Adrian Bliss – Inside Everyone

By Jess Welch

You might be tempted, when told a comedian is best known by their TikTok account – which in this case boasts an impressive 7.9 million followers – to make certain assumptions. Some may be correct as, for example, the audience does skew to the 30’s and under crowd. But if you were worried about how bite-sized bits might translate to an entire hour, don’t worry. Adrian Bliss knows what he’s doing.

Bliss is a master of sketches. Armed with a wide array of costumes, Bliss transforms from character to character as he weaves his tale. And he’s chosen the smallest story of all, the tale of a single atom. We follow this hopeful atom through time and space as it searches for greatness. It’s an ambitious premise, but Bliss makes it look easy. He brings the mundane day-to-day of the most famous people in history to life. Sprinkled with some excellent puns and musical numbers, there’s not a dull second.

For those who are fans and have watched most of his videos, most of the characters will be familiar. But whether the crowd is drawn in by his online presence or not, it’s impossible to ignore that Inside Everyone is wonderfully written and performed, even if there’s quite a bit of time spent transitioning between costumes. It’s theatrical and bold, hilarious and ends on a surprisingly poignant note. Overall, it’s a fun ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Inside Everyone is on at The Malthouse Theatre. See website for details https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/inside-everyone

Ainslie Rose – Ainslie’s To Do List

By Jess Welch

If you’ve ever struggled with a to do list so long you don’t know where to begin, Ainslie Rose understands your pain. In fact, she has a list and perhaps with a little bit of help, she could tick some of those pesky tasks off. Maybe a kind audience can even lend a hand and have more than a few laughs along the way.

Ainslie’s To Do List is a show dedicated to those who know they should be doing something productive, but are instead rewatching their favourite movie for the hundredth time. It might not surprise then, that Rose has been diagnosed with ADHD and autism. For anyone who has been through their own diagnosis journey, this show is like a flashback. The trail of not started, abandoned or unfinished projects looms ever-present. In this show, it takes the form of a large whiteboard. It stands above the crowd, a constant reminder. Rose enlists the audience to keep her on track. This has varying degrees of success. For every step forward, there’s a step sideways. It’s a constant dance, with an amazing soundtrack.

Speaking of dancing, Rose is breaks into dance at a moment’s notice. The stage, surrounded by couches, takes the form of her living room. It feels safe and cosy and like we’ve been invited around for story time. The stories flow, interspersed with skits and sketches. It’s perfectly balanced. This show is Rose’s MICF debut, but you wouldn’t know it. Even when something unexpected happens, she integrates it into the show was if it were planned all along. Rose is so likable, so friendly and naturally hilarious, she makes it look effortless. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Ainslie Rose performs Ainslie’s To Do List at The Collection Bar. Details at

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/ainslie-s-to-do-list

Kirsty Webeck – I’ll Be The Judge Of That

By Lisa Clark

Kirsty Webeck is a born comedian, with comedy in her bones and it’s always wonderful to see a comedian grow and get better and better at their craft with each show. This year she is also trying to grow as a human being.

Kirsty has always been a welcoming and kind performer, cultivating her warm relationship with her audience through Social Media to live on stage. She has always approached her audience as a friend. She assumes we will accept her as she is and that we are both, comedian and audience, safe in the space. She skillfully brings the audience along in her performance, explaining the obscure stuff, asking if we all understand some things that might be culturally specific to Australians. She wants no one left behind.

I’ll Be The Judge Of That is made up of several stories about why she is trying to be more open and accepting of other people’s differences and opinions. Beginning with the universality of food and its etiquette, the laughs are immediate, generous and don’t stop throughout. A simple airport story becomes epic as she throws in all her airport jokes one after another to keep the laughter rolling. Her monumental centre-piece is an achingly embarrassing tale of the time a simple gig, hosting a Show-Band afternoon performance, goes horribly, horribly wrong and it is hilarious.

The stories can be about uncomfortable experiences and awkward social situations, and though Kirsty owns her place in them, she doesn’t belittle herself, or put herself down. She is always our hero, recognising where others are misjudging her, or celebrating those who show kindness and support.

Kirsty famously laughs throughout her set, it’s not that she’s laughing at her own jokes, as much as she’s just having a jolly old time and assures us that our laughter is really making her feel great too. The happy vibe is infectious and you can take your friends knowing everyone will have a brilliant time with a smashing comedian and come out smiling. Kirsty is killing it, but she’s choosing to Kill with Kindness.

Kirsty Webeck – I’ll Be The Judge Of That at The Westin 3 at 6pm til April 21. There is an extra show at 4.30pm on April 20.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/ill-be-the-judge-of-that

Dane Simpson & His Dad – The King and I

By Bren Carruthers

For anyone who has followed Dane Simpson’s career, this concept is perhaps something of an inevitability – stories about his dad, Bow, have been a pretty consistent staple of his material for years, almost placing Bow on a semi-mythical pillar. Now Bow finally hits the Big Smoke and takes the stage alongside Dane at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in The King and I.

At its core, the show centres on the pair’s (ultimately brief) appearance on the celebrity version of The Amazing Race Australia, with a smattering of other anecdotes spinked into the set along the way. Bow, with a comfortable chair and prop crown, plays a role as part offsider, part heckler, part hijacker, throwing up tangents, curveballs and dad jokes as Dane alternates between performing and parent-wrangling. It makes for a charming, organic chemistry, spiked with a hint of danger – Bow’s anarchic approach and penchant for an off-colour joke or two has Dane on his toes throughout. It makes for a loose, silly and enjoyable show.

