Welcome to Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2023

It’s that Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Comedy Christmas!! Melbourne is chockers full of comedians and comedy fans all excited about the three weeks to come.

It’s hard to recommend shows, as everyone’s taste will vary, but I assure you that the Festival will have something to make YOU laugh, there are over 600 shows to choose from! You just have to find Your thing and that is part of what we Squirrels are about, helping you have a great night out. Our reviews can give you an idea if a show might be for you. Sometimes I can even read a negative review and think, no actually, that one might just be my cup of tea. That’s why it can also be great to take a punt on something new if it pics your interest.

I can definitely see a mini trend of musical comedy being back So I thought I might focus on this genre of comedy and list some acts that I can honestly recommend to you as astonishingly talented and funny performers. They have to be brilliant musicians, singers AND Comedians to really pull off Musical Comedy well and they can come at it from different perspectives be they political, geeky, storytelling, raunchy or just plain silly.

Recommended Musical Comedy Shows at MICF 2023

I’ll start with the well known superstars of Musical Comedy: Tripod, Sammy J – Good Hustle, Geraldine Quinn – Broad, Gillian Cosgriff – Actually, Good, Die Roten Punkte – Otto & Astrid’s Joint Solo Project (directed by Neill Gladwin and Dramaturg Casey Bennetto), Andrew Hansen –Is Cheap [The one from The Chaser who sang the songs]. (Do Lano & Woodley count as musical comedians? I have a CD of their songs….so maybe.) You just cannot go wrong choosing to see any of these amazing accomplished performers.

Newer local upcoming stars that everyone was talking about at last year’s festival include Reuben Kaye – doing 2 shows this year; Live and Intimidating and The Kay Hole, Michelle Brasier – Legacy, Gabbi Bolt – Odd Sock and Jude Perl (with Nina Oyama) We should Hang Out –[ it is Sold Out right now, hoping for an extra show]

There are also Cabaret Showcases such as Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night, Josh Earl’s 100%Hits and of course Haus Party at The Festival Club where the cream of the musical comedians (and other comedy stylings) will be turning up for spots.

Overseas musical comedians who may be new to you are visiting our shores in Festival season, here are some who are really worth checking out: UK’s Huge Davies [he’s dry and super cool, and part of New Order], Jordan Gray – Is It A Bird? [Ed Fringe Nominee pipped out of the top prize by our own Sam Campell] and Laurie Black – Dystopiano [doing feminist post punk synth comedy], I’ve seen them all, they’re great.

New Zealand’s Two Hearts We’re Pregnant and The Baby is Music, I think I’ve enjoyed them at a Festival Club….

Then there is Ned Kelly The Big Gay Musical by Kaine which is the only one I’m recommending that I’ve seen this before, but it looks like it might be jolly fun.

Other comedy at MICF.

Older school comedians coming to the Festival who you may not have seen do a show in a few years include Ed Byrne, Dylan Moran, Kyle Kinane, and our own Paul McDermott, Tony Martin, Bev Killick, Brad Oaks & even Akmal is back.

Political Comedy is popular too with Tom Ballard doing 2 shows, A Rational Fear doing 1 big show and Sammy J doing it via character comedy. Melissa MGlansey’s The Briefing (About maddening US politics – which is awesome, check it out). Osher Gunsberg Night Time News Network National News, is a curiosity we’re all wondering about, will it be political comedy? Or just a news lampoon, anyway it involves impro. Ben Russell, Greg Larsen & Friends are laying their politics out there with Election Results (Not Satire), they couldn’t be clearer, could they?

In Other News

European Bier Cafe has been renovated, re-named and is now called Morris House.
Some shows are already sold out or selling fast, new shows have been added for Sam Campbell, Tony Martin and Maisie Adams.
Cancelled shows are listed at the top of the list of shows on the MICF website.

If you know of shows cancelling or selling out, feel free to let us know on the socials or by email.

