Damien Vosk – The Average

By Elyce Phillips Damien Vosk

Some people are remarkably unremarkable – no distinguishing features, no enormously “quirky” character traits. Just perfectly average people that you’d pass in the street and wouldn’t think twice about. Damien Vosk is one of those people and in The Average he looks at his over-tolerant interactions with some of the weirder people of the world.

The first half of Vosk’s set is strong, delving into the hodge-podge of jobs he’s had while pursuing his comedic acting career. Vosk’s delivery is likeable and his stories are deeply relatable – just about everyone remembers what it was like to work a crappy job while striving for something greater. He made a good effort to cajole some energy into a timid audience, bringing in some elements of crowd work. A series of tales about his time as a bin salesman were a highlight, ending in a group prayer that brought the audience together and had them chuckling.

The second half of the show fell flat by comparison. Jokes about the perils of Internet dating and hipsters were fine, but didn’t offer a lot by way of a unique perspective. The energy never regained the peaks of the first half, making the 55-minute run time feel drawn out, despite many of the jokes being perfectly funny. The issue here was one of structure – a top heavy opening dominating over the gentler laughs of the remainder.

Overall, it’s a good debut from Vosk. The highs of the show prove that he has solid stand-up skills. With some greater attention paid to pacing and structure, Vosk has the potential to do great things in the future. The Average is a promising opening gambit.

Damien Vosk – The Average has finished its MICF season


Zoe Coombs Marr – Trigger Warning

By Elyce Phillips
Zoe as Dave

You might have seen Zoe Coombs Marr’s Dave before. His self-titled stand-up show has been touring for the last couple of years, in which he’s been doing good ol’ blokey jokes about the battle between the sexes. Unfortunately, his style of humour has come under fire from some of the more “feminist” among us, so this year Dave’s responding to criticism from the PC police and is trying his hand at some Gaulier-style clowning.

Coombs Marr’s Dave is every hacky stand-up you’ve seen at an open mic night. His jokes are awful and he displays a stunning lack of self-awareness. But there is a vulnerability to Dave. Coombs Marr has done an excellent job of humanising her character, showing us that he’s not such a bad guy – he just finds change a little hard to take. Watching Dave have a go at silent clowning is excruciating and hilarious. He mugs at the audience while a twee soundtrack plays, never managing anything more than a hollow caricature of the style.

As good as Coombs Marr has been at portraying Dave in the past, she takes it up a notch in Trigger Warning. The show is cleverly layered, providing its own commentary on Coombs Marr’s choices in playing Dave and the place of queer politics and feminist politics in comedy. The relationship between Coombs Marr and Dave is played intelligently, the lines of reality blurred and shifted into an increasingly bizarre maelstrom of confusion. It’s fascinating and funny at the same time. For all its meta-ness, Trigger Warning never feels overwrought or inaccessible. The chaos and gore and silliness balances it out perfectly.

Trigger Warning is an incredible piece of comedy and Coombs Marr’s Barry and Gibbo wins are very well-deserved. It’s very much sold out now, so keep an eye out for whatever Coombs Marr does next.

Trigger Warning is on at the Victoria Hotel Acacia Room until April 17


Melbourne International Comedy Festival Award Winners for 2016

by Lisa Clark

It has been an amazing year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In a first for the Festival – The Winner of the Barry Award, Zoe Coombs-Marr, is also the Winner of the Golden Gibbo. So it’s a Barry Winner who is brave and independent and we couldn’t be happier for Zoe. Presented via Skype (also a first) by last year’s winner Sam Simmons, the award was for Zoe’s show Trigger Warning starring her gender bending alter ego called Dave. There was Big Buzz around all the Winners this year, with none being a huge surprise and all being lauded and promoted by word of mouth and on social media for weeks. All of the nominees were favourites with everyone and those of us who got out to see them are very happy about them all being held up for celebration. It’s also a rare year where all the winners are Australian, and rightly so. So congratulations to Everyone!!

