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 piques 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.
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.
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.
The 75th Edinburgh Fringe Festival begins this week and, after a bit of an enforced break, there will be a strong contingent of Australian acts (as well as Aussie Expats and adopted Aussies) back in Auld Reeky town raring to tread the boards again. Here is a list of those we could find along with any reviews we have previously written.
Our British Correspondent Ron will be seeing a whole slew of shows and reviewing them for us.
To all those performers in Edinburgh, Chookas from The Squirrels and have a wonderful Fringe.
Looking for a bit of Late Night Fun that’s not as exhaustingly late as Festival Club? Are you a bit nerdy, fond of word games, possibly a fan of Celebrity Letters And Numbers or Taskmaster New Zealand (season 2)? Then Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont-Spelling Bee might just be the show for you.
Guy is one of the best comedians to come out of New Zealand in recent times, why he isn’t hosting a TV Show of his own, is anyone’s guess. He’s charming, super funny, yet laid back and able to improvise goofy quips with his guests who are playing with varying levels of competitiveness.
Tonight’s guests were; Melanie Bracewell from New Zealand who has done one of Guy’s Spelling Bees over there and has her eye on the prize, Rhys Nicholson who made jokes about feeling out of place, but in the end was the people’s champion, Sam Campbell who’s main contribution was coming up with unexpected hilarious interjections and Phil Wang from the UK, Melanie’s serious main competitor. Of course a lot of the fun is the banter between the guests and Guy and also watching Phil Wang’s face drop as he realises this isn’t a traditional Bee, and he’s not the master he expected to be.
Guy has worked out some really funny ways to do a Spelling Bee competition live on stage, because just spelling words might be fun for spelling nerds but won’t make for a very exciting or hilarious comedy festival show. For the main rounds Guy has words on slips of paper kept in three receptacles. Contestants could choose from; the bucket which has the hard 3 point words, a bag holds the 2 point words, and the 1 point easy words are in a cup and if you choose the easy words you will find they are all insults.
The hardest round on our night was a new one made up by Guy where they had to spell the country of the flag he was holding up, so first they had to guess what country the flag belonged to. They were not very familiar flags. This game might not stay on, or maybe he has to make the flags a bit easier for a show that is not for flag enthusiasts. There was also a round of homophones that was hilarious, and reminiscent of the fake game show on 30 Rock called (erroneously) Homonym.
The best round of Spelling Bee was when he made them spell words the same way a 6 year old had spelt them to him. She had also put the words in very cute sentences. It was also hard, but super hilarious. Rhys said ‘I’m finally going to wipe the floor with the lot of you’ and he did! It brought the house down.
Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont-Spelling Bee sold out one of the biggest rooms in the Town Hall last week. The audience were spelling along with the performers and clapping before Guy announced that they were right. There are a lot of spelling fans out there. I think this show has legs and might make even make a great TV show, so get tickets now before it sells out, becomes a TV show, or possibly even, a cult.
Guy Montgomery performs Guy Montgomery’s Guy Mont-Spelling Bee with different guests each week at The Town Hall in The Supper Room on Friday nights at 10.45pm Throughout the Festival.
It’s not long now until the world’s largest fringe arts festival begins in warmer climes and again a massive contingent of Australians and expats are headed to The Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many have traveled the Australian festival circuit and have been whipped into shape for international audiences. Some have been previously reviewed by Squirrel but remember they will have been further polished and may have been revised and reworked.
Last year Australian, Hannah Gadsby won Best Comedy at the Fringe, she’s had to cancel her Edinburgh Fringe run this year but there’s a lot more amazing comedy talent coming up from down under. If you are travelling anywhere near Edinburgh this August, have a look at the following list of shows and consider going to see an Australian act.
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.
2018 AWARD WINNERS
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
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 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 AdventureShow]
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.
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)
It’s hard to think of any great positive things that happened to the world in 2016. Apart from the odd sporting achievement, it was a nonstop pileup of deplorable crud. Australian comedy however didn’t let us down, delivering performances that will stand out, no doubt, for years to come. So to cheer myself up about the dreadful year that was I thought I’d just do a roundup of good things that happened in Australian Comedy this year.
It always brings me joy to see good comedy coming out of TV, I can remember when I would be rolling in the aisles to so many comedians on stage and felt so frustrated that their voices were not heard on TV except occasionally on the odd panel show. It was one of the reasons I set up this site. I wanted the world to know how wonderful Australian standup comedians are. This year it was so satisfying to see so many live standup performances on TV shows such as Comedy Next Gen and Comedy Up Late as well as the usual Festival Galas and Just For Laughs specials. We saw comedians working in different formats like The Katering Show, Sammy J’s Playground Politics, Who’s Line is it Anyway Australia and Hard Quiz. It’s exciting to watch Comedy Showroom give fresh comedy ideas a go and to see the sweet sitcom Rosehaven bloom so beautifully. Sitcoms have always been so bloody hard to do successfully in Australia and this year we’ve also had Here Come the Habibs doing well on 9 of all places and Upper Middle Bogan as strong, funny and heart-warming as ever in its third season. This is all along side regular shows such as Mad As Hell, Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery and The Weekly. There was happily too much comedy on TV for me to cover properly but I’ll leave that to the TV websites. Just to say 2016 was a great year to see Australian standup comedians doing exciting and wonderful things on TV and of course beaming around the world online.
