Wednesday 13 April 2011

Melbourne for Laughs

This week's guest blogger is fantasy novelist Narrelle M Harris, author of the Melbourne Literary app for the iPhone and iPad. 

She's giving tips on what to see at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the city's biggest cultural event...

Melbourne has a reputation as a city of festivals. Drop in at any time of the year and you’re bound to fall over a festival.

In April, the festival that everyone is tripping over is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

The three-week bonanza of stand-up, sketch, musical, theatrical and just plain strange laughs brings visitors from all over the state, the country and the world. Even non-English speaking comedians come and try their luck from time to time.

Melbourne never really shuts down, but at festival time there’s a distinct buzz in the atmosphere. With so many people gathering at the festival focal point, the Melbourne Town Hall, as well as dozens of venues across town for a good ol’ belly laugh, the atmosphere is conspicuously convivial.

Come to repeat Comedy Festivals and you’ll see yesterday’s newcomers become today’s old hands. I’ve been watching Lawrence Leung since his first show, Sucker (in fact, here's my 2001 review of the show). He’s become one of the big names now, one of those 'guys off the telly'. His show this year, Lawrence Leung Wants a Jetpack continues with his onstage theme of 'adorable geek seeks more fun geek things in his life'.

Another highlight of this year’s offerings is Russell Kane’s brilliantly funny exploration of his relationship with his father. Kane’s fey stage persona is a fabulous contrast to those moments when he channels the fierce, tough Essex man. I also like Maria Bamford’s curious and compulsive show in which she seems to be possessed by a particularly manic pixie.

I have a soft spot for political comedy, though few people do it well. Mat Kenneally’s show, based on the time he accidentally got locked into the Maribyrnong Detention Centre, is one that works and is worth seeing.

As a writer and editor, I also couldn’t resist Mark Butler’s show for grammar nerds, Grammar Don’t Matter on a First Date.  He somehow marries the intellectual humour of caring about apostrophes with the earthier humour of sex and dating... though I’ll admit my preference for jokes about punctuation.

There really is something for everyone. Sammy J’s musical comedy is always a good bet, and there are a number of 'umbrella shows' which present several acts giving fifteen minute tasters of what to expect at their headline shows. I’m also hoping to check out Deanne Smith and Andrew McClelland, among others.

So if you’re planning a trip to Melbourne, time it for the annual Comedy Festival. It'll be fun; and if you’re arriving from Europe or the Americas, you'll need a good laugh after that long flight.

This post is sponsored by JetAbroad. Visit their website if you’re looking for flights to Turkey or other favourite holiday destinations from Melbourne Airport.

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