Highlights and previous reviews for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022

by Lisa Clark

Welcome to Comedy in 2022. Lots of venues are open and buzzing as comedians all over Australia are getting their shows together, and begin to perform them in Festivals such as Adelaide and Canberra. Here in Melbourne it all still feels a bit weird and little scary, but those getting out there are so happy to feel some sort of shared normalcy. It’s a later than usual Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, which fits in with the later Easter and, well, you know, hopes that infections will go down.

We won’t be able to do as many reviews as we usually do, we will do some reviewing and also promoting shows with our “5 Good Reasons to See….” and so forth. We will also be keeping on top of what’s happening via social media.

As always, there’s something for everyone; from straight standup to sketch, impro, magic, mime, circus, quizzes, cabaret and the totally bonkers weird shit. There’s people off the telly and people off the radio and people who are so hilarious you wonder why they are not.

Ronny Chieng who left us to work on The Daily Show and Hollywood blockbusters is back on his The Hope You Get Rich Tour but get in quick before his short run sells out. Sammy J, now busy breakfast Radio DJ and ABC political satirist, is managing three shows of Symphony in J Minor that will also go quickly. It’s exciting to see Carl Barron make a rare appearance as part of the festival as well as Laura Davis returning from London to perform If This Is It and Judith Lucy and Denise Scott are Still Here.

I recently saw Oliver Hunter working on his show On a Roll, he is a fantastic up and comer who like most up and comers has actually been doing comedy for 6 years. Kit Richards, an amazingly talented up and comer, will be burning some bridges, no doubt, in the sarcastically titled The Nicest Guy in Comedyand. Ben Russell & Maggie Looke will be doing comedy walking tours (Ultimate Hollywood Tours – It’s a Moosehead show!). Rob Hunter is doing a Late O’Çlock 10 year anniversary show that should be as wild and silly as we have come to expect. Some comedians are doing second shows; Guy Montgomery is doing Friday night Spelling Bees, Anna Piper-Scott will be creating an improvised show on the spot for three nights in Is This Anything?  and Josh Earl is doing his final live Don’t You know Who I Am? Podcast recordings, which will go out with a bang, including the 300th special edition show.

It wouldn’t be a MICF without Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. We’ve reviewed it many times – hard to resist the lure of a free meal for a poor hungry reviewer – but actually everyone I know who’s seen it had a fabulous time!

After last year, proving we don’t actually need them, it’s quite lovely to see our dear overseas family return (well some of them have married Australians) Ross Noble, David O’Doherty, Carl Donnelly, Arj Barker and Stephen K Amos. We can only Hope that Fern Brady and Flo and Joan become firm regulars too.

Do our New Zealand regulars even count as overseas, how are Guy Montgomery and Urzila Carlson not living here?

Most performers have somehow worked up Fresh shows for 2022 and a few are offering shows again, with a refresh and a chance for you to catch up if you missed it the first time.

 Here are some shows we reviewed earlier:

Big Big Big: Catching Jack

By Lisa Clark



Breast of the Fest x2


By Jess Welch


By Hooi Khaw


Diana Nguyen : Chasing Keanu Reeves (an Encore)

By Nick Bugeja


Emo Majok: Black Santa (Returns)

By Nick Bugeja



Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

By Ron Bingham



Big Big Big : Catching Jack

By Lisa Clark

My first Festival Show this year is a joyful jump into the fantastically weird and hilarious world created by Big Big Big, otherwise known as Ella Lawry, Madi Savage and Millie Holten.

The immersive feel to Catching Jack begins in the foyer when heavily cloaked and bearded Lantern Man appears with his lantern and clanging his bell to usher us into the Theatre. The stage is set with moody lighting, (lots of lanterns), and low level tense sounds to yell Ye Olde 1880s London at us complete with a Big impressive Ben lit up stage right.

The plot of catching Jack the Ripper is there but a more of a loose thin line to hang some kooky characters, mad ideas and jaw dropping surprises. The audience is led through London’s foggy back streets and sewers meeting detectives, Bobbies and a Rat King (Millie), but who REALLY rules London?  Director and brilliant character comedian Ben Russell clearly helped bring the sketches together into a somewhat coherent whole. It gets a little muddled about three quarters in, but the talent of the performers and fast pace keep your interest, keen to know what on Earth will happen next.

Ella, Madi and Millie all have remarkable comedic skills. Each has a unique presence and they work off each other brilliantly, without being clichéd. A slight timing issue of costume change, rather than slowing down the proceedings, managed to showcase Madi’s comedic improvisational skills. The colourful characters they create in the story were memorable, Ella’s show stopping all singing, all dancing character wowed us all. Their ideas are deliciously original and bonkers and they keep the audience on side, only involving us in amusing and unthreatening ways.

There is nothing half arsed about this production, everything has been well written, rehearsed and put together with excellent costumes, props and lighting. The soundscape was astonishingly good, providing mood, special effects, replacing scenery and solved problems such as being unable to have a live flame on stage. There were a couple of moments where it was too loud but this will be ironed out no doubt and otherwise, the tech timing was impressively spot on so early in the run.

The audience guffawed throughout, Catching Jack was a silly, surreal and very funny Theatrical production performed by three talented comedians who I last saw as part of Flat Pack in their excellent sketchier show, Space Force. I loved them in that and am further impressed yet. Big Big Big are only going to get Bigger.

If you can’t make it to Melbourne this year, why not listen to their podcast that inspired this show; “The Candyman” a satire of True Crime podcasts.

Catching Jack is on at The Improv Conspiracy Theatre until April 4

5 Good Reasons To See Big Big Big: Catching Jack

1. There is no risk of dysentery. While our show takes place in the 1800s, we
are very clean people who wash “regularly.”

2. We built a massive Big Ben, like it’s really big. I don’t know what more you people could want.

3. Watch us solve a 150 year old mystery. It’s about time someone caught Jack The Ripper, and you have the chance to witness it personally. It’ll be quite the dinner party story.

4. Rats features heavily throughout this production – nature’s kindest
creature. Did you know that their teeth never stop growing?

5. We don’t do British accents. You don’t want it. We don’t want it. You’re

Big Big Big performs Catching Jack at The Improv Conspiracy Theatre Mar 25 – Apr 4

Tickets Available Here:   https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/catching-jack