Dan and Mia’s Guide to the Comedy Festival

The Average Punter’s Guide to The Comedy Festival

by Dan Walmsley and Mia Anstee

Last year, when I was working at Sputnik, I wrote a short run-down of which shows to see and why (I’ve been in and out of the comedy industry for a few years). People liked it, so here it is again for 2009.

If you want a more detailed explanation of what this list is and how we decided what to put in it, skip to the background.

So! Without further ado, here’s the list in reverse alphabetical order (because the guide is in alphabetical order, we seek to redress that imbalance… also it means Karin’s show is first…):

World War Wonderful


Karin Muiznieks, Erin Newington and Louise McCrae

They Say:

Get conscripted and sign up for the most explosive musical comedy ever to leap from a fighter jet.

When the world’s in perpetual warfare someone should be making a profit! Join musical trio The Wonderful Sisters as they dance and dazzle their way through a classic 1940’s style USO show.

Their angelic voices and toe-tapping tunes will have you lock-n-loading before you can say ‘Left wing conspiracy!’. Because all’s fair in love and war…but nobody ever mentioned peace.

From the genius behind Give My Regards To Broady. Starring Karin Muiznieks, Erin Newington and Louise McCrae.

We Say:

Karin is a comedic force of nature who brings not just comedic skills but also serious musical chops. She’s the only performer I know who can go from tapdancing to intellectual barb in under 10 seconds. Her accomplices on this show include Erin Newington, who is the ultimate triple-threat, and Louise McRae who I only met recently but holds character better than a young Marlon Brando at a Brooding convention.

Guaranteed fun.

You will like it if:

You like your international politics mixed with singalong tunes and great characters.

Time Ninjas


Andrew McClelland and Lawrence Leung

They Say:

Lawrence (Learns To Breakdance, Choose Your Own Adventure ABC1) and Andrew (History of Pirates, Mix Tape) have stumbled upon time travel. Now they’re going forward to the past to make things better. Hopefully.

The duo who asked you to join their Somewhat Secret Secret Society Show present a mind-bending comedy that will go down in history…or potentially destroy it.

We Say:

Lawrence and Andy both have huge and well-deserved followings. They take geeky delight in poking fun at history, science, religion, and anthropology, and this show plays to their strengths. Having spent a year or two creating solo shows, this is a much anticipated reunion of a duo that helped create a whole new genre of absurd, passionate, smart comedy in Melbourne. Expect cool props.

You will like it if:

You’ve ever giggled at something in a Library or Museum.



Matt Elsbury

They Say:

It seems that when someone wants to sell you something – a crap product, a dumb idea, even just the status quo – they figure it’s allowed to be stupid, so long as it’s shiny. They think we’re all too busy or bored to pay attention, and we’ll stay focused on the polish, rather than the turd underneath.

Time to stand up.

Time to make some mischief.

Time to go over the wall.

We Say:

This is the year Elsbury shifts into the high gear we always new he had. The man was always a gleaming black tower of cynicism – now watch as that tower shoot flames out the top. Matt always makes me laugh and has some killer one-liners, and his humour is as dry as a sand-martini.

You will like it if:

You like your comedy with a heaping dose of “Hell yeah!”.

The Bedroom Philospher – Songs from the 86 tram


The Bedroom Philosopher

They Say:

Twelve characters. Twelve different songs. One amazing tram. The Bedroom Philosopher is your driver on this special route, conducting the hilarious, outrageous and beautiful voices from Melbourne’s most thrilling roller-coaster. It’s tramtastic.

We Say:

The Bedroom Philosopher is incredibly clever. I mean, this man can write. Sure, sometimes it’s a series of earth-shattering puns, but it could also be the cleverest rhyme you’ve heard all year or a spark of insight from a completely unexpected angle. He’s also a great comedic songwriter, and adorable. You will laugh. But be warned, he won’t pause to let you catch up. If you don’t get it, you really won’t get it.

You will like it if:

You ever pictured the love child of Spike Milligan and Jarvis Cocker and got shivers of delight.

Tale of Two Cities


Daniel Moore

They Say:

Strap in funky trunks, it’s time again for shits and giggles!

