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Melbourne International Comedy Festival reviews

Which shows have us LOLing in the aisles this festival?

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Steph Tisdell: The Pyramid Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied

How do you even start to navigate your way through the 600+ acts at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival? Our reviewers are here to help, with recommendations and incisive commentary.

Check out our ultimate guide to the festival, and see the best local and best international acts making an appearance. And if stand-up isn't your style, there's plenty of cabaret, circus and theatre on offer at the festival.

Latest reviews

1
Hannah Gadsby Douglas 2019 supplied image
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas

icon-location-pin Palais Theatre, St Kilda
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It’s two years since our Hannah Gadsby thought she was leaving comedy with her show Nanette. That didn’t work. She’s now living in LA, has a stylist, and has been seen by millions on Netflix. She’s come home to Melbourne to premiere her new show, Douglas. It’s sold out.

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3
Sarah Keyworth Dark Horse MICF 2019 supplied
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse

There’s a long tradition of queer stand-up comedians using their painful experiences as a young person as fodder for jokes. There’s something about growing up outside of society’s norms that makes you question those norms and stretch their limits. Which is, coincidentally, exactly what a lot of comedy is built on. 

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4
Daniel Sloss X 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Daniel Sloss: X

You could be forgiven for thinking Daniel Sloss was racist, homophobic and sexist. Certainly the rising Scottish stand-up star gives off that “vibe” and he’s totally willing to tread the line of acceptability when it comes to jokes on touchy subjects. 

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5
Steph Tisdell: The Pyramid Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Steph Tisdell: The Pyramid

According to Steph Tisdell, our world is arranged into pyramids. There are pyramids sorting us by socioeconomic status. There are pyramids sorting animals into their place on the food chain. There are pyramids telling us how much we should have of different types of food. 

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6
Tom Gleeson: Joy 2019 MICF
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Tom Gleeson: Joy

Tom Gleeson’s Joy feels like a throwback. With gags about 1980s telephone exchanges, references to Ossie Ostrich, and a derisive dig at the wave of stand-up that demands a ‘narrative journey’, Gleeson positions himself here as an old school comedian.

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7
DeAnne Smith: Epiphany MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

DeAnne Smith: Epiphany

A veritable staple of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Canadian-American comic DeAnne Smith is back in a spirited show that she herself cheekily dubs a "non-stop romp of hilarity".

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9
Justin Hamilton MICF 2019 supplied photo
Photograph: Supplied

Justin Hamilton: The Ballad of John Tilt Animus

Justin Hamilton has been working in comedy since the mid-1990s. He’s done a lot of great stand-up. He’s also regularly hung stand-up up by its ears and created, written and directed remarkably beautiful storytelling that couldn’t exist without stand-up.

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10
Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Neal Portenza is Joshua Ladgrove

Five years ago Joshua Ladgrove had long hair and a long beard and tied himself to a cross during the Comedy Festival so we could Come Heckle Christ. Ladgrove’s more famous character is Neal Portenza and last year he put on Portenza’s red beret and lipstick for the final time and said goodbye to comedy.

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11
Oliver Coleman: Poolside 2019 Comedy Festival
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Oliver Coleman: Poolside

With over 600 shows, it’s easy to choose TV-famous comedians. And when you’ve paid a fair whack to sit behind hundreds of fans, it’s easy to wish you’d seen them when they started out.

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12
Press shot of comedian Pax Assadi
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy

Pax Assadi: Raised by Refugees

Pax Assadi’s family must be either willing or unknowing sacrificial lambs because absolutely no one gets a pass in his show. But even though he pokes fun at his father, mother, wife, children and hirsute, gold chain-wearing grandfather (insult the chains at your own peril), Assadi’s particular style of comedy is more heart-warming than soul-destroying.

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14
Jordan Brookes Bleed MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Jordan Brookes: Bleed

By the end of English comedian Jordan Brookes’ Bleed, you may find yourself asking: what did I just witness? It’s certainly not the type of thing you could explain to a friend, let alone explain why it works.

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15
Wil Anderson: Wilinformed 2019 MICF
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Comedy, Stand Up

Wil Anderson: Wil-Informed

Wil-Informed is all about crisis: mid-life, climate, identity and more. With savage intelligence and rapid-fire riffing, Wil Anderson confronts humanity head-on. He zeroes in on tech-fears, toxic masculinity and rage-culture, while simultaneously questioning just what a straight, white dude like himself could possibly impart on such topics.