Bow’s ‘performance’ – perhaps not as a polished comedian, but certainly playing to the audience – is ultimately an emblem of classic Australian larrikinism: not the hypermasculine variant, with its cocksure bravado, but the kind of larrikinism that is deftly cheeky, wildly silly and in bold defiance of authority, a type of character that is relatable and appealing to both Indigenous and white/colonising Australians. Although many would identify the archetype as very characteristically Australian, it’s a rare phenomenon to see in a Melbourne Comedy Festival show in 2024, and by that token, certainly a refreshing and welcome one.

Perhaps the question now is what effect this show will have on Dane’s material into the future. With Bow now 70 and living in Lightning Ridge in remote New South Wales, and Dane with a newborn on the way, it’s more likely that performing as a pairing will be a novelty than a regular occurrence. It feels somewhat like it could be a watershed moment in Dane’s career: does he turn the page here and look to apply his storytelling style to fresh topics? Or perhaps the new addition to the family will inspire a whole different perspective on Dane and Bow’s relationship? With Dane’s natural, down-to-earth ease and charm, storytelling skill and eye for the ridiculous, there’s no doubt he’ll be a regular fixture of the national comedy scene for many years to come.

The King and I is on in the Acacia Room of the Victoria Hotel at 7:20pm (6:20pm Sundays, no Mondays) until the end of the festival.

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/the-king-and-i

Viggo Venn: British Comedian

By Jess Welch 

Sometimes you see a comedian that entirely defies description. Viggo Venn is that performer. As a reviewer, it is a nightmare. As an audience member, it is a delight.

Venn brings the energy, even before he hits the stage. If you have seen any of his stint on Britain’s Got Talent – in which he made it to the final – you’ll generally know what to expect. If you haven’t, I recommend not looking it up beforehand. I hadn’t and I believe 100% that it was the right choice. Let yourself be surprised.

The only thing to note before you go is that the sign outside warns of “audience participation”. Take this warning seriously, but don’t be scared. Venn is like sunshine incarnate and it’s all in good fun. It’s a good
chance to not take yourself too seriously. Leave your inhibitions at the door. The show is as good as the audience. The more you give, the more you’ll get. Let out the screams, the full belly chuckles, even the snorts. It’s a safe space.

Venn is part clown, part comedian, part hair and more than a few hi-vis vests. A Norwegian by birth, he moved to the UK to become a British Comedian. If you’re worried the accent might throw you off, don’t
worry. His main communication methods are facial expressions and flailing. He is fluent in both.

This is a show for anyone and everyone. The audience, the night I went, ranged from children to pensioners, all whooping and giggling. There were couples, families, friends and even some people on their own. Yet Venn makes the audience seem as one, somehow. As if we are one big, happy, slightly odd friendship group. Perhaps the effect might be spoilt in a bigger room, but then again, Venn’s powers of the absurd might just make it work.

It’s wonderful to let yourself get swept away on the tide of complete and utter joyful madness.
And it is madness. It almost feels as if Venn has gotten just as lost in it as the audience, giggling and giddy, but somehow brings the show to a perfectly scripted finish. It’s masterful and baffling and I enjoyed every second.

Viggo Venn: British Comedian is on at Trades Hall – Common Rooms Bar. 

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/viggo

Chris Parker: Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge

By Lisa Clark

Chris Parker is dancing to his own private dance mix of bangers (such as Stupid Love by Lady Gaga) from his phone on stage while the audience files in. He says it’s silly to wait behind the curtain, and anyway he wants to hang out with us and not feel left out. FOMO is a big part of the generation addicted to their phones and the connection with other people that it represents. He’s creating a real party atmosphere and maintains that throughout.

Chris is larger than life, loud and passionate, cheery and cheeky. Exuding fun and mischief, he is having a ball on stage and it encourages the audience to join in. The final song on Chris Parker’s opening house music playlist, Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, is significant and takes us back to his 12th birthday party with all the complicated and awkward memories it evokes.

While exploring his youth, he talks about how the use of his mobile phone has changed over the years. About how important it is in making plans and communicating with friends and loved ones, how group chats have become increasingly complicated. There are now so many ways of chatting on every app and how everyone is creating content and constantly in fear of feeling locked out. He himself has become popular on Tic Tok and live streaming on Instagram which went viral during lockdown, though he doesn’t delve into this (that was a previous show). He knows he’s part of the problem.

He goes into a deeper dive of his 20s and how awful they could be. How it was easier to make friends, though not necessarily ones that are good for you, how he came out and lost his virtue. I’m amazed at how he was able gloss over these massive experiences so flippantly with easy jaunty jokes. He’s our dear eager to please friend, making sure we’re here for a good time.

Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge is the kind of show that’s feels like hanging out with a vivacious friend, in this case at a rowdy party that never gets too wild. Because Chris is in his 30s now and would rather cuddle up in front of the TV at home with his husband than party all night with the ravers.

It should be no surprise that Chris is a great comedian, he’s won New Zealand’s top comedy awards, the Fred (named for Fred Dagg, a character by John Clarke) and the Topp Awards (named for the iconic Topp Twins). He’s also well-known there for Winning Celebrity Treasure Island and coming runner-up on Series 3 of Taskmaster NZ. The show is funny throughout and he ends with a string of social media drafts that are an excuse for rapid fire quick gags. The audience came out raving to each other, bursting with praise for him and I was pretty impressed with a grin on my face too. We really had a fantastic time at the Chris Parker party.

Chris Parker performs Give Me One Good Reason Why I Shouldn’t Throw My Phone Off this Bridge at The Westin One

https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/give-me-one-good-reason-why-i-shouldn-t-throw-my-phone-off-this-bridge