After a year that felt like a pitch-black comedy in endless search of a punchline that never arrived, Melbourne’s cultural life is finally bouncing back to life. As the autumn leaves turn laneways and streets into walkways of crunchy red delight, the sound of laughter is set to fill every inhabitable space, thanks to the return of the iconic Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF).
A landmark comedy event to rival any Australia or the globe has to offer, the MICF is the largest stand-alone comedy festival in the world and a genuine highlight on any Melbournian’s calendar. Returning after a year’s enforced hiatus, the 34th edition of the MICF brings together the industry’s biggest names, rising stars and upstart debutants to deliver three and a half weeks of much-needed, COVID-safe chortles. With so many world-class performers on offer, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out who to see. Never fear though, as the resident MICF veteran here at Music Feeds (this will be my 22nd year attending the festival) I’ve done you a solid and put together a list of six shows guaranteed to have you laughing your way to a six-pack.
Aaron Chen – Sorry Forever
An international megastar in waiting, Aaron Chen has fast-established himself as a household name at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Combining razor-sharp wit with a delightfully unique perspective and exemplary technique, Chen’s previous shows have been wall-to-wall laughs, landing him his own night show Aaron Chen Tonight, a ton of sold-out signs, a feature role in ABC TV’s International Student, countless cross-media appearances and a stack of accolades. A two-time winner of the festival’s Directors Choice award (2019, 2016), the 2017 Best Newcomer award recipient has added a year’s worth of seasoning to his planned 2020 show Mr Cigarette, and as anyone who caught his YouTube quarantine series ‘Inside Aaron Chen’ can attest, Chen’s idle mind sure creates a hell of a good time. Catch him at the Forum Upstairs 6-18 April.
Gen Fricker – Gen Fricker
Owner one of the nation’s most recognisable voices, thanks to her five years on the airwaves of triple j, Gen Fricker has been absolutely owning the comedy circuit, for one simple reason, she’s freakin’ hilarious. Having opened for comedy superstars the ilk of Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart and Reggie Watt, Gen has been selling out shows in her own right nationwide, becoming an audience favourite at festivals both at home and abroad, while also making regular appearances on Comedy Central, Just For Laughs and Have You Been Paying Attention? All of this life experience, in the hands of a comic as gifted and fearless as Gen, is guaranteed to produce the kind of laughs that make your bellyache. For her part, Gen is promising that this fresh hour of stand-up will be just as silly, horny and weird as ever. Find out what that means for yourself at Swiss Club and Melbourne Town Hall (Cloak Room) 6-18 April.
Jude Perl – Participation Award
School sucks. It always has. You know it, I know it, but most importantly singer, songwriter and comedian Jude Perl knows it and is determined to find out why. In 2021 Jude seeks to answer the age-old question “why does school suck so much?” via her new show Participation Award. The winner of the Best Cabaret award at the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival, and holder of four (yes four), Green Room Awards, Jude has the technical chops for the job and as the recipient of 129 school participation awards since 1995, Jude is somewhat of a subject expert. Lending her high-energy, high-awkward and vulnerable musical storytelling gifts to an exploration of all of our least favourite school experiences (compulsory sporting events, standardised testing, the social food chain, bullying) Jude promises to confront the confrontation and maybe, just maybe, find a way to make school suck less. Okay, probably not, but Jude will definitely make you laugh as together audience and performer take on the path most-travelled, and find out that the only way out is through…a daring escape. Go laugh through the trauma at the very cool, Butterfly Club, 22 March – 4 April.
Lizzy Hoo – Hoo Dis?
THE rising star to watch this Melbourne International Comedy Festival, stand-up comedian, writer, actor and self-described ‘ideas lady’, Lizzy Hoo is set to take on 2020 in Hoo Dis? Owner of a rather open mind, Hoo will bring the funny to the rather unfunny big issues of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics to the overflowing supply of haterade that seems to be running through everyone’s veins in her quirky, dry yet endearingly optimistic style. Hoo also promises to talk about dogs, because like everyone else in 2020, Hoo became a puppy parent. Coming off of the back of a sold-out run at the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival as well as appearances on Just For Laughs, we’re predicting Hoo Dis? To be the breakout moment of MICF. Having performed with the likes of Gretel Killeen, Rove, Matt Okine, Jackie Loeb, Rhys Nicholson, Nazeem Hussain and Tommy Little, 2021 is the year that no one will ever have to ask ‘who this?’ about Lizzy Hoo ever again. See this likely award winner at The Melbourne Town Hall (Cloak Room) 25 March – 18 April.
Reuben Kaye – The Butch Is Back
Rejoice Melbourne because, after a decade of decadence and debauchery, one of the biggest stars in international cabaret, Reuben Kaye is back in town and ready to bust out. Backed by his band The Kaye Holes, Reuben promises to bring a new show, new songs and new looks all at once when The Butch Is Back hits Max Watts 7-18 April. The embodiment of what happens when you tell your kids they can be whatever they want to be, Reuben is the winner of countless awards and has been a fixture of the UK and European cabaret scenes for a decade, even popping up on the BBC’s The Apprentice: You’re Fired and Channel 4’s Kids React to Drag for good measure. If you ever wondered how far is too far to go in the name of a laugh, then Reuben Kaye may just answer that for you.
Tripod – Tripod
Musical comedy icons Tripod need no introduction. After wowing audiences for twenty years with their unique and complex brand of musical comedy, Tripod is coming together to do exactly that again in 2021. Combining three-part harmonies that most contemporary bands would kill to be able to execute with guitar and piano accompaniment, the Tripod live experience is a loosely choreographed, expertly-timed comedy show of rare quality.
Be prepared for, well pretty much everything and anything as the boys weaponise group performance instincts they’ve mastered thanks to two-decades onstage together. Things change at a hectic pace, with every line, chord or vocalisation playing an important role in an improbably tight, razor-sharp, world-class comedic juggernaut that needs to be experienced at least once. Head to the brand new Brunswick Ballroom each Sunday of the festival. Oh, and locals tip, if anyone asks you, yes, you should get the garlic bread from the venue if it’s an offer. It would make your nonna cry tears of happiness.
BONUS: ‘I only have one night and I want to get as many laughs in as possible and be able to impress all of my friends with stories of how I saw all of these comedy superstars when they were just starting out’ choice of the festival…
RAW Comedy – National Grand Final
The RAW Comedy – National Grand Final is the traditional launching pad to megastardom in Aussie comedy. The birthplace of many brightly burning stars including Hannah Gadsby, Ronny Chieng, Celia Pacquola, Matt Okine, Anne Edmonds, Becky Lucas and Aaron Chen, RAW Comedy’s National Grand Final is one of the funniest and most enjoyable nights of every festival. After waiting impatiently all year for their chance to shine, due to the postponement of the 2020 final, this year’s finalists are sure to come at 2020 armed with the fearlessness of youth, ready to stake their claim as the next biggest name in Aussie comedy.
If the idea of seeing the next breed of Aussie comedic geniuses before they inevitably get watered down by mainstream radio and TV gigs, then head to the Melbourne Town Hall on 11 April!
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs from 24 March to 18 April. Head here for more details.