Lara Ricote – GRL/LATNX/DEF

By Bren Carruthers

As one might expect from the title, Lara Ricote, the winner of last year’s Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh Fringe, is female, Latinx (from Mexico via the Netherlands), and deaf. “Minorities are in,” Ricote tells us, acknowledging that her show title is a little shrewd. But if you had drawn the conclusion that this would be a show that leans heavily on identity politics, you’d be sadly mistaken.

Ricote is brilliantly deft in her approach, drawing from her own experiences as an intersectional minority to deliver insights and laughs with a very broad appeal – from stupid siblings and anti-vax dads to pubescent woes and sexual awkwardness. It makes for a gently guiding hand that subtly ushers her audience into her world and gracefully grants them her perspective – a voice well worth hearing.

With her impishness, complete comfort on stage and willingness to jump into quirky interjections, Ricote is an instantly likeable presence, and her ability to weave a metaphor – sometimes explicitly so – demonstrates she has much more to offer an audience. Assuming she returns to our shores, Lara Ricote has the ability to make herself a cult MICF favourite.

Lara Ricote is performing GRL/LATNX/DEF in The Westin Three until April 23.


By Jess Welch

If you like laid-back, laconic comedy, with honest to God jokes, you need to see Guy Montgomery. A Melbourne International Comedy Festival regular, Montgomery is back with another hour of out of the box hilarity.

The first three quarters of the show is wall to wall laughs. They’re the sort of jokes most people can enjoy. They’re a mix of absurd and observational. Some are the kind you want to memorise and tell everyone you meet for the next week. There’s just something about Montgomery’s delivery that elevates puns and word-play into something more, something impossible to imitate. Maybe it’s just that famous dry and sarcastic New Zealand sense of humour.

Even beyond that, he has a certain mischievous sparkle in his eyes and a lazy grin that makes him seem almost like a mischievous school boy, excited to make the assembly laugh, but playing it cool. And yet, some of the jokes are decidedly uncool – to the point that the crowd is laughing, while fighting the urge to groan, shaking their heads at the cheesiness, but having to give full credit to just how incredibly well written they are. They’re the type of jokes that can only be described as “Dad jokes”, but with a bit of a more adult tone. And to call them dad jokes is especially fitting, as the remainder of the show is dedicated to him talking about being a step- parent.

While still wildly funny, it’s far more real and, at parts, incredibly sweet. For how common step -parenting is, comedy about it seems incredibly rare. Thankfully Montgomery is willing to step up to the plate. But if you’re looking for advice on how to step-parent, I think you’ve come to the wrong place. Despite having step-parented for 5 years, he is more than willing to admit he hasn’t quite mastered it yet. In fact, he seems to approach it with the same fun and boyishness with which he seems to approach everything.

The show examines this Peter Pan-ishness, as he struggles to reconcile being in his mid-30’s, in charge of helping raise a child, while still feeling too young himself. It’s a feeling I think a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s can empathise with. But he, like everyone else, is doing his best and having a laugh while he’s doing it. Best of all, he’s sharing the laughs with us.


Grace Jarvis – This Is The Last Goldfish That I Am Going to Eat For You

By Lisa Clark

Queensland comic Grace Jarvis is a bright, giggly, charming comedian who is having a great time on stage telling some surprisingly dark stories, with a mischievous glint in her eye and the audience is swept along laughing like drains.

Being young, unsurprisingly, Grace’s comedy mostly revolves around growing up in regional Queensland, her family, high school experiences and dating. Topics Grace has the audience laughing about include racism, bullying, drug taking, self harm, self hatred, hard core porn and Taylor Swift vs Billy Joel. There is an especially eye opening section about the new online porn generation of young men, in particular, and their alarming expectations of what sex involves but Grace is so delightfully disarming and having such a great time on stage, that you barely have a chance to be shocked or disturbed while you are gasping and laughing.

Grace’s humour is all about being the outsider; about coming out as gay and as autistic. Seeing other people from a different perspective is always a good place for a comedian and Grace is able to find the laughs in all the craziness of the world. But underneath it all is quite a lot of darkness that stems from some heavy bullying at an all-girls conservative private school, where even the teachers are bullies. I got the vibe that there were many other “outsiders” in the audience who were definitely on board with where she was coming from as she got a great laugh from a joke about how hard it is, for people with genuine need, to find a good psychologist.

