Melbourne Fringe Festival – Awards and Wrap Up

By Lisa Clark 

We’ve had a wonderful Melbourne Fringe Festival which was full of all things creative and wacky including, a show in a car (Equal Best Performance Winner: Dion), a shop window (Winner of Best Ideas and Words Award: Between Two Lines) and one in a huge space with only two audience members (Equal Best Performance Winner: Blindspot). We here at Squirrel Comedy are mostly interested in Comedy. That’s not to say that we didn’t see funny shows in other catagories or that there were some rather unfunny shows that found their way into the Comedy section, but, hey this is Melbourne Fringe and it’s all about mixing it up and taking risks. sammy-j-award-winner

Congratulations must first go to Best Comedy winner Sammy J who has created his Opus Magnus in Hero Complex. A work that had everyone who headed out to the Northcote Town Hall to see it howling with laughter, cheering and crying with pure joy. I saw a lot of great shows at the festival but could not imagine any I missed were better than this – in any category – and couldn’t be happier with its Best Comedy Award win. An autobiographical show with a sprinkling of his brilliant comedy songs and a lot of surprises that must be kept secret, making it difficult to review. Except to say that it is a celebration of unpopular nerdy passions, in this case comic book hero The Phantom, but of course it’s about much, much more. Look out for it at Melbourne International Comedy Festival and other Festivals no doubt, just don’t miss it.

Winner of the Queensland Tour Ready Award was another stunning autobiographical comedy; Isamofarcist by Sami Shah who’s come to Melbourne from Afghanistan via studying in the USA and living in Western Australia. Sami has been doing excellent stand up around Melbourne for the past year about religion, politics and other dangerous ideas in a very accessible, warm and hilarious way. A comedian who’s definitely worth going out of your way to see if you like your comedy smart. Queenslanders can look forward to seeing Isamofarcist  next.

More congratulations to one of the hot tickets at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Andre Tonight! by Chris Ryan and special secret guests that had everyone whispering that this was a must see. It won The Discovery Award and was a discovery to everyone who managed to get seats in the Rehearsal room (now with raked seating). Chris’s character reminded me of an Epping based Norman Gunston, a beautifully rounded sad sack character with a dream to be a TV Tonight Show host and some of his dreams came true in Andre Tonight! Another show to look forward to when it pops up again.

A Squirrel discovery at Melbourne Fringe was another amazingly strong character comedy Cindy Salmon’s Empowerment Hour. The show is a send up of an American “empowering” daytime TV host such as Tyra Banks or Bethenny Frankel (the 2nd rate Oprahs). Hayley Tantau’s, Cindy Salmon is one of the most powerful high status creations on the Australian stage right now. A high status character that can be hilariously satirical, wildly inspiring, teetering on the monstrous and yet somehow sympathetic is rare among current female comedians (I can think of Sarah Ward’s Yanna Alana and Queenie Van de Zandt’s Jan Van de Stool). Hayley pulls it off; sustaining it for a full hour without dropping her perfect American accent once, while keeping the audience on side despite some hilariously appalling behaviour. Go see comedy Cindy Salmon’s Empowerment Hour if it pops up near you and we’ll be keeping an eye on Hayley Tantau.

Here are some of the Award Winners that might interest our readers:

Best Comedy:

Sammy J – Hero Complex

QLD Tour Ready Award, supported by Brisbane Powerhouse:


The Discovery Award, supported by Melbourne Festival:

Andre Tonight! by Chris Ryan

NSW Tour Ready Award, supported by Sydney Fringe:

Tina Del Twist GOLD CLASS by Wes Snelling

Best Venue:

Hare Hole – Hares & Hyenas

For a Full List of Awards presented by the Melbourne Fringe Festival see their website

5 Good Reasons to See Queenie van de Zandt perform Jan van de Stool: I Get the Music in You

1. According to Channel 9 – I am ‘Australia’s Next Great Comedian’

When I burst into the world’s lounge rooms on the mega-ratings** hit Australia’s Got Talent, I was a bit concerned that people laughed. Then I remembered that people laugh when they are dealing with their fears, and clearing their blockages – that is why people have been laughing at me for years.

Later I learned that some comedians do the ‘edgy’ stuff, and take the audience to the ‘dark places’, where nobody laughs. I have also been doing that to my students for years. So really, I am the ultimate package.

**I may have exaggerated the ratings bit.

2. My Students

My workshop (I.e. show) is about me healing the damaged, broken little people who come to my course through my ‘healarious’ therapy. They need me, they really do. Without me, they will go home still damaged, still broken. But if you don’t come to watch, I am not healing anyone. I am not a charity.

3. Diversity

You could listen to a skinny white man talking about his shortcomings, but I have to do that at home for free, because I married one. Not that Pieter, my husband and cousin, is funny, but it’s pretty much the same thing.

Instead, how about you come to the only workshop in town that is by a woman who is Dutch? I am that woman. Do your bit for diversity, Australia.

4. World Peace

Michael Jackson sang “Heal the world, make it a better place”. And he didn’t quite heal the world, did he? In fact he pretty much did the opposite if you believe the rumours. I don’t, but I am modestly taking on the Michael Jackson challenge: for you, and for me, and the entire human race.

5. I have great reviews

This is what other people have said: “had the audience in stitches” Sun Herald andmy face hurt from laughing so much”  So there.

Jan van de Stool, International Musical Therapist

Queenie van de Zandt performs Jan van de Stool I Get the Music in You at Trades Hall

For further information check the MICF website: