By Lisa Clark 

As well as his normal political type stand up show that Tom Ballard is known for, this year Tom has written a satirical play. And it is not at all about The ABC TV show Q&A. No Not At All.

We are the audience in a TV studio on a Monday night, there is an applause sign and some audience members are given questions to ask by a roving man with a mic, so you or someone you know might end up being part of the show. Tom Ballard plays the host Tony Jones, and joining him on the panel are five guests; Michelle Brasier plays millennial, hipster singer Meridith, Ra Chapman is statistician Susan Minh , Geraldine Hickey plays ex extreme right wing party /current independent Leonie, Patrick Livesey the Liberal politician Michael Lawson and Emily Taheny played Labor politician Katie. (I’m not sure who the chap was with the mic – he later pulls out a guitar and supports Michelle Brasier with her hilarious singing. This is one of those group MICF shows that I wish had programmes for the audience).

Tom Ballard, once actually hosted Q&A, so he knows his subject and creates a very credible vibe, but his comedy voice does not always sound authentic coming out of the mouths of some of the performers. It is clear that the performers who get the most laughs have the most comedy experience. The stand out is Geraldine Hickey who is proving to be a brilliant comedic actress, her timing is just awesome and character pitch perfect. She plays it totally straight and yet is able to get huge laughs every time she interjects. I wish somebody would make a movie where Geraldine could be hilarious.

#KWANDA: A Play is, no doubt, a great Catharsis for people who yell at the TV each week while watching Q&A but continue to watch Q&A. I got sick of watching it years ago and this, unfortunately, reminds me of everything I dislike about it, it’s just a bit too close to reality, which admittedly is becoming almost too insane to satirise. Everything that happens in the play has pretty much happened in real life except that this time the host gets to have a tantrum as well. Maybe this play needs more comedy wigs and silliness & less shouting recriminations, to make it more pleasurable to watch than the real thing, a bit more removed from reality, like, dare I say, Mad As Hell.

I can’t help but feel that Tom has written this to let out all his frustrations of the past year and in some ways we can all relate to that! I’m always happy that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has space for these sorts of bold experiments in comedy theatre. There were audience members around me having a fabulous time and I certainly laughed quite a lot, if mostly at Geraldine Hickey.

#KWANDA: A Play is playing at The Lower Melbourne Town Hall


Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards for 2018

This year instead of being presented in the middle of the night at the Festival Club as is traditional, The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards were instead presented at 1pm in the afternoon at Belleville. It was more relaxed and civilised with drinks and nibblies (and better lighting for photos) and it was great knowing that everyone in the room was involved and invested in the results, but sort of sad that it was restricted to invite only. I was very lucky to be invited, but other fans on the rim of the festival, but just as invested would have been sad (as I was when this happened once in the past) to not be a part of that middle of the night wild excitement and joy when a favourite, or someone you’ve discovered wins an award.

I can’t deny that there was some surprise as well as delight for Sam Campbell’s win. Although he has been performing in Sydney for a while and getting some TV work (you may have seen him on The Checkout), he’s still pretty much under the radar of the general public. We fell in love with his work when we saw Zanzoop! early in it’s run in 2016 and spent the rest of the Festival telling anyone who would listen that they should go and see the strange talk show hosted by a wise cracking alien in a back alley nightclub. This year we loved both shows he was involved with; his own, The Trough and Anne Edmond’s Helen Bidou – Enter the Spinnaker Lounge where he played Helen’s long suffering, very awkward son Connor.


Hannah Gadsby Presenting The Barry Award from New York

Barry Award, for the best show: Sam Campbell The Trough  

Nominees for The Barry Award:
Alex Edelman (USA)- Just for Us 
Anne Edmonds – as Helen Bidou – Enter the Spinaker Lounge
Tim Key (UK) – Megadate
Lano & Woodley (Colin Lane and Frank Woodley) – Fly!
Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Horndog!
Celia Pacquola – All Talk
Natalie Palamides (USA) – Laid


The Best Newcomer: Danielle Walker Bush Rat 

Danielle Walker

This award was presented by Sarah Dodds of Soho Theatre who will be bringing Danielle to London to make her Debut at The Soho Theatre.

Nominees for The Best Newcomer Award:
Paul Williams(NZ) – Summertime Love
Stephanie Tisdell – Identity Steft
Garry Starr – Performs Everything
Lewis Garnham – The Smartest Idiot You’ll Ever Meet
Nadia Collins – Virgin Bloody Mary


The Golden Gibbo Award (for an artistic independent production): 

Cam Venn

Cam Venn for 
Charles Horse Lays An Egg
The prize is a Bottle of Red Wine and was presented by Lynda Gibson’s Niece Emma Maye Gibson, also known as Betty Grumble

Nominees for The Golden Gibbo Award:
Sophie Joske and Anna Piper Scott  – Almost Lesbians
Garry Starr  – Performs Everything 
Julia Rorke & Elysia Hall – Not Another F***** B**** In India
Michelle Brasier & Laura Frew
(Double Denim) – Double Denim Adventure Show]

Lano & Woodley

People’s Choice Award:
Lano & Woodley – Fly!