There are unsurprising references to pop culture throughout, including Grace’s love of the X Files. She has a whole section in the show about a teen film called Tall Girl and how it was supposed to be anti-bullying and self-affirming but provided no solace and probably made her feel worse. (I had to watch it and it is indeed horrific despite some great comedic actors I admire being involved)

Grace Jarvis originally caught my attention when she appeared on some live comedy podcasts, showing off her sharp comedy chops and I’m pleased to discover that she can hold her own for a full hour and is a delight to hang out with. Credit also to her director Laura Davis, as this is a very well thought out and executed hour of standup comedy.

Grace Jarvis – This Is The Last Goldfish That I Am Going to Eat For You is on at Trades Hall every night except Wednesdays

Bronwyn Kuss – Sounds Good

By Lisa Clark

Bronwyn Kuss has a very distinct style of comedy which is slow, quiet and downbeat where sometimes the silences are longer than the jokes. She’s as dry as you might expect a comedian from country Queensland to be, she’s also confident and comfortable on stage, but what is her second solo festival show about? Certainly not what the publicity blurb suggests.

OK so let’s talk about the description of the show in the MICF Guide:

Very mild themes* and language** and no crowd work***

This show is a safe space***, or a trap. Who knows.

Anyway, sing out if you need anything.

Bronwyn relays stories about her childhood and growing up with too many aunties****, ruminates on how close she came to joining a cult***** and laments her total inability to ever make a decision.

Sound good? You should probably buy a ticket.

*she talks about paedophilia

** she teaches us the meaning of “Growling Out”

***she teases the front row and latecomers (though she doesn’t ask what they do for a living thank god). One bloke in the front row, moved back a row, part way through and Bronwyn stops the show to comment on it and embarrass him.

****what Aunties?

*****what cult?

Nothing else in the blurb seems to reflect the show I saw either. Is it part of her dry ironic humour or is it indeed a trap?

So things change a lot as a festival show develops, that’s normal, but the actual content was all over the place and perhaps is not quite ready for a festival. The many brief stories she touches on were really interesting, quite funny and could have been the basis of shows of their own. A story about working in a prison would have been a goldmine of material and her trip across American could have been a brilliant structure for a show. Instead her side stories have the vaguest of connections to her main thread.

It was also frustrating to see her specifically reference certain people to highlight homophobia in the most lazy way imaginable. She refers to drag artist Pauline Pantsdown in the past tense as if she died in the 90s (she’s  still active politically on Twitter) and talks about Pauline Hanson but appears to be unaware of the current news cycle were Hanson has somehow, surprisingly, (and potentially hilariously) come out as a gay advocate.

My mind started to wander as she talked about a first aid course, finding her slow delivery style quite the slog for an hour of stand up. Her tales about her relationships included information about a Bendigo paedophile called the Bendigo Toe Tickler which elicited a shocked gasp from the audience louder than any laugh she received.

It’s a very meandering show where she attempts the “going off on many tangents” style of a Billy Connolly or Ross Noble but doesn’t quite pull it off. The original story is not quite riveting or memorable enough for the audience to be excited about returning to. The journey of coming out to her dad at the beginning and her Mum’s different reaction at the end lacks something when we’ve learnt very little about her parents to have any connection with them and maybe coming out stories just aren’t as interesting as they used to be.

Bronwyn won awards and nominations with her debut show last year and I can’t help but think this one suffered from a bit of second album syndrome. Bronwyn has a unique comedic style and a lot of potential.

Sounds Good is on at The Westin until April 23

Sara Schaefer – Going Up

By Lisa Clark

So you wanna be a Real Comedian eh? American comedian Sara Schaefer is here to teach us her patented theory of Comediocity, and how to climb the ladder of the comedy industry to success. She somehow covers the entire live comedy world and does not paint a pretty picture.

