hubs – but for the full list of venues, visit the MICF website

Fancy Hank's
Photograph: Eugene Hyland

Take advantage of some delicious deals

All these belly laughs making you hungry? Bars, restaurants and cafés across Melbourne offer special deals for MICF ticket-holders. Flash your stub and you'll score happy hour prices any time at the Town Hall-adjacent Cabinet Bar and Balcony, a free digestive with a post-show cheese board at Punch Lane and a free cocktail with your dinner at barbecue haven Fancy Hank's. You can find the full list of deals here.

MICF crowd
Photograph: Jim Lee Photo

Become a cheap tickets champion

There's nothing funny about running out of cashola halfway through MICF and realising you still have to pay your rent. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get your comedy fix on the cheap. Concession tickets are available to the majority of shows, for a start. You'll also thank yourself later for buying Tightarse Tuesday tickets or checking out a preview show (you can tell which ones are previews on the website because they'll have pink dots next to the dates). 

Another option is to gather as many mates as possible and buy a group ticket, or a Laugh Pack, where buying in bulk will save you precious dollars. 

Melbourne Fringe Festival, Fringe Club

Party with the comedians at the Festival Club

When it comes to post-show revelry, there's only one correct choice: the Festival Club. Conveniently, MICF's dancefloor is located a stone's throw from the Town Hall at Max Watt's. Doors open at 11.15pm every night (except Sunday, when it's 10.15pm, and Monday, when it's closed). On Friday and Saturday nights, some of the festival's biggest names surprise audiences with short sets and crazy collaborations. Weeknights are all about themed parties, which range from Eurotrash dance extravaganzas to granny bingo. 

The best part? Entry will only set you back between $10 and $20. Visit the website for the list of parties.