Daniel Moore (contributing writer for Frankie, J Mag) and singer/songwriter Emma Heeney (Triple J Unearthed) bring you stories and jokes, accompanied by music in Tale of Two Cities, a show about Melbourne and Sydney.

We Say:

I first saw Daniel in the basement of a backpackers, and …



Janelle Koenig

They Say:

Once Australian comedy’s poster girl for raucous promiscuity and the wanton single girl lifestyle, Janelle Koenig is changing her ways…

At 8½ months pregnant with her first baby, she’s here to tell you she’s not sporting a muffin top, it’s a bun in the oven, and she’s trading in her handbags for nappy bags and stilettos for sterilisers*.

Janelle will share the highs and lows of impending motherhood with brand new stand-up and song, from embryo to epidural and from conception to colostrum.

Strap yourself in (stirrups optional), take a pregnant pause and see the premiere of Janelle’s debut solo show – before she’s never solo again. You’ll be belly laughing all the way to the sperm bank.

  • she’s not really trading in her stilettos – she’s pregnant, not dead.

We Say:

Janelle is the Queen of “no way you can’t say that hey why am I laughing so much?” comedy. Loud, musical, direct, and happy to cross any line for the sake of a joke or to make an important point. Expect incredibly clever songs.

You will like it if:

Obviously if you’ve ever had or plan to have a baby, which is most people, but also if you like to cheer as a woman says everything you didn’t realise you wanted to say, while knocking a few Janelle-shaped holes in the boundaries of good taste. Though perhaps motherhood has mellowed her?

No More Mister Nice Guy


James Dowdeswell

They Say:

James Dowdeswell is nice. Everyone says so. But after being mugged by school children at a swimming pool, James decided it was time to act. Come see one of the good guys embrace his dark side.

The old James would rather not cause a fuss, always looked on the bright side, and felt trapped by politeness. The new James unbuttons his cardigan, clouts a mugger (adult this time), and gets the girl.

As seen on Paramount Comedy Channel and as Count Fuckula, the cult cameo in Extras (BBC).

We Say:

James is a sweet, smart, relateable comic who has clearly spent a long time honing his craft. Rather than a bunch of one-liners or barbed gags, James embarks on stories filled with real-life characters from his past, and his tenure as part of London’s famed storytellers club shows.

You will like it if:

You ever felt like an outsider.

Never Sweat


Dave Thornton

They Say:

As seen on GNW, Rove and Studio A.

Relatively new to the stand-up game, Dave returns to Melbourne for his third Comedy Festival this year with his trademark honest, laidback and completely engaging style of story-telling.

Since his Best Newcomer nomination in 2007, Dave has continued to forge a definitive career path, accumulating a range of performance credits on TV, radio and stage. Dave is the host of Channel 31’s tonight show, Studio A, which has been nominated for four Antenna Awards, including Outstanding Male Presenter. He has also appeared on Good News Week and Rove, as well as acting in an ongoing role in ABC TV’s Bed of Roses.>.

One of Australia’s best young comics, his career is moving two steps at a time ”“ try and keep up.

We Say:

Dave is an Aussie bloke who you wouldn’t mind having as your best mate. But if you scratch the surface Dave is also a really clever comic who seduces you with his laid-back persona and then delivers some really killer laughs. He is also an excellent impressionist.

You will like it if:

You’ve ever been to the footy and listened to Belle and Sebastian in the same day.

More Josh Than You Can Handle


Josh Thomas

They Say:

As seen on Rove and Good News Week

After shows bordering on the adolescent, Josh returns to Melbourne this year with a show that pretty much has him looking fully hot and telling jokes. You in?

It’s the classic tale of the nerd made good. His endearing humour is tinged with sexual ambiguity, a cheeky tongue and a good dose of neuroses.

After winning Raw Comedy in 2005, Josh went on to pick up the coveted Best Newcomer award at the Comedy Festival. He has gone on to perform at the Edinburgh, Montreal and Kilkenny Comedy Festivals.

Make the Girls Laugh


Lawrence Mooney

They Say:

I was young. I watched a girl laugh, she laughed hard. My mind was set on fire as cold hot laugh fusion blew my world apart.

