Highlights and previous reviews for The Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2022

by Lisa Clark

Welcome to Comedy in 2022. Lots of venues are open and buzzing as comedians all over Australia are getting their shows together, and begin to perform them in Festivals such as Adelaide and Canberra. Here in Melbourne it all still feels a bit weird and little scary, but those getting out there are so happy to feel some sort of shared normalcy. It’s a later than usual Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, which fits in with the later Easter and, well, you know, hopes that infections will go down.

We won’t be able to do as many reviews as we usually do, we will do some reviewing and also promoting shows with our “5 Good Reasons to See….” and so forth. We will also be keeping on top of what’s happening via social media.

As always, there’s something for everyone; from straight standup to sketch, impro, magic, mime, circus, quizzes, cabaret and the totally bonkers weird shit. There’s people off the telly and people off the radio and people who are so hilarious you wonder why they are not.

Ronny Chieng who left us to work on The Daily Show and Hollywood blockbusters is back on his The Hope You Get Rich Tour but get in quick before his short run sells out. Sammy J, now busy breakfast Radio DJ and ABC political satirist, is managing three shows of Symphony in J Minor that will also go quickly. It’s exciting to see Carl Barron make a rare appearance as part of the festival as well as Laura Davis returning from London to perform If This Is It and Judith Lucy and Denise Scott are Still Here.

I recently saw Oliver Hunter working on his show On a Roll, he is a fantastic up and comer who like most up and comers has actually been doing comedy for 6 years. Kit Richards, an amazingly talented up and comer, will be burning some bridges, no doubt, in the sarcastically titled The Nicest Guy in Comedyand. Ben Russell & Maggie Looke will be doing comedy walking tours (Ultimate Hollywood Tours – It’s a Moosehead show!). Rob Hunter is doing a Late O’Çlock 10 year anniversary show that should be as wild and silly as we have come to expect. Some comedians are doing second shows; Guy Montgomery is doing Friday night Spelling Bees, Anna Piper-Scott will be creating an improvised show on the spot for three nights in Is This Anything?  and Josh Earl is doing his final live Don’t You know Who I Am? Podcast recordings, which will go out with a bang, including the 300th special edition show.

It wouldn’t be a MICF without Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. We’ve reviewed it many times – hard to resist the lure of a free meal for a poor hungry reviewer – but actually everyone I know who’s seen it had a fabulous time!

After last year, proving we don’t actually need them, it’s quite lovely to see our dear overseas family return (well some of them have married Australians) Ross Noble, David O’Doherty, Carl Donnelly, Arj Barker and Stephen K Amos. We can only Hope that Fern Brady and Flo and Joan become firm regulars too.

Do our New Zealand regulars even count as overseas, how are Guy Montgomery and Urzila Carlson not living here?

Most performers have somehow worked up Fresh shows for 2022 and a few are offering shows again, with a refresh and a chance for you to catch up if you missed it the first time.

 Here are some shows we reviewed earlier:

Big Big Big: Catching Jack

By Lisa Clark



Breast of the Fest x2


By Jess Welch


By Hooi Khaw


Diana Nguyen : Chasing Keanu Reeves (an Encore)

By Nick Bugeja


Emo Majok: Black Santa (Returns)

By Nick Bugeja



Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

By Ron Bingham



Emo: Black Santa

By Nick Bugeja 

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is typically dominated by white 30-something comedians, performing sets about inner-city lifestyles, featuring jokes about avocado on toast, yoga, and gluten-free products. These shows grow tiresome very quickly, covering only narrow comedic terrain.

Emo, a Sudanese-Australian comic, represents a refreshing departure from the mundanity of some corners of Australian comedy. This is manifested both in his energised style and bold material. He isn’t afraid to dive into content about race, confronting stereotypes and spinning them into rich comedic moments. People sometimes ask him: ‘what’s the deal with African gangs?’ Emo – whose name is Emmanuel Majok – wonders why they’d think a man dressed in a cardigan would have any idea.

Black Santa is a freewheeling show. You get the sense that each show takes a different form and rhythm, depending on external factors such as crowd participation and time constraints. This hardly detracts from the show, as Emo seems to thrive on spontaneity and the natural energy of the room. His interactions, especially with older white audience members, were a highlight, demonstrating how comedy can bring together diverse communities over the shared joy of laughter.

Emo’s longer-form jokes were the strongest, allowing him to build up a story with several jokes before delivering a climactic moment that tied the narrative together. An incident at a local bottle shop, and another involving Star Wars (the less said the better), were enacted with particular comedic vigour.