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16
Poopie Tum Tums Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Sketch

Honor Wolff & Patrick Durnan Silva: Poopie Tum Tums

Melbourne’s The Very Good Looking Initiative continue their sophisticated observations of society in Poopie Tum Tums. I’m not joking. It’s far more than bad acting in hats and a sketch about getting fingered at the year ten social. 

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17
Flo and Joan at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Musical comedy

Flo and Joan: Alive on Stage

Yes, Flo and Joan are real sisters. And yes, they think the recorder is quite a cool instrument, love writing comedy songs and think Brexit is a terrible idea ("welcome to every one of you, but if you're a Brexit campaigner you can do what you do best and leave," they sing in their opening number).

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18
Nina Oyama Needs a Lift 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Nina Oyama Needs a Lift

There aren’t many people who manage to rack up 13 driving offences over the course of just five years, but Nina Oyama is well ahead of the curve.

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19
David O'Doherty photograph from Ultrasound
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

David O'Doherty: Ultrasound

David O'Doherty has the best Brexit joke I've yet heard at this year's Comedy Festival. And that is really saying something, as all of the British and Irish comedians — and some of the Aussies — are mining this rich vein (nothing like economic suicide for lighthearted laughs, hey?).

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20
Maria Bamford MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Maria Bamford: The Irrelevant Redundancy

Judd Apatow has called her "the funniest woman on Earth", and Maria Bamford is one of the most hotly anticipated tickets of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. 

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21
Judith Lucy Vs Men Melbourne Comedy Festival 2019
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Comedy, Stand Up

Judith Lucy Vs Men

Judith Lucy has been a fixture in Australian stand-up for three decades now, and her audience have got to know her pretty well in that time. So it makes sense that in her latest show, Judith Lucy vs Men, she’s putting her life in the hands of a crowd.

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22
Dane Simpson: Origins Melbourne Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Dane Simpson: Origins

Dane Simpson faced a dilemma in his mid-thirties. He was happily living in Wagga Wagga and working as a social worker. But one night he told a joke on stage and soon became a finalist in the Deadly Comedy competition and performed in Aborigi-LOL at last year’s comedy festival.

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23
Anne Edmonds photo for What's Wrong With You
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy

Anne Edmonds: What's Wrong With You?

Just as some shows are hurt by a timeslot that is too early, some really benefit from a late slot. Anne Edmonds is performing at the Lower Town Hall, in a room with a bar, at 9.45pm (8.45pm on Sundays), and by that time her audience is fired up and ready to laugh.

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24
Macdeth Melbourne Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy

Macdeth

If you tilt your head in the right direction, Shakespeare’s grand gothic tragedy Macbeth could look a bit like a slapstick comedy of bad manners. I mean, you’d have to tilt it pretty far in that direction, but physical theatre outfit Company 13 have gone some way to show us what it might look like.

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25
Fiona O'Loughlin Addresses the Nation Melbourne Comedy Festival 2019
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Comedy, Stand Up

Fiona O'Loughlin Addresses the Nation

In Fiona O’Loughlin’s last show, Gap Year, she spoke extensively about a series of horrifying experiences she went through in 2016. They aren’t exactly the sort of stories you expect one of the country’s most beloved comedians to be able to tell when they should be at the peak of their career.

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26
Ovariacting Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Musical comedy

Ovariacting: A Period Drama

Most of us are pretty reluctant to talk publicly or in too much detail about periods. As with much that happens with our bodies – and specifically women’s bodies – there’s significant societal shame attached.

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27
Miles Munn I Love Comedy MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Miles Munn: I Love Comedy

Anyone new to the comic stylings of Miles Munn, or who may have accidentally stumbled up from Lonsdale St on a whim, might be forgiven for mistaking him for the most awkward of rookies.

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28
Rowan Thambar: 23 and disappointed MICF 2019
Photograph: Supplied
Comedy, Stand Up

Rowan Thambar: 23 and Disappointed

Anybody who gets saddled with a pre-7pm slot at the Melbourne Comedy Festival has got a tough task ahead. People are stumbling in from work, are probably pretty sober, and mightn’t have felt the spirit of comedy move through them just yet. 

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29
Michelle Wolf supplied image MICF 2019
Photograph: Craig Blankenhorn
Comedy, Stand Up

Michelle Wolf

"A lot of people don't like me," Michelle Wolf tells her MICF audience. "I've learned that in the last year." One of those people is the president of the United States, who tweeted that Wolf was a "filthy 'comedian'" who "totally bombed".

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