The 32nd Melbourne International Comedy Festival has been officially
Launched for 2018. Hosted by comedy legends Lano & Woodley, their reunion this year, after 12 years apart, in their new show Fly is one of the big thrills causing quite a buzz in a gigantic, exciting programme. There are more than 620 shows in this years festival. Some of the shows are encore performances and others that we Squirrels managed to catch and review at other festivals.
Feel free to click on the links below and read what we thought of these earlier iterations, keeping in mind that festival shows are ever evolving beasts that change and develop over time, so the new version may be quite different to one we saw.
See a favourite off the telly, See someone you’ve never heard of. Most of all have a wonderful time and keep an eye on Squirrel Comedy as the new reviews roll in and we keep you up to date on what’s happening via our Social Media.
Ben Volchok has been around the comedy traps for a few years now, doing his own style of fairly intellectual stand up using silly, spurious concepts and mind tickling word play. His last two solo shows have shown how creative he can be with his material. Now he has focused his skills into a format that suits them beautifully, radio plays.
I’ve been to a few live radio plays over the years, but not one performed by a solo comedian before. Ben does a multitude of silly character voices brilliantly, male and female and is able to create elaborate tales that keep the audience engaged and laughing throughout. He even inserts the sound effects, with the brilliantly simple aide of a laptop beside him. The tech goes near perfectly (he does also have some tech help on hand) but if it didn’t it wouldn’t matter because the show is written so well that it would work just as well, though the sound effects do add panache and the odd laugh.
Ben performs two different radio plays and he has arranged them cleverly, with the more densely worded and complex Mysteries of an Uncanny Nature being performed first when audience concentration is at its peak. The episode was called The Case of the Satanists and the Disappearing Buttocks featuring supernatural detective and spoonerist Errol Street on the tail of a missing girl. Bodies pile up, twists pop up and Satan turns up. The similarities to The Goon Show are noticeable here. I loved The Goon Show in my teens but gosh this reminded me how much you had to concentrate to keep up with what was going on! It can be difficult to laugh because you might miss the next joke. Ben’s jokes come at the audience as thick and fast as the murders in his story. The second radio play Pru Blue: Outback Spy Hunter is a lot less dense and thus has bigger spaces for the laughs to fall, thus it is also a bit more relaxing for the audience. This was set in late 60s/early 70s Australia at a time of Women’s Lib and the photocopier becoming widely available. Pru has to foil some nasty counterfeiters.
Ben Volchok Presents…opens with Ben being the radio DJ rocking out to some radio themed music which was a rather lovely way to welcome the audience into the space. It’s another character he has created and stays in this DJ character when not playing characters in the plays. To add some extra colour Ben does some radio adverts, including a little impro where he lets the audience pick the product and he makes up an ad for it on the spot.
Ben is a brilliant comedy writer and a truly unique comedy voice who is always entertaining. I love how he works hard to give his audience a great time and is able to calmly deal with rare mishaps and surprise us by engaging with the audience outside of the script for a laugh. Importantly, his skills improve with every festival and though for this show, Ben is inspired by his comedy heroes, as all great comedians are, Ben has his own style that is emerging beautifully. Ben Volchok Presents… is a joyful celebration of the radio play with a couple of captivating adventures that are definitely worth the journey.
Ben Volchok Presents… is on at The Butterfly Club until October 1
1. Comedy radio plays, live on stage! Thrilling! Exciting!
2. I do all the voices. Yes, even that one.
3. One episode involves spies and counterfeit money and the other one has Satanists and disappearing buttocks.
4. If you’re a fan of The Goon Show or Hancock’s Half Hour or any of the classic radio comedies, you’ll enjoy Ben Volchok Presents…. This style of humour is very close to my heart and I’ve attempted to channel my love of these wonderful programmes into my writing. There’s lots of quick dialogue, absurdity and wordplay.
