Melbourne International Comedy Festival Awards for 2018

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.


Hannah Gadsby Presenting The Barry Award from New York

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 

Danielle Walker

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

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 Adventure Show]

Lano & Woodley

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.



Heath Franklin

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)

Tinder Tales: A New Australian Musical

By Hooi Khaw 

Tinder Tales: A New Australian Musical serves up a modern day story of dating in the world of easy access and endless choice. Writing duo Mattie Mcleod and Thomas Bradford combine empathetic characters, catchy tunes, and satirical lyrics to deliver this joyful musical that hits all the emotional beats of a well-conceived story.

Eadie Testro-Girasole plays the emotionally fragile and painfully self-aware protagonist, Abby, as she navigates the highs and lows of tinder dating accompanied by her cleverly portrayed insecurities and doubts. The ensemble does an exceptional job supporting the story through the choreographed dancing, the representation of Tinder and Facebook pictures, and the internal dialogue.

The songs are hilarious, using the juxtaposition between traditional love songs and the casual dating culture perpetuated by Tinder to create comedy. With punch lines weaved into the lyrics, the audience is kept on their toes, surprising themselves with unexpected laughter.

Tinder Tales: A New Australian Musical is so immediately accessible to the audience because it tells an emotionally true story of love, loss, and hope, which resonates deeply with the crowd. Laughs of recognition rose in waves from the crowd during the show, and there was universally strong verbal praise from the audience members exiting the venue afterwards. Flowers were thrown at the performers during the final bow, in a figurative “swipe right”– an exceptional show that was received with wide-open arms by an adoring audience.

Tinder Tales: A New Australian Musical was on at The MC Showroom.

The Death of Chimp Cop

By Will Erskine 

Ben Vernel, Adam Knox, Rosie Vernel and Timothy Clark are Melbourne based sketch troupe Chimp Cop. Over the past 4 years they have established themselves at the festival through their spoof cop movie franchise of the same name. The Death of Chimp Cop is the 4th installment in the series and to tackle the obvious question first, no you don’t need to have seen the first 3 for this one to make sense. This is a marvelously slick production that engages and delivers laughs throughout, from the quirky opening credits to the ridiculous conclusion.

It is a spoof cop action movie, presented in cinematic form complete with soundtrack and opening credits. The pace is of the show is incredible, making the 50-minute performance feel like half that. Each scene is so packed with puns, gags and prop comedy that it feels like for every joke that you notice there were 3 more hidden behind the surface. The plot progresses over a series of sketches blending between a current day courthouse and flashbacks to scenes of central protagonist Chimp Cop’s battle against one of his toughest adversaries.

The shows strength comes from its overall narrative and the combination of its parts. While each sketch could stand-alone in isolation the show is so much more than a series of unrelated sketches, delivering genuine story progression and character development often missing from sketch comedy.

On paper spoofing cop shows doesn’t seem like the strongest idea for a comedy festival show – and particularly not 4 comedy festival shows. The show is carried by the creativity and talent of every member of the group. This is very much an ensemble cast with each member getting equal measure of the laughs and funny moments.

The gags in The Death of Chimp Cop range from the bizarre, to the intelligent all the way to the wilfully awful – it is the combination of the three that leaves the audience begging for more by the end of the performance.

It will be fascinating to see if this really is the death of the Chimp Cop character. Whether, in the spirit of movie franchises, the troupe return to the well once more, or they decide to create new characters it will without doubt be another a must see show.

The Death of Chimp Cop is on at Trades Hall until 22nd April details on the website:



Cal Wilson – Hindsight

By Lisa Clark 

The mainstream media took Cal for a bit of a scary ride last year, they decided to create a beat-up about a very personal story she shared in her 2017 Festival show Things I’ve Never Said. It was not fun and Cal has a blistering set in response towards the end of Hindsight that really kicks this show into a high gear.

Cal Wilson has been a favourite in the Australian comedy scene since first visiting here from her native New Zealand, she has since settled down here and most people know her as the bubbly, quick witted charmer on all the comedic panel and game shows on TV. Why she’s not hosting her own TV shows I do not understand. I’ve enjoyed many of her festival shows over the years, they are always reliable laugh fests to bring friends to. I got to know the more serious and hilarious, feminist side of Cal in her guest appearances at The Shelf and then The Guilty Feminist podcast. There is a sense that Cal has been adding something a bit darker and deeper to her quirky observational humour and it’s fantastic.

