It’s that time of year again — the Melbourne International Comedy Festival kicks off March 25 and runs until April 19. And while it always brings a certain buzz and bustle to Australia’s most liveable city, there’s only one problem: There are so many shows, it’s hard to make a choice about who to see.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down the list of acts to get along to, let us make things easier for you. These eight performers are Melbourne Comedy Festival stalwarts, so if you haven’t been along to see them in previous years, this group of comedians is the perfect pool to draw from in 2015.
Judith Lucy — Ask No Questions of the Moth
Judith Lucy is synonymous with Australian comedy. She’s hitting the Melbourne Comedy Festival circuit to talk about the truly awful year she had in 2014, which can only mean one thing: Her horrific 2014 will ensure 2015 is the year you get sore abs from laughing at her expense. Her honesty means her comedy can often be shocking, but it’s a style Lucy has got down to an art.
Mark Watson — Flaws
A couple of years ago, I saw Mark Watson and, having never heard of him, I expected very little. It turns out he is an absolute hoot who has been doing the Comedy Festival for years. And as I’m sure most of his Australian audience members will attest to, everything he says is infinitely more hilarious because he says it with a wonderfully adorable British accent. He might be the most endearing comedian I’ve ever seen perform.
Arj Barker — Get In My Head
If there is one thing we know for sure, it’s that Australians can’t get enough of Arj Barker. So much so, it almost seems like he practically lives here. There’s a reason for our national fascination with this American: His particular brand of comedy is all about relatability. Everything he says is hilarious because you know it to be true. Barker is a master observer, so if you’re looking for a good show, get along to observe him make a whole bunch of observations.
Dave Hughes — Pumped
Well, this was an obvious inclusion in the list of Comedy Festival stalwarts. Hughesy might be the most dinky-di Australian among this bunch. After leaving his post on The Project in big part to focus on his stand-up act, you can bet Hughesy’s performance will have you laughing heartily throughout. And while we’re sure you’re not unfamiliar with swearing in a comedy act, it might be pertinent to note here that Hughesy’s comedy act doesn’t have the same language restrictions he’s had to work with on TV and radio.
Tom Ballard — Taxis & Rainbows & Hatred
Although he’s pretty young and hasn’t been on the stand-up circuit for quite as long as some of these other comedians, Tom Ballard has well and truly established himself as a must-see at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. This year’s show will see him talk about something bizarre that happened to him in a taxi. If you know anything about Ballard’s comedy stylings, then you’ll know that honesty about love and sex is usually a focus of his routine, truly earning him the “fearless” title that seems to have become attached to his name.
Fiona O’Loughlin — The One Where She Left Her Husband and Moved To Melbourne
If you want to talk about true stalwarts of comedy, then you cannot go past Fiona O’Loughlin. If you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in O’Loughlin’s life over the past few years, then you’d know that they haven’t been easy for one of our comedy legends. But all that means is that she has a great deal of fodder for this new show. O’Loughlin’s wit and charm has always been fuelled by her ability to talk about her experiences — both good and bad — in a truly honest and self-deprecating manner. She’s a true survivor and one not to be missed.
Denise Scott — Mother Bare
One need only look at Denise Scott to laugh; her facial expressions are just hilarious. There’s a reason she won the Barry Award for the best show at last year’s Comedy Festival, so if you missed her last year, fear not, because she’s bringing back her award-winning performance to this year’s festival. Her observational brand of comedy will have you ROFLing all over the joint — and that’s a promise.
Joel Creasey — The Hurricane
So, you might be wondering how someone as young as Creasey can really qualify as a Comedy Festival “stalwart”, and the answer is that, sure, he hasn’t been around all that long and he might not quite be a stalwart, but he certainly qualifies as a staple. You may have caught him on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here, or you may have seen him open for Chelsea Handler when she toured Australia late last year. And if you saw him during the latter, then you’ll know that perhaps Handler should have opened for him given how sidesplittlingly hilarious he was.
All images courtesy of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.