If Anne Edmonds and Damien Power are a bit sad about missing out on a Barry, they can be cheered by their Directors Awards win as True Australian Patriots and know that their own shows were loved too. True Aussie Patriots – Live was some of the best political and social satire seen on an Australian stage performed by some our best comedians (2 of them having been nominated for Barrys – the other Greg, didn’t do a solo show this year to be nominated, but won the Golden Gibbo as part of Fancy Boys two years ago.) Rhys Nicholson, can take heart in the fact that his new wife Zoe won the Barry and that their big fat gay wedding at the Festival Club last night will go down in Festival history and Legend.

I think I saw co winners of The Directors Award, Zanzoop – Feeble Minds, before a lot of ‘official’ people managed to and have been singing it’s praises to everyone ever since. A truly insane, intelligent, incredible, late night chat show hosted by the wise cracking green alien Zanzoop (Sam Campbell) that surprises you by having sweetness at its heart, performed by some sincerely talented, charismatic people. It also contains Best Newcomer Tom Walker who shines in both Feeble Minds and his own gentle and delightful immersive clowning show Beep Boop.

The Pinder Prize (Named after the late John Pinder who was an original co-founder of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and opened some of the first comedy rooms in Melbourne in the 1970s – The Flying Trapese and The Last Laugh Theatre Restaurant) is a brand new award at the festival which sends recipient – Tom Ballard – to Edinburgh Fringe to perform as part of the Assembly Theatre Program.

Remember that there is still another day of Festival shows tomorrow and some shows cancelled due to illness will hopefully be rescheduled in Melbourne Soon.

Readers from other states:  You can look forward to seeing some of these shows or performers in your town soon.

Here are the Award Winners for 2016Zoe as Dave


Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger Warning

Damien Power – Sell Mum into Slavery
Luisa Omielan (UK) – Am I Right Ladies?!
Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening
Anne Edmonds That’s Eddotainment
David O’Doherty (IRE) – We Are All In The Gutter, But Some Of Us Are Looking At David O’Doherty
Rhys Nicholson – Bone FideTom Walker


Winner: Tom Walker – Beep Boop

Demi Lardner – Life Mechanic
Guy Montgomery (NZ) – Guy Montcomedy
Rose Matafeo (NZ) – Finally Dead

GOLDEN GIBBO AWARD (Independant & Creative show)

Winner: Zoe Coombs-Marr – Trigger WarningTom Ballard pic

Asher Treleaven & Gypsy Wood – Peter & Bambi Heaven – The Magic Inside
Luis Brown – Lessons With Luis
Tommy Dassallo – Little Golden Dassallo

THE PINDER PRIZE (including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival):

Winner: Tom Ballard – The World Keeps Happening

PIECE OF WOOD (Peer Voted – Comedian’s Choice):

Winner: Chris Wainhouse – The AntichrisTrue Australian Patriots


Winners: (Anne Edmonds, Damian Power and Greg Larsen) True Australian Patriots – Live


Winners: (Sam Campbell, Cam Campbell, Tom Walker and Aaron Chen) Zanzoop – Feeble Minds

Peoples choice: Carl Barron Drinking with a Fork

Funny Tonne (Audience Member seeing the most [over 100] shows): Jeremy McPherson


Deadly Funny National Champion – Jalen Sutcliffe

Class Clowns National Champion – Lauren Duong from the ACT

RAW Comedy Award (Including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival)- Danielle Walker from Victoria

Interview with Lauren Hayward and Francis Hadid otherwise known as Hayward and Hadid

By Phillip Lescaut

First off, tell me a little about your show for this year, This Is An Excuse.

This is our first comedy festival, and we wanted to find our voice. We wanted to make a show that spoke to women, which was equal parts silly and smart. We’ve put on stage the things we always talk about with our friends but have never seen in a comedy show.