5. It’s very, very silly.
Ben Volchok Presents… is on at Howey Downstairs & The Butterfly Club – Downstairs from September 23 to October 1
2. You are sick of alternative facts and would much prefer illustrious facts.
3. You’ve seen my live shows and/or listened to my podcasts before and have enjoyed those/generally enjoy the things I do. Or maybe you don’t know who I am in which case; hello my name is Ben and I’m from Melbourne and I do shows on stage and radio about facts that I’ve made up that incorporate absurdity and wordplay and there’s lots of characters and segments and it’s quite fun.
4. This is going to be a narrative show which means me trying something wildly different to anything that I’ve done before but still very much my kind of humour and I’m VERY EXCITED and if I’m VERY EXCITED that means the show will rather hopefully also be VERY EXCITING for you.
Ben Volchok performs Ben’s Illustrious Fact Show and the Case of the Stolen Fact Book at The Butterfly Club from March 29 to April 2 at 5.30pm.
Were you aware that tarantulas have no skin? Did you know that the only predator of butterflies are blue birds? No? Then you need to pop on your 3D glasses and strap yourself in for an hour of weird and wacky facts from “the only person ever who knows everything about everything ever”, Ben Volchok.
This performance is structured like an eccentric TV tonight show complete with guests, audience participation, commercials and a peppy musical sting that it sure to be lodged in your head for days to come. We get a visit from the post-apocalyptic future and a unique incarnation of a public figure currently in the news. Audience members compete to see who has learnt the most and one lucky punter finds out what Infected Primate he or she is. Ben has created a wonderful world with a strange logic, from the unnecessarily convoluted segment introductions to the bizarre products pushed by his sponsors. Over this and his previous show he has built up a number of off stage characters that are brilliantly fleshed out during his viewer letters segment.
What everyone has really come to see are the facts, collections of hilarious one liners presented in short bursts based on a single topic. They are creative and have just enough sheen of plausibility that makes the surrealism all the more powerful. He cleverly links to previous jokes both in succession and from other segments so all jokes clearly have their designated place amongst the seemingly random lines. Ben does plenty of wordplay and clearly loves a pun; it’s amazing how far he pushes a routine in search of them.
Ben’s character work is ultra bare-boned with only a hat as costume and/or a slightly different pitch to his voice. A sly glance shows that he isn’t bothered about convincing the audience to suspend their disbelief, we are all aware it’s a sham and this quirky charm is adorable. There’s a massive song and dance number featuring actual tapping and lots of slapstick that’s impressive but the pre-recorded banter played over the song is a little hard to decipher at times.
Even if you haven’t seen the first instalment, Ben’s Illustrious Fact Show Episode 2 is worth checking out if you like bizarre humour and pointless facts of dubious accuracy. You’re sure to get swept up in the lunacy and never see the world the same way again.
Ben Volchok performs Ben’s Illustrious Fact Show Episode 2 at Highlander
1. You’ve seen the first one and liked what you saw. (Illustrious!)
2. You haven’t seen the first one and haven’t liked what you didn’t see. (You need no prior knowledge – of the show, or in general!)
3. You are someone who values the importance of nonsense, imagination, silliness and wordplay and maybe wants to see something other than some person talking about things that happened to them in supermarkets and offices and houses and other real stories about other such buildings. Although speaking of houses did you know that the first houses (circa 1653) had no ceilings or rooves and were originally kept dry with numerous bundles of umbrellas taped to one another and balanced on the tops of the walls? (That’s an illustrious fact for you, for free!)
4. You are me and have to go otherwise there’ll just be an empty stage for five nights from the 5th to the 9th of April 2016 at 6pm at the Highlander Bar, 11a Highlander Lane, Melbourne. (Some may argue that this would be an improvement. Those people are welcome to not come to the show.)
5. You know me personally and have been endlessly harangued and/or would feel bad if you didn’t. (Guilt fills seats!)
For more illustrious Information see the MICF website: