The 2021 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards

This afternoon the Melbourne International Comedy Festival announced the 2021 Award winners at the Toff In Town, with host Adam Hills. Adam mentioned how incredibly strong the majority of the shows at this year’s festival were and he was right. The duds were rare and everything that was good was Absolutely brilliant! It must have been very difficult for the judges this year.
We could not be happier to announce the winner of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award 2021 for the Most Outstanding Show is Geraldine Hickey! Hickey said in her thank you speech: “I’d kind of like to dedicate this award to anyone who’s in the middle of their career and at the tipping point of, Is this working? Should I keep going? No one notices me. Well keep going ’cause fuck I did and look at me now!” To big cheers.
Now, when is she getting to host a TV show / her own Netflix special? Soon I hope. She has been selling out live shows for years now.

Most Outstanding Show: Geraldine Hickey What a Surprise!
Nominees:
Aaron Chen – Sorry Forever
David Quirk – Astonishing Obscurity
Ivan Aristeguieta – Piñata
Luke Heggie – Lowbreed
Michelle Brasier – Average Bear
Nikki Britton – One Small Step
Reuben Kaye – The Butch is Back

Best Newcomer Award: Charlie Zangel – Cockatiel 
You may know Charlie Zangel who has been performing for years as Charity Werk
Nominees:
Anna Piper Scott – Queer & Present Danger
Chris Ryan – Big Hair, Big Dreams
Scout Boxall – Good Egg

The Golden Gibbo: Nat Harris & Hannah Camilleri! – Pet-Nat + Han ah  Chocolat.
An award given for creativity and bravery.
Nominees:
Claire Sullivan – Toast Rat
Woah, Alyssa! – Woah, Alyssa! 3
Ben Knight – Teacher
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and Andy Matthews! – Teleport

Directors’ Choice Award: Melanie Bracewell – The Rumours Are True 
A New Zealander you may know from her regular appearances on Have You Been Paying Attention, she accepted this in her netball uniform.

The People’s Choice Award: Daniel Sloss
This award is for most tickets sold across the 2021 Festival and UK comedian Sloss was very closely followed by Tommy Little.

The Piece of Wood: Greg Larsen – This Might Not Be Hell.
This award is chosen by other comedians in the festival for one of their own.

Funny Tonne: Winner Ben Carruthers
As I publish He’s seen 79 shows, and written 52 reviews, he said the emphasis was put on review quality this year.
The funny Tonners didn’t start their run until after the Festival had begun and were somewhat outshined by comedian Blake Everett, who is up in the 90s and has given nearly every one of them a quick positive review on twitter. And he is performing in his own acclaimed festival show Blake and Oliver Dig Their Own Graves and also did tech for award nominated Toast Rat.

Class Clowns National Champ: Dhruv Rhao (who was the youngest nominee) Runners-up: Jai Uhlmann and Sophia Marosszeky

The Deadly Funny Award:  Jahmarley Dawson   Special mentions were given to Cy FaheyBen Moodie and Kasey Johnson

Things We Found In The Swamp

By Colin Flaherty

A show about “Draining the Swamp” may set up expectations for a tale of sweeping governmental change ala Trump but, despite a little bit of political posturing and low level bureaucracy, this play saves its swamp analogy for the toxicity of keeping dark, personal secrets. Writers Rose Bishop and Elyce Phillips have created a wonderfully kooky world inhabited by some strange individuals who may appear somewhat normal on the surface but have some sliminess underneath, just like their beloved swamp.

The characters were a bunch of oddballs that were all played as broadly as possible. Lukas Quinn as Fergus the Public Servant was brilliant as the straight man reacting to all the weirdness going on around him with flair. Taylor Griffiths portrayed the dim witted dentist Lucy with wonderful naivety. The historian played by Millie Holten was note perfect exaggerated outrage and pedantry, even throwing in some great slapstick. Prue Blake as the Mayor was kooky enough as a self-obsessed sexual predator but not as bold or physical as you would expect from such a role. Pedro Cooray’s Spiritual Healer was given the least to do and his performance was a little shakey but his few words gave off a nice aloofness for such a shady character.

Setting this play in one location was a great move as it avoided any clumsy scene changes and allowed the action to flow in real time, keeping the laughs rolling as the strangeness escalated. A technical hiccup threatened to derail things but the bizarre nature of it fitted with this universe and the improvisational skills of the cast added some additional chuckles. The plot itself wasn’t particularly fast moving with plenty of witty circular conversation stalling the action but spouting many hilarious lines to keep us laughing. Each dirty secret reveal mainly served as a device for adding more jokes rather than raising the stakes. Lovers of straight theatre may grumble over the lack of character growth and consequences but this was essentially some fluffy fun with a bunch of kooky characters.