Meanwhile comedians on stage have been creating astonishing, hilarious work. I didn’t get to see everything, as usual, it’s just impossible, but I thought I’d share some of my own personal highlights of the year.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival was celebrating 30 years as a Thing and put on a fun party for comedy fans with shows such as Cal Wilson’s Sunday arvos at The Victorian Arts Centre speaking with different generations of comedians in The Decades That Were and comedy tours with Rod Quantock.
Also at the Festival this year was The Wedding of Zoe Coombes Marr and Rhys Nicholson. There have been a few great comedy weddings over the years, but this riotous spectacle which was making a clear statement in support of same-sex marriage could not be bettered. The bridesmaids were Denise Scott, Judith Lucy and Celia Pacquola, MC Hannah Gadsby made a fabulous funny and moving speech. The Priest was Geraldine Hickey, Celebrant Ben Noble. Entertainment was provided by Tina Del Twist, Peter & Bambi Heaven, Hot Brown Honey, The Daredevil Chicken Club, The Butterfly Glee Club, The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic and Melbourne Uni Choirs, Wil Anderson, Adrienne Truscott and The True Australian Patriots.
Other general comedy highlights were laughter filled Sunday afternoons at the live podcast recordings of Josh Earl’s Who Do You Think I Am? There was the return of The Bedroom Philosopher at Local Laughs singing about haberdashery and a reboot of The Doug Anthony Allstars. Tripod celebrated 20 years on stage with a gift of their songs in book form and performing them with guests on stage, ending the year with one of their best Christmas shows ever. The new exciting discoveries in 2016 included funny musical acts Jude Perl and Sarah Wall & Freya Long of The Astrudes, then the astute, warm, political comedy of Sami Shah, Alanta Colley and character comedian Haley Tantau as her alter ego Cindy Salmon.
Finally, as is traditional, I’m including an End of Year List; 5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016. As you can imagine it’s hard to pick out only five great festival shows for the whole year, its been a really great year for live comedy.
5 Very Good Festival Shows of 2016 1. Zoe Coombes-Marr Trigger Warning. (MICF) The show captured the zeitgeist of the comedy world. I was laughing so hard I was worried I’d lose control of my bodily functions. I literally fell off my seat at one point. So many thoughts I’ve been thinking that she wrapped up and detonated. She destroyed me and remade me as a stronger woman. It won the Barry Award for best show at the 2016 MICF and deservedly so.
(Thanks to modern technology and smart TV people it’s been filmed and you can probably see it on ABCiView as part of Comedy Next Gen, not quite the same as live, but do it. WATCH IT. Then watch all the others)
2. Sammy J – Hero Complex. (Melbourne Fringe) Sammy has been wowing audiences for years, but this one had the audience whooping and cheering with pure joy. It’s about the love of unpopular nerdy pursuits, in this case a passion for The Phantom comics and a friendship borne from that. The show is full of secrets and reveals, so it hard to say more except that it is gobsmacking, weepingly hilarious and will have you grinning for hours, perhaps days afterwards. This won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and will get a run at festivals in 2017 so DON’T miss it.
3.Zanzoop – Feeble Minds. (MICF) Who knew a late night show in a rundown night club about an alien chat show would become the talk of MICF? All three performers added their amazing talents, my highlights being Aaron Chen as Owen Wilson with Tom Walker as Jackie Chan and the heart-warming family reunion of snarky host Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) and his alien dad (Cam Campbell) at the end.
4. Micheal Williams: An Evening with Michael Williams (who is trapped under a boulder)– with Jack Druce. (MICF) Michael has moved from delighting us with his clip board of sophisticated cartoon humour to giving us an all singing, all dancing audio visual extravaganza and puppet show. A delightfully silly show had the audience gasping when the boulder suddenly came to life and was fun for the whole family. Michael has received a 2017 Moosehead Award, so am looking forward to his Moosehead show in 2017!
5.True Australian Patriots (MICF). Noticing in the MICF programme that three of Australia’s most promising comedians had teamed up to lampoon right wing protest groups had comedy fans very excited and we were not disappointed. Anne Edmonds,Damien Power and Greg Larsen are all at the top of their game and gave us a riotous late night of political satire and bizarre love triangle that hit the perfect tone and bashed us right in the comedy solar plexus.
Happy Hogmanay from the Squirrels and hoping 2017 brings you more laughs than sorrow. X