When women laugh the whole world is happy whether it’s your mum, wife, sister, daughter or in the case of women reading this – you. I love to hear men laugh too so let’s not make a division along gender lines here.

Lawrence Mooney has a wonderfully tilted world-view. This is a meticulous hour of comedy built on a foundation of compassion from an upbeat misanthrope. Hilarious.



Sarah Bennetto

They Say:

Sarah lives in London now. But she’s come home to tell you this story.

You see, Sarah’s the luckiest person you’ve ever met.

She’s won everything: concert tickets, holidays, shopping sprees, the lottery, a car, 27 bottles of hairspray. And she accidentally dined with Prince Charles at the palace.

So, what is luck? The truth is, there’s a point at which most people eschew the pursuit of luck in the name of a nice, normal life.

Sarah is not one of those people.

Her house is full of soup tins with no labels, she has every radio station on speed-dial (but not her mum) and she’s one of ”˜those people’ who camp overnight for concert tickets.

Lucky is the story of wildly seeking your fortune…and the fellow freaks you encounter along the way.

List Operators, The


No names listed.

They Say:

The List Operators are obsessed with lists. They know you are too.

Fresh from the Falls Festival 2009 and their award winning sell-out show at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2008, the darlings of the underground Melbourne comedy scene, The List Operators, are back!

Winners of the Melbourne Fringe Auspicious Arts Awards 2008

We Say:

We saw these guys at The Local last week, and loved them. Quirky, absurd, surreal, confident and inventive.

You will like it if:

You thought A Porthole into the Minds of the Vanquished was slightly too weird.

Last Bucket of Water, The


Adam McKenzie, Robert Lloyd, Tegan Higginbotham

They Say:

The team that brought you Every Film Ever Made are back. Adam, Robby and Tegan have a new mission: Protect Australia’s last bucket of water.

Since their debut in 2006, The Hounds have become one of Australia’s most exciting comedy groups. Playing to sold out crowds over the last two Melbourne Fringe Festivals and nominated Best Comedy Show Adelaide Fringe 2008 .

The Last Bucket of Water is not an after school production about how to save water. It’s a slapstick look at what happens when we finally run out.

We Say:

These guys struck gold a few years ago with Hound of the Baskervilles, creating their own manic, slapstick, pop-culture-laced style — one they refined to near-perfection with “Every Film Ever Made” in 2008. Rob and Adam have been performing professional impro for years and it shows in their ease and pace. Tegan, while much younger, has a huge range and focus and holds her own with the boys.

I saw this in the fringe and it’s a really ambitious show, with some great visual effects and set-pieces. The tone lurches from childlike glee to petulance, darkness, despair and back to glee, sometimes all in under a minute. Hold onto your seat.

You will like it if:

You love The Muppets, The Goodies and Star Wars. These don’t necessarily appear in the show, it’s more an aesthetic thing 😉

Josh Earl is XXVII


Josh Earl

They Say:

One of Australia’s hottest new comics! Josh has been a highlight of the Comedy Festival for the last four years selling out year after year and XXVII should be no exception. Clever comedy that is original, fresh, quirky, musical and very very funny. A must see!

So who is he?

Josh Earl is an adult. Or at least he is meant to be. 27 means you’re an adult right? He feels like one, but when a seven-year-old asked Josh what he wanted to be when he grows up he realised that others didn’t perceive him as one.

He doesn’t drive, has no children, doesn’t (and probably never will) own any property, isn’t married and has never owned a briefcase. But he is punctual, so that’s something.

Hex and the City


Geraldine Quinn

They Say:

Ginger. Female. Single. Childless. In 1645, sell-out rock-comedian Geraldine Quinn (RocKwiz, The Comedy Channel) would’ve been burned as a witch.

Surely 2009 is different! However, we’re still crazy for crystals, mediums and horoscopes. What about, as Farnsy said, the ‘Age of Reason’? Mistaken for Satan’s bit of rough, Geraldine discovers she’s enemy #1. She’s got an hour to restore the world’s sanity before they produce their Jiffy firelighters and get burny.

Superstition. Witch-hunts. John Edwards…Geraldine explodes the secular world’s obsession with the paranormal in this blistering rock opera about pre-judgement, basing decisions on ornithology and spending more time talking to the dead than writing a postcard to your mum.