There’s little doubt that Emo is an up-and-coming comedian, who brings something new and exciting to Australian comedy. As Emo continues to hone his craft, it’ll be interesting to see where his comedy takes him.

Black Santa is now showing at Fad Gallery until 17 April.

Tickets are available here:


5 Good Reasons To See Emo: Black Santa 

1. Forget the daily hustle of life’s stresses and join in the laughter! Emo will tell you why it’s a bad idea to allow a jolly old man with a white beard to break into your house.

2. Experience culture shock firsthand through the eyes of a South Sundanese refugee.

3. Emo is an award-winning comedian and has a true gift for taking you on a journey through his storytelling.

4. Emo has not only performed across Australia, but through some of America’s biggest cities. From Toronto and at the JFL Comedy Festival in Montreal, all the way to New York City.

5. Not only is he exciting to listen to, but he’s also actually not bad to look at either.

Emo performs Black Santa at Fad Gallery Mar 25 – Apr 17

Tickets Available Here:  https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2021/shows/black-santa

The Raw Comedy National Grand Final 2018

By Hooi Khaw 

After judging more than 1000 entrants, Raw Comedy brings 12 national finalists to the stage to compete for the opportunity to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The Raw Comedy National Grand Final is hosted by the amicable Ivan Aristeguieta who is warm and personable, and keeps the energy high for all of the contestants throughout the show.

Gavin Sempel starts the show, immediately getting the audience onside with commentary about his slender appearance, moving onto humorous anecdotes from his life. Having seen his set at the state finals, there is something in his delivery that is still joyfully entertaining to watch the second time around.

Sian Smyth follows next, with some polarizing punch lines. The topics span from social work, to porn, to Gandhi, and she provokes both cheers and groans from the audience at different points.

The third contestant is Jane New, whose distinctive stage persona could be easily attributed to nerves. She distinguishes herself as a writer, rather than a comedian, and she gets sprinkled laughter as the crowd warms to her particular brand of humour.

Alex Hall-Evans starts the second bracket speaking of sexiness, and his humour seems typically millennial. Hall-Evans interacts well with the crowd, and generously applies hyperbole to get the laughs.

Next up is Emma Holland who uses a paper fortuneteller to warm up the crowd. She succeeds with weirdly specific questions, and the genius is in the deliberately warped assumptions inherent in those questions. Holland then moves onto translating emojis for the crowd, and the explanations get progressively more absurd as she cycles through them.

Scout Boxall follows next, specializing in earnest set ups, which are then contrasted with on the nose absurdity. The laughs come from hitting the target of the criteria that Boxall has set, but also from the weird exploration of the themes, and the contrast between them. Boxall is a standout, closing her set with the only musical number of the show.

Bronwyn Kuss is deadpan in discussing body image and self esteem, but there is something unconvincing in the delivery that the audience struggles to relate to.

Next, Emo bursts onto the stage with a strong stage presence, interacting with the crowd, and mining themes of race, and sex for comedy. Although the material is not the most original from the night, Emo gets the crowd laughing with his charisma and classic jokes.

Ryan McArthur follows with his set focused on awkward experiences. The first example lands well, and the audience audibly relates. From there it starts to feel more like someone venting about experiences that they can’t let go of, and the audience is unwilling to follow McArthur down this path of indulgence.

Matthew Vasquez starts the last bracket with some racial humour relating to his South American heritage. Vasquez’s style is distinctive, in that he seems to say a punch line, and hold for applause or laughter. It’s surprising to see how often this pays off, and you can hear the audience catching up with Vasquez’s thoughts as pockets of laughter start bursting in the crowd during the pause.

Bec Melrose delivers one of the more varied sets of the night. With cleverly constructed jokes, Melrose explores issues of gender, politics, and productivity with a clear point of view.

The last contestant for the night is Kevin Jin, who speaks mostly about race and dating. Although these topics are frequently visited in stand up, Jin is still able to surprise and delight with his take on these. Jin has an affable style, and his comedy is easy to enjoy.

Without spoiling the big reveal for when the Raw Comedy National Grand Final is aired on SBS, it is safe to say that there was fierce competition this night, and throughout the state level heats. Although only one lucky winner gets the prize of a trip to Edinburgh, it’s clear that there is a bright future ahead of all of these brave, funny, and clever stand ups.

Raw Comedy National Grand Final was on April 15 at The Melbourne Town Hall.