This award signifies that Fly! sold the most tickets at this year’s Festival.


The Directors’ Choice Award:
Michelle Brasier and Laura Frew for Double Denim Adventure Show



The Pinder Prize: Demi Lardner – I Love Skeleton 
This Award funds her trip to the Edinburgh Fringe
to perform at Assembly Festival.



Heath Franklin

Piece of Wood Award (Peer Award from other comedians):
Heath Franklin – Bogan Jesus 


Funny Tonne Winner: Alasdair Bryant (76 Shows)

Deadly Funny National Grand Final winner: Leon Filewood (QLD)

RAW Comedy Grand Final Winner: Bec Melrose (NSW)  
Bec has won a trip to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival to compete in So You Think You’re Funny?.
RAW Runners-Up: Gavin Sempel (VIC), Emma Holland (ACT)

Class Clowns National Grand Final Winners Liam Adam, Carlin Carruth & Kyle Bennett (QLD) as ‘Awkward’!
Class Clowns Runners-Up:
Dusty Diddle (VIC),
Nina Cowley-Mousinho (QLD)
Shiloh Rea (QLD)
Nicholas Doring (NSW)

Michelle Brasier’s Space Tortoise

By Phoebe O’BrienSpace Tortoise

Michelle Brasier from comedy troupe Backwards Anorak (Winter is Coming) is adorably awkward in her Melbourne International Comedy Festival solo debut show Space Tortoise. Brasier has teamed up with Shannon Whitelock (Oprahfication, Never Date A Songwriter) who offers up some sweet keyboard magic.

Space Tortoise has the perfect blend of music and comedic moments. The narrative centres around Brasier’s character Eric, a tortoise who although works in retail, dreams of becoming an astronaut. Armed with a wind machine, pink sparkly shorts and one heck of a voice, Brasier brings a strong wit and raw emotion to her performance. Some banter with ‘tech guy’ Dan and an introduction from an audience member brings the first few giggles of the show.

Often telling herself to ‘sing about it’, Brasier has packed the show with powerful performances including hits from Céline Dion, Prince and Adele. The musical moments build upon the narrative creating an enjoyable ride throughout. Not one to leave out the audience, Brasier finds interesting ways to connect with them. A game of ‘beer pong’ and a sing-a-long of the theme song from Dawson’s Creek, lends a hand in shaping a togetherness within the crowd.

Brasier’s quirky style brings a warm energy that could lift even the dullest of days. If you’re a musical comedy fan or a sequins enthusiast, this show is one for you.

Catch Michelle Brasier’s Space Tortoise on at the Melbourne Town Hall


5 Good Reasons to see Michelle Brasier Space Tortoise

1. The band Foreigner
2. Disco
3. To touch the hair
4. For the beer pong 3 quarters of the way through
5. For the cuddles.
Michelle Brasier is performing Space Tortoise at The Melbourne Town Hall

Here’s Lucy! Camp as Hell by Backwards Anorak

By Colin Flaherty

Lucifer (Lucy to his “friends” and played by Vince Milesi) is relaunching Hell much like you would with a nightclub. His new intern (Michelle Brasier) is smitten with Lucy but he has his eyes on Jesus (played by real life brother Leo Milesi in a creepy twist). This love triangle in the eternal inferno was played out wonderfully through numerous songs and lots of cheeky innuendo.

Vince Milesi played the title role beautifully with the all charm of a Vegas performer and threw in an appropriate cruel streak with some blatent intimidation and humiliation. As Lucy tried to get us excited about the forthcoming evil decadence, this clearly bipolar character would suddenly be in a violent rage at the slightest error or mishap. Brasier’s portrayal of Intern the Intern was spot on. This timid naïve creature tiptoed around her boss but found a strong voice through song.

There were plenty of laughs to be had with all the off-colour lines and wicked innuendo. Some gentle witty jabs were thrown the way of Christianity but nothing too offensive. The fun plot weaved through some ridiculous and slightly disturbing scenarios and the characters would regularly bump and grind with anything that wasn’t nailed down for a bit giggling at audience discomfort. Be prepared for plenty of comical simulated sex acts.

The musical component was wonderful and propelled the story along with plenty of colour and movement in the form of some dance moves. With either keyboard accompaniment or a backing track, the cast belted out a number of current popular songs and a few that appeared to be originals. They all were great singers and there was a nice touch with the Mike Whitney character given a deliberately shonky singing voice (he may have sold his soul to become a star, but Satan wasn’t a miracle worker).

The ending of the show was quite abrupt with the audience expecting some sort of clear resolution to the story but it was not to be. The houselights went up and we were a little confused about how things would pan out between the main characters. Either I missed something important in the lyrics of the final song or we were taught the lesson that you rarely get exactly what you want in Hell. Despite the vague conclusion this was a fun piece of raunchy musical comedy that will delight.

Here’s Lucy! Camp as Hell is on at Upstairs at Errol’s at 9:15pm until October 4