The first part of her show about over thinking things is a bit patchy. The music lyric segment might seem to have a wide appeal, but only if you know the songs. The more personal material works better, stories about her family are delightful and warm the audience into her exploration of anxiety which leads further into the risks associated with opening up your personal life to the general public.

Cal has a bit of a survey for the audience to join in on, to help her out with that eternal question “Is it just me?” and we learn that everyone is nervous about some things, and everyone has some quirky fears that are less common. When Cal gets stuck into the fears that most women, in particular, share and the fall out from last year’s show, she really shines. She is so passionately articulate, it’s thrilling to watch her go and the laughs keep coming. This is Cal that fans who listen to Guilty Feminist podcast know and love. I wished the whole show was an hour of THAT. Exploring, anxiety, shame and embarrassment with comedy, how they can cripple you, and looking back, how there are people who can use your anxiety against you, to try to keep you in your place.

Hindsight is a very apt and droll title for this show, once you understand the reference. Cal Wilson is funny and adorable and searingly smart, but she’s also as tough as the gorgeous boots she wears.

Hindsight is on at the Victoria Hotel – Banquet Room until April 22

Woah Alyssa! 1 – Colwyn Buckland and Filip Lescaut

By Erin Hill

Woah Alyssa! 1 is a dangerously well-crafted sketch show, its performers Colwyn Buckland and Filip Lescaut weave multiple storylines and characters together, peppering in joyful absurdism and acerbic social commentary with equal skill. Woah Alyssa! 1 is a richly satisfying exploration of a world created by two boyfriends and three white boxes.

Buckland and Lescaut mock the obsession we have with fame and celebrity as a running theme throughout the show. A breakdown of the history of same sex “smooches” on television throws impressive shade at the representation of homosexual relationships in the media. The theme continues in sketches to follow, allowing Buckland’s portrayal of an ageing bigoted former TV star to be particularly poignant. The weight of the themes is not lost on the performers and the recognisable truth in the faux pas they demonstrate bolsters both the comedy of their depictions and the bite in the statements they make.

But for the most part this show is a delightful and impressively well-knit cache of comic characters playing out hilarious scenes. There is a Love Actually reference for keen eyed audience members, which I enjoyed markedly more than anyone else on the night I attended. Woah Alyssa! 1 also includes the best use of a Pussycat Dolls sting that I have ever been privileged enough to witness. This show is full of laugh-out-loud moments and characters you want to see again.

Buckland and Lescaut are effortlessly endearing and their obvious chemistry is incredibly watchable. For a sketch show that pulls engrossing threads together with enviable wit and ease, Woah Alyssa! 1 is a sure bet.

Woah Alyssa! 1 is on at Hare Hole at Hares & Hyenas

Sparrow-Folk – Nest Friends

By Colin Flaherty

Accessorised with ukuleles, backing tracks and lots of sparkly / shiny things, Sparrow-Folk: Fox (Catherine Crowley) and Lark (Juliet Moody), sing us amusing songs about the trials and tribulations of the modern woman. While this set list doesn’t exactly stick it to the patriarchy, these are silly tunes that keep everyone chuckling.

While the duo can certainly belt out a tune, they don’t have the angelic harmonies of other musical comedy groups. This was amplified by the low volume of the backing track (lowered probably due to noise bleed issues in this venue earlier this festival) and the fact that they often sing in character.

“This isn’t a music review” I hear you shout, “Are they funny?”

I’m getting to that!

They cheekily compare themselves to fellow Canberrans the Doug Anthony All Stars and while they do regularly get raunchy, they aren’t nearly as subversive. Endless double entendres are used to poke fun at the inadequacies of their men-folk and when covering the annoying minutiae of life, they get plenty of knowing chuckles from the ladies. There are some clever tunes that delve into the minds of these two quirky characters as they sing about their off centre internal thoughts and generally act wacky while tackling serious topics. They have an impressive party piece where they construct a song using text messages from random punter’s phones and a rather disturbing puppet performance shocks and titillates.

Just like all comedy duos before them, Sparrow-Folk incorporate humorous bickering into their set with Lark usually playing the silly one and Fox the Straight Woman. The way that these flare-ups are handled mid song is odd to say the least. The tune grinds to a halt, leaving the audience wondering if that’s the end of the song (it usually is). They end on a clunky Eurovisionesque reveal that doesn’t lead cleanly into their final number, making them look awkward for a song celebrating being strong women.

Nest Friends might be a fun show for a girls naughty night out on the sauce. Gather your Gal Pals and have a rollicking time.

Nest Friends is on at the Imperial Hotel until April 22