Featuring Geraldine’s award-winning songwriting (Green Room Awards, 2007) and trademark irreverence, Hex is a hand-clappin’, thigh-slappin’ wild ride towards rationalism. All in killer heels.

It’s for You


Nicky Talacko

They Say:

This show is a celebration…of fear, of failing and of the odd triumph. This show reminds you that life is a gift – go on…take it…it’s for you.
With her clean, positive style of comedy, Nicky is a charismatic performer. She cleverly populates her stories with characters that appear before your eyes. You’ll leave her show feeling good about yourself and about life in general.

Nicky Talacko used to a a UK soap star. Now she’s bringing her solo comedy show It’s For You! to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Following her success last year with her show Cinder-effin-rella, Nicky comes storming back with her ‘second album’ show. It’s scary – how do you follow success? Here’s how: Face it – brace yourself…and throw a huge party!

Am I Strange?


Celia Paquola

They Say:

Someone once told Celia she thought too much… and she thought about it too much.

Am I Strange? is the award winning (Best Comedy Melbourne Fringe 2008) debut solo show of rising stand up comic Celia Pacquola (Fox FM, Good News Week, ABC radio’s Comedy Hour, Rove) who invites you inside her mind…literally…it’s not weird or anything…is it?

Celia takes you inside her mind as she traverses the end of a relationship, exploring issues of betrayal, revenge, love and if it is ever truly possible to wear two odd socks – I mean they’re both socks right?

All the Planet’s Wonders (Shown in Detail)


Josie Long

They Say:

Some superheroes of the Comedy Festival draw pictures on their bellies and believe the best way to save the world is with a bear hug. Josie Long is the biggest, bravest hero of all.

Josie says, ‘Hopefully, this show will be so big and so small that you’ll need a telescope and a microscope. At different times. And full of intrigue like a museum of hand-annotated objects in glass-topped drawers collected by a Victorian madman.’




h3>Adam Vincent
They Say:

I’m happy, I’m fun, I wear suits because I want to seem successful. My mum says I’m neurotic, my girlfriend thinks I’m a petulant child and I probably wouldn’t be doing this show if I could find a decent father figure.

We Say:

Adam Vincent is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in a contradiction wrapped in me, because I’m hugging him, because he’s adorable, and also because he’s tall and I enjoy hugging tall people because I don’t get the opportunity and also it makes me feel safe.

Adam can be incredible dark, incredibly joyful, childlike and honest. He is always entertaining and pushes the envelope without ever straying into true bad taste. He’s an amazing and unique storyteller with a keen sense of the absurd. He’s not a comic who throws pop culture references out at the audience – it’s about relationships, family, and the trials and tribulations of being an animated stick of meat.

You will like it if:

You are a human with a sense of humour.



Sammy J

They Say:

Melbourne’s own Sammy J returns with a brand new comedy musical! Wind the clock back ten years to a time of innocence, floppy disks and awkward erections. The Wonder Years meets Wolf Creek in this twisted tale of schoolyard retribution.

As seen on Spicks and Specks and Good News Week.

At just 25, Sammy J is one of Australia’s rising comedy stars. In 2008 he was nominated for best show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, performed in Edinburgh and London’s West End, toured nationally with the Comedy Festival Roadshow, recorded a comedy play for ABC Radio, and played to packed houses at the Spiegeltent.


For those who don’t keep in touch with the comedy scene, this is your who’s who of the local acts who don’t necessarily get the big press exposure of the internationals, but are usually funnier, more relevant and if you really like them you can take your mates to see them outside the festival!

So essentially, this is the guide for people who want to:

  • Support great local (and one international) comics
  • See something outside the mainstream
  • Laugh their ass off in the process

For space reasons, review quotes, dates and times haven’t been included – just follow the links. Most shows are on 5 or 6 nights a week for 4 weeks.
If anyone feels we’ve left out their favourite comic, drop me a line and I’ll consider adding them to the list.

Also please note that this list is absurdly biased and it’s not even finished – lots of information and shows aren’t in there yet, but since the comedy fest has started I figured I’d put what I’ve written so far up on the ‘net anyway.

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