Things We Found In The Swamp is on at The Courthouse Hotel until September 16
https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/things-we-found-in-the-swamp/

Leaky Bucket – Swings at Dusk

By Erin Hill

If your nightmares are haunted by the sound of an office clock ticking then this sketch show, centred on the strange flights of fancy we take while bored at work, might be for you. Leaky Bucket is made up of Prue Blake, Darcy Fleming and Matthew McCartney, three talented performers with a background in improvised comedy, who perform absurd sketches about passing time at the office.

As an aside, their improviser’s skills were well utilised on the night I attended after an errant slip by McCartney smashed a mug; a vital prop for a number of sketches to follow, and the performers had to subsequently work around this. It is one of the joys of live performance that I can be certain that no other show was exactly like the one I saw.

The breakage occurred in a sketch featuring an elf-cum-accountant who worked from Santa’s basement for twenty six hundred years. McCartney played gleefully perhaps the saddest character ever written, giggling under the jingling of a bell-touting elf hat.

A sketch about office cowboys, taunting each other over the acquisition and thereafter use of a ‘favourite mug’ was performed with enviable commitment and rewarded with laughter. In fact commitment across the board was high, no matter how absurd a sketch became, or how high the stakes escalated (to the point of murder in a few cases) these dynamic performers would commit to whichever physicality or voice the scene demanded.

The show was punctuated by commentary from the “Voice” who would critique or demand sketches from the trio. Pavan Dutta, who ran the technical aspect of the show, provided the voice and helped the show progress with his interjections, although at times the device felt somewhat forced.

Not for the first time this festival I came to realise that not holding down a ‘regular’ office type job means I am missing out on a whole world of office related banter, drama and vocabulary. Swings at Dusk does rely heavily on its audience to recognise the situation to facilitate the comedy and not being able to identify with each premise could alienate some pundits.

The comradery between these performers is charming, and for office bound workers inclined to daydream or procrastinate, this sketch show will entertain.

Swings at Dusk is playing at 7pm at Tasma Terrace until April 8th.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2018/shows/swings-at-dusk

Leaky Bucket – First Crack

By Colin Flaherty
Version 2

Leaky Bucket (Prue Blake, Darcy Fleming and Matthew McCartney) are a young sketch troupe performing their first MICF show together. This peppy trio of upstarts are eager to show off their sketch talents but as the performance progresses we soon see that all is not as it seems.

The sketches start off quite strong but soon come to a screeching halt as the cast work out their issues, usually with Matt being put back in his place. “You’re such a Matt!” is a phrase repeatedly shouted throughout this hour. This is an intriguing structure, breaking the fourth wall not only to deconstruct the performance but also introduce some comedic conflict. The meta elements regularly encroach on the actual sketch content, so much so that the “scenes” become secondary to the storyline involving our performers.

Your typical comedy trio character traits are set out right from the start, Prue the rather manevolent control freak, Darcy the pretty boy lap dog and Matt the dimwit relegated to background duties. They do all the usual comedic bickering bits (Matt is too dumb to be insulted by the cruel remarks, there’s a bit of sexual tension, we see a doomed power struggle and Matt quits the group) but this usually devolves into shouting, cruel taunts and not much else amusing or witty. Fans of the humour of cruelty will find plenty to like in this. Throughout the show each performer has a monologue recalling traumatic events from their youth, recounted with surreal details and overblown drama which fleshes out these characters beautifully.

The quality of the “sketches” are the usual mixed bag which have a few hilarious moments but often outstay their welcome. As you come to realise that they are not the actual focus of this show, you can happily forgive the sliding quality to an degree. However these peeks behind the curtain often suffer the same faults as the sketches.

The performers sell their stage personas with varying success: Blake plays her evil controller a little too subtly, Fleming brings a nice smarmy attitude to his character/s and McCartney has such an manic wide-eyed intensity that it is hard to take your eyes off him. They all work well together but they mostly play it all to the crowd rather than to each other. This seems counter intuitive but exaggerating performances both in and out of “sketches” maintains an apt artificial atmosphere and cements the fact that this is not a serious sketch show.

This wildly ambitious exploration of a sketch trio in crisis is rough around the edges but entertaining and certainly lives up to its title.

First Crack is on at The Last Jar until April 23
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/first-crack