Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Some funny shows I saw

Last week I was down south of the border in Old Melbourne Town and saw a whole bunch of great, mostly ‘alternative’ (whatever that means) shows at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A number of them are still performing down there as I type, or are soon to be seen at Sydney Comedy Festival (the one nobody seems to know about), late April/early May. So Melburnians and Sydneysiders, get your arses out of your home theatres, or wherever your arses are, and check out some live shows why not.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall and his Amazing Disappearing Enthusiasm (Can–Aus)

Alasdair
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall’s stomach can be turned into a bum at any time.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall’s amiable, understated demeanour and vaguely James Spader voice will lure you in and amuse you with his collection of random stories. The show centres around the idea that he hates feeling awful and the ways in which he seeks to avoid this. Navigating lady parts, unique methods of dealing with loud flatmates and working out that his gut can actually be moulded into a bum are some of the highly entertaining avenues that he explores to achieve his goal. 

Eric Hutton: Eat My Talk! (Aus)

Eric
Eric Hutton – one of the shiniest cybermen in the Australian alternative comedy scene.

‘Eric Hutton has long been considered one of the shiniest cybermen in the Australian alternative comedy scene’ says Eric’s blurb, getting my award for best line in the MICF program. Unfortunately, Melbourne seemed largely oblivious to this on the night we went to see him, with the small audience being made up of other comedians and friends. He therefore performed a hilarious sort of deconstructed anti-show, giving amusing insights into his jokes/stories, sharing background anecdotes and regaling us with tales of various audience responses to his material. The highlights were the bits in character, especially the climactic dramatisation when Eric Hutton, President of the World, tries to take on ISIS with his bare hands – a crazy-hilarious scene that stayed with me throughout the festival. Amazing stuff.

Discover Ben Target (UK)

ben target
Discover Ben Target and it will change your life. (Not guaranteed.)

If you’re the kind of person who hates audience interaction at comedy shows, this might not be for you. However, I am exactly that kind of person and I loved this. We walked into the room . . . except we couldn’t – there was a toilet-paper web across the aisle. We were told by the sound guy not to break anything and had to clamber through it Entrapment-style to our seats. Which were jammed so closely together that we had to separate out the rows before we could even sit down. Then Ben Target rode in on his bicycle in his dishevelled cream suit and used an unnecessary stepladder to climb the one step to the stage. The show unravelled beautifully from there into a well-orchestrated, prop-heavy, awkwardness-inducing, nightmarish team-building exercise. It was one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever experienced.

Mark Watson: Flaws (UK)

mark watson
Mark Watson manages to mine his inner demons and find laughs.

Last time I saw Mark Watson was what seems a looong time ago, in good ol’ 2008, at Hifi Festival Bar where he hosted a 24-hour stand-up show. One of the best things about him is his manic ability to make you feel like you’ve seen three shows for the price of one – he manages to cram several sentences (and jokes) into the space that people normally reserve for one. It was great to see him again, although there was a different vibe this time – it was clear he’d been through the wringer in the past year or so. Part of his undoing came at the premiere of the Thomas the Tank Engine movie, and with assistance from audience members he recreated this hideous experience for our entertainment. The usually very upbeat, rapid-firing Brit has ably transformed some of his darkest moments into sometimes poignant, mostly laugh-out-loud anecdotes – no mean feat.

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