Elyce Phillips Pretends To Be On Tropical Holiday For 50 Minutes (Definitely Not A Scam)

By Colin Flaherty

It has been a rough couple of years for everyone, we all deserve a break and Elyce Phillips is here to help. Sit back and relax as we all experience the  delights of the “luxury resort” Poseidon Sands from the comfort of a Butterfly Club seat. On this surprisingly wild adventure we learn more than we bargained for on topics such as marine life, the shonky and just plain creepy people in this world, and Elyce herself.

This is a brilliantly chaotic experience with silly props, unexpected characters, silly (Covid safe) audience interactions and wild plot twists. There was a sense of comedic desperation to the performance that belied the fact that Elyce was in complete control, creating superb characters and owning the room.

Most characters we encounter are variations of needy individuals on the brink of a breakdown but Elyce gives them plenty of warmth and depth. Through clowning, dodgy puppetry, animated characters and silly costuming she plays each role loud and large, addressing the audience in a hilariously forced self-effacing manner. We see that she certainly is a performer unafraid to look the fool while getting good and messy.

The small sized onstage screen is regularly very text heavy with blurbs selling the resort to potential guests but thankfully a voiceover introducing each segment helps if you are up the back. The slides benefit speed readers so if you can read quickly enough you will catch some truly bizarre & hilarious descriptions to tickle your funny bone.

There is an amusing companion website ( http://poseidonsandsresort.com ) for this “resort” where you can not only buy tickets (to the show), but can leave reviews of your “visit” (guest roleplay is most welcome alongside any genuine feedback).

The show title betrays what comedic treasures lie beneath the surface. What starts as a silly bit of theatre has plenty of clever, shrewd and biting societal satire waiting to pounce. So pull up a virtual deckchair and laugh yourself stupid in this whacky “paradise”.

Elyce Phillips Pretends To Be On Tropical Holiday For 50 Minutes (Definitely Not A Scam) is on at The Butterfly Club until April 7


Gabbi Bolt – Odd Sock

By Lisa Clark

Last year as we came bleary eyed back to MICF from covid lockdowns there was one new name rising above the others, everyone was talking about Gabbi Bolt. It was her debut and she was wowing the building crowds. Odd Sock is Gabbi’s 2nd album of sorts and if you couldn’t get in to see her last year Gabbi’s back to show us what all the fuss was about.

The exuberant opening song “I got Nothin’” is very funny and fills the room with energy and expectation. Her lyrics are dense and packed with jokes so quick you might miss them if you’re not paying attention. She warns us that, like Seinfeld this is a show about nothing, and in some ways it is; it has no grand overriding theme or sprawling story to tell but through her songs we learn a lot about Gabbi, where her mind is at, how she sees the world and her politics.

Gabbi writes silly songs, and autobiographical songs, but her best stuff pokes hard at power. Gabbi is very politically astute, which is not surprising, as she originally came to the attention of the public through her political songs on Tic Toc during lockdown, when she went a bit viral. She has been embraced by the Australian comedy scene but in particular by the political comedy scene as a regular contributor to A Rational Fear live recordings in Sydney, she’ll of course be appearing on their MICF one off special too.

For added interest, there is an audio-visual element to the show, pictures and videos pop up on a screen, and it has its good points and bad. The screen is a bit small for people up the back, and can sometimes distract from the song, (who’s listening to her dense lyrics when there is a cute doggie on the screen looking at us?) and do I want to look at feet? No. But you might come specifically for the feet pics and if so, good luck to you. The positive side is that it breaks things up, creates a running gag for Gabbi and helps to prompt the audience in what she is joking about, though one portrait did not help me identify an obscure politician she references, maybe it was a NSW thing, there were a couple of laughs from more politically savvy audience members for that.

The opening song has a real Tim Minchin vibe and her closer “Love Song fo an Incel (I’d get on with Your Mum)” is reminiscent of Geraldine Quinn at her best, they were the night’s highlights, along with her stinging eye opener about Police Training. The song about her movie star crushes teach us that Andrew Garfield has made a LOT of shitful films, and Spiderman.