What’s your earliest experience of making people laugh or entertaining? Was it at school, putting on shows for family, etc.?
Hadid: I would say definitely at home. Everyone in my family is funny and with a dark sense of humour. They’re a tough crowd, my grandmother especially; she’s a tough bitch so making her laugh has been reassuring.

Hayward: I always hoped I was funny (I still do). I was a gangly oversized only child with Hollywood dreams and a penchant for Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller movies, but I wasn’t funny yet. Through serendipity and osmosis (and good training) I think I’ve become funnier in my 20’s –away from my parents’ disapproving eye.

Was comedy always the dream? If not, how did you find your way to comedy?

Hadid: Writing has been the dream and Comedy is where I often find myself.

Hayward: Comedy was always the dream, comedy and an unlikely friendship with Tina Fey.

Who or what inspires you in comedy? Do you have a preferred type of comedy you like to watch (eg. standup, sitcoms, movies, etc.)?

We love satirical comedy, with a dark twist, but can’t deny our love for a dick joke. We’ve loved watching The Characters (Netflix), Broad City, and Bob’s Burgers. 

Tell me a bit about your creative process. Do you write a lot? Do you do it alone? Do you only write when you’re inspired or do you have a disciplined schedule like a Jerry Seinfeld?

For us the creative equation is COMEDY = FOOD + LAPTOPS. All we do is eat, gossip and write. We’re our funniest with a full mouth.

Do you prefer to be immaculately rehearsed or are you very loose and ad-lib-by on stage?

Hadid: on the loose side.

Hayward: immaculately rehearsed.

Hayward and Hadid: happy together

If it’s not too painful to think about, what’s the most awkward experience you’ve had on stage? What did you learn from it, and how do you get past a weak night?
We took our show to Adelaide to workshop it in front of a crowd, and boy did we learn some lessons. On our opening night we had four (uninvited, anonymous) reviewers in the audience, and both of our computers crashed 5 minutes before show time. We pushed on (read: flailed) with no tech, had a front row walk out and were heckled by Siri chiming in from an audience member’s phone.

We were crying between changes backstage because it was such a disaster. To make things worse, we had a review in The Advertiser the next day: “In comedy, timing is everything, and the sometimes lengthy pregnant pauses between “costume changes” meant any momentum quickly evaporated”. No shit dickhead, “costume changes” took too long because we were sobbing silently backstage! We learnt to always triple-check our backups, and that nothing can stop us.

What are you proudest of in your career so far?

We’re proudest of our show right now. Since Adel-geddon, we rewrote, refined and reworked the show and we are super proud (and we couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t learned the hard lessons). Our audiences have loved it, and we’ve had so much fun putting it on every night. Not a single tear shed back stage.

Is there anyone at MICF this year that you really want to check out?

Well we’re right at the end of the festival, but we’ve seen so many awesome shows. Of course, everything at our venue, The Improv Conspiracy; it was a treat to see some hilarious and deliciously weird comedy at Feeble Minds (Zanzoop/Sam Campbell) and we were absolutely blown away by Butt Kapinski (Deanna Fleysher) – completely different to us, but totally inspiring. 

What’s been the biggest surprise of your career so far?

Selling out half of our run at our first MICF show has been surprising and pretty special.

One piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out?                        

Be nice: everyone is trying their hardest and probably not getting paid.

Be brave: the hardest nights show you what you’re made of, and will definitely pay off.

Be rebellious: not everything has to follow the rule of threes


Hayward and Hadid’s debut show This Is An Excuse is on at The Improv Conspiracy



Hayward and Hadid – This Is An Excuse

By Phil Lescaut  This is an excuse pic

Hayward and Hadid’s debut show This Is An Excuse made me think about a lot of things, but perhaps most of all it made me appreciate the beauty of Melbourne’s Comedy Festival. Here is a form of democracy worthy of close study by our politicians, a place where you can see the bona fide A-listers of comedy, as well as its weirdest emerging voices. If it’s the indie, beautiful-work-in-progress side of MICF that you appreciate most, look no further than Lauren Hayward and Francis Hadid. They’re a couple of platonic lovebirds who met through improv and have created their first scripted show. There’s glimmers of Saturday Night Live in This Is An Excuse, with an hour-long sketch format held together by a central story of Cupid Francis versus Psyche Lauren in a battle for a young couple’s future. Cupid and Psyche’s real-life counterparts even open the show in true SNL style, with a wise-cracking monologue that immediately introduces the audience to the endearing chemistry that shines throughout the hour.