Set up like a direct marketing sales seminar which may or may not be an induction into a cult, Going Up is a sharp satire full of corporate speak and non-stop acronyms (RC = Real Comedian),  but in contrast to that concept there is a cute softer side too. Sara is obsessed with miniatures and doll houses, so her show is stuffed full of references to them and also appearances by them. It adds charm and a little magic to what might otherwise be another well written spoof-seminar type show.

This is definitely a show for comedy nerds, who will be immediately on board, but in Melbourne with our own comedy festival, most audiences will be familiar with the comedy world she is lampooning, from lowly open mic nights to the heights of having a sitcom with your name in the title. You will learn how to Hang with other comedians back stage and how to give and take cruel jokes at each other’s expense, how to build your Brand and the all-important Likability Factor.

At the centre of the performance is her impression of EVERY KIND OF COMEDY YOU CAN THINK OF and some you’d not thought of before. Sara impressively uses her theme of Miniatures to present routines in many the comedic forms such as, misdirect, edgy, impro, storytelling, blue and the inevitable musical comedy. Of course she couldn’t cover EVERY style of comedy and I can think of a couple she missed that might describe Going Up; whimsy (cute handmade dollies and tiny programs) and understated vicious satire.

There is a surprising amount of audience participation, but she is good at it, polite about it and luckily the one punter who she encouraged up on stage was a Real Comedian (she probably had no idea who Dan Ilic is – sorry Dan). Underneath it all is some deeply disturbing lived shit. Also on the surface of it. It’s not as raw or outwardly angry as a Hannah Gadsby’s work with similar themes, but it’s clear, by the end, that Sara has been through the wars and has some war stories to share, in her own quirky style.

Going Up is clearly a new show that Sara doesn’t quite have under her belt at the beginning of her run. She deftly uses a laptop to remind her of some passages, but it’s such a densely wordy show, that it does affect her timing and flow somewhat. There are laughs throughout but they are sporadic rather than constant. Still, Sara is a force to be reckoned with and non-stop entertaining, with her tenacity and talent the show will only improve as the run goes on.

Sara Schaefer –Going Up is on at Melbourne Town Hall Cloak Room

Stephen Hall – Letters From My Heroes

By Peter Newling

Stephen Hall is one of the unsung heroes of Australian Comedy. While many will be familiar with his amazing on-camera character work for Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell (think Darius Horsham, Donald McEngadine et al), his work as a contributary writer on some of Australia’s best comedies is perhaps lesser known. He worked on such classics as The Hollowmen, BackBerner, Full Frontal, Spicks & Specs, Newstopia and Adam Hills Tonight – to name but a few. From this it’s easy to see that he keeps very good company, and is much in demand in the worlds of political satire, impersonation and topical comedy.

His 2023 MICF offering allows him to show off all of these remarkable skills.

Letters From My Heroes is not your usual festival stand-up show. It’s a series of quite excellent impersonations, loosely held together with some (sometimes quite tenuous) links. The central device sees Hall try and imagine what various celebrities might write back to him in response to requests for advice. This gives him a chance to pay homage to an impressive array of celebrities, including past and present Aussie comics, Hollywood stars, historical figures and even the occasional cartoon character. The diverse themes are drawn together at the end in a most unexpected and delightful way.

Moments of the show are surprisingly personal, with Hall sharing insights into how his background has influenced his work, and his own choice of hero. The show also offers an opportunity to reflect on how culture and taste determine who should and shouldn’t be impersonated.

In an interview last year, Hall spoke of his approach to impersonation, and making sure he’s got the inflections, rhythms and body movements of his impersonatee just right. He said: “I’m quite forensic about it, as I tend to be with most impressions. There’s a lot of analysis and study behind the scenes before the performance that the audience doesn’t see”.

That forensic analysis and quest for precision is the hallmark of his work. Most importantly, he shows great respect for those who he impersonates.

The early start time makes Letters From My Heroes an ideal way to kick off a night at the festival. It’s not side-splitting stuff, but it’s a great opportunity to watch one of Australia’s comedy legends at work.

Stephen Hall – Letters From My heroes is playing March 30 to April 23 at the ACMI Swinburn Studio at 6:00pm (Tues to Sat) and 5:00pm (Sundays).