She’s certainly the best new musical comedian I’ve discovered since Jude Perl. Like her peers Gabbi is blessed with all the requirements of a top musical comedian, she can sing, she can play, she can write great toe-tapping tunes and most of all, she’s funny. In such a short time she’s come a long way, there’s still some way to go yet and I look forward to watching her grow and reach the heights she deserves. Look out world.

Gabbi Bolt performs Odd Sock at The Butterfly Club at 7pm every night!


Róisín and Chiara: Sex on Wheels!

By Ron Bingham

What can I say about this pair of brilliantly crazy performers. Róisín O’Mahony and Chiara Goldsmith are one of those acts that can have me bursting out into surprised laughter at their antics both on and off the stage.

The daring duo are unafraid to go that one step too far, whether it be covering their faces with butter or oranges or toothpaste(or all three), twerking through the audience with massively enhanced boobs and bums, throwing in an impromptu jig or two, teasing the audience while they scream with laughter and so much more.

Putting what they did on the stage in writing cannot evoke the magic of their show. They have an almost perfect stage chemistry and a touch of brazen madness. You really have to see Róisín and Chiara live, but unfortunately they were only performing Sex on Wheels! in Edinburgh for two nights. So if you do see their name on a comedy line-up, or future festival then buy a ticket as they are consistently and excellently eccentric.

Sex on Wheels! is on at Assembly George Square Studios

Ange Lavoipierre: I’ve Got 99 Problems and Here’s an Exhaustive List of Them

By Ron Bingham

Scared of spiders? A warning that there is a lot of spider talk and Ange may be dressed as a spider at the start of the show, but we must stress, there are NO Actual Spiders.

We DO get 99 problems in Ange’s life, but luckily most of them wiz past us as she presents them in song form to save time. There is a satisfying narrative arc to the cleverly written show with some incisive comments on the zeitgeist and really excellent zingers.  She is clearly using this show to work through some issues. The main afflictions that Ange focuses on involve an ex-boyfriend and spiders.  The spider problem is explored via a delightful retelling of the classic story Charlotte’s Web, while the boyfriend problem is demolished in both song and story. She gets some help from the audience and doesn’t put too much pressure on them thank goodness.

The happy but crowded audience is jammed into rather small hot box (even more so than most Edinburgh venues) so take a flyer or fan to keep cool. Ange is a seasoned performer with a confident and assured manner in her tales of woe and arachnids and there were laughs aplenty in the stories to help us forget our own problems for an hour.

I’ve Got 99 Problems and Here’s an Exhaustive List of Them is on at Underbelly, George Square

Emmanuel Sonubi: Emancipated

By Ron Bingham

Emmanuel Sonubi is many things – a stage actor, an ex-bouncer, a put-upon little brother to five big sisters, father of two and, most of all, a very funny comedian.

Emmanuel is aware that he is a big man standing on a raised stage directly in front of the punters, but he wants to be sure we are not intimidated by him. He’s here to make people happy and help us find the joy in our lives. Being through a traumatic medical experience has changed his world and he wants to change ours but Don’t Panic! This isn’t a seminar and I don’t remember him asking us to find Jesus at any point.

Emancipated centres around a medical scare he had while performing in Dubai in 2019 and the fall out from that. Emmanuel is exploring the expectations put upon him and how he can subvert them in a positive way. It also served up a lot of funny stories about his time as a bouncer at nightclubs, his experiences as a comic on cruise ships and more surprisingly running a hairdressing salon.

There is a little swearing in the show, and Emmanuel does make some disparaging remarks about how dumb and irritating kids can be, but on the whole this is one a family can enjoy, particularly with older kids. The full house certainly loved the show and I got the feeling Emmanuel was equally pleased with the responses from the audience.

Emancipated is on at Underbelly, Bristo Square