This Is An Excuse is even more reminiscent of Inside Amy Schumer, as it has a similar unabashed fascination with modern-day coupling, the differences in men and women’s approaches to romance, and white people doing annoying things. Many moments had the audience in stitches. Others didn’t but were obviously fashioned as thought-provoking interludes. Like Schumer, the sketches that made bolder comments on our culture had bigger pay-offs than some of the more shallow ones. While it’s pretty wonderfully written and has benefited from some post-test audience fat-trimming, this is still a debut show, so there are moments of nervousness and sketches with thin premises. But it’s this rawness, manifest in the limited props and homemade zines, that render This Is An Excuse even more intimate and exciting, and their intelligent observations all the more affecting. Because they also deal with topics like feminism, race and “crazy girls”, Hayward and Hadid frolic through the pop cultural landscape of 2016 amongst pithy Jezebel articles and Lena Dunham essays, but they’re not camouflaged amongst it. They deliver a unique enough comedic manifesto to make you believe that theirs will be careers worth watching.

During the show, Cupid Francis and Psyche Lauren get equal opportunity to make their cases, and it’s this balance of the sarcastic and the romantic that perfectly captures the spirit of This Is An Excuse. There are plenty of acerbic observations made about fuck-boys and white assholes, but, like the cosy pyjama party feel of the room when you walk in it, This Is An Excuse is a warm-hearted reflection on love’s infinite possibility, even if it no longer manifests itself exclusively in one guy and one little lady going to the chapel. To those too wrought by misplaced nostalgia for that ‘simpler’ time, Hayward and Hadid make a convincing case that love’s evolution is a good thing. Maybe the love story of your modern life is with your best friend, or your dry cleaner’s aunt (how should I know?), or maybe, like Lauren and Francis, your comedy partner.

Hayward and Hadid’s debut show This Is An Excuse is on at The Improv Conspiracy


James Acaster – Reset

By Elyce Phillips James Acaster

With a string of award nominations to his name, James Acaster has spent the last few years building himself up as one of the young greats of the UK stand-up scene. He returns to MICF with Reset, a solidly funny new hour of absurdity, meandering reflection and self-loathing.

In Reset, Acaster explores the idea of having your time over again. Unless you’re utterly insufferable, chances are you have a fair few things you’d like to do differently, and Acaster too has his share of regrets. It’s a topic where a lesser talent could be become bogged down in negativity, however, the material is handled deftly.

Acaster is a master of deadpan silliness, delivering bizarre stories with a facade of complete honesty that almost has you believing his flights of fancy. A lengthy piece about his work at a dodgy honey company was particularly wonderful. The tall tales bring a fresh edge to Acaster’s stand-up – the delivery is familiar but the content is not.

Unfortunately on the night I attended, the show got derailed by heckling. Acaster dealt with the offending parties admirably – in fact he perhaps got some of the biggest laughs of the night by putting the interrupters in their place – but the timing of it upset the flow of the final moments of the show.  A story that was building up to a grand finale fizzled somewhat, disrupted at multiple points. Acaster was visibly annoyed, and fair enough. It put a dampener on the show, however, this is one to chalk up to a Tightarse Tuesday crowd and drunkenness, and is no reflection on Acaster’s material.

Acaster further establishes himself as a powerhouse of stand-up with Reset. It’s a strong, well-structured show that deserves a good audience.

James Acaster – Reset is on at Melbourne Town Hall until April 17