Category: Comedy

MICF Presents Super Woman Money Program

Showcasing the absurdity of the gender pay gap

By Caitlin McGrane

When I first saw the title for Elizabeth Davie’s Comedy Festival show, Super Woman Money Program, I thought it was a joke. But alas, it is a real thing that real people thought was a good idea. The advice dispensed by overly enthusiastic companies looking to “improve” women’s lives is often truly absurd – in the show’s opening, Davie recounts how she received an email from her superannuation firm with some “advice” for women. The whole situation is infuriating, and Davie does a great job of showcasing the absurdity – from the fact that the gender pay gap even exists in the first place to the range of deeply offensive and infantilizing behaviours women are told to adopt in order to avoid financial ruin.

You’d almost think the system was broken…

When the audience entered the theatre, we were greeted by Davie calmly pacing around the stage – she commanded the space and encouraged the audience to settle in and choose a sticker that best represents their financial situation. Naturally, I chose ‘I have no idea what I am doing.’

The whole show is extremely clever, witty and engaging – there is none of the rambling, off-kilter deviating that sometimes lets down a comedy show. The writing is sharp and tight – directors Shannan Lim and Sharnema Nougar have done a great job weaving together all the different parts of Davie’s story that make her such an interesting performer to watch.

For me, the show really worked well when Davie was riffing on her own experience with financial struggles, including her relationship with an ex-boyfriend who sounds, frankly, like a complete bell end. Her visible vulnerabilities were the parts of the show that really stood out to me, and were closer to my own experience with debt ($60k in HECS – I looked it up) and the laughable suggestion that most Gen Ys might one day own a house (L-O-fucking-L).

Davie’s command of her material and her ideas was impressive – she owned the stage and the room, even making audience participation effective in driving home the way some of us are being screwed by the system. Anyone who’s willing to stand up on stage alone and tell jokes has my total and utter admiration, while Davie might not have had me rolling in the aisles, she made me smile all the way through her show. The biggest laughs for me came during her stand-up sections, when she slowed down and read out some of her emails (sounds weird but isn’t).

I’m interested to see what Davie does next, and would like to see more personal vulnerability in her work, especially through her clowning. The message she imparts through Super Woman Money Program is extremely important and pertinent, but I thought she could tell it perfectly well on her own without needing to sit down and literally tell us a story.

Super Woman Money Program is being performed at Tasma Terrace until 22 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

Photograph: Nayt Housman



MICF presents It’s Not Funny

An eclectic mix of stand-up, sketch and storytelling

By Josephine Burford 

Grief is a funny thing, and while we will all experience it throughout our lives, no two experiences will be the same. It is highly personal, totally individual and, in most cases, a predominantly internal process. Yet, in It’s Not Funny, Fiannah de Rue’s debut solo show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the audience is invited inside the performer’s mind to witness and share in her grief.

An eclectic mix of stand-up, sketch and storytelling, It’s Not Funny itself is de Rue’s distinctive and public method of mourning the early loss of her loss of her father. From the show’s outset, the audience are clearly told two things; firstly, this is a show about death. Fiannah’s father’s death, when she was only 21. It’s tragic, not funny, and if you have a Dad, you shouldn’t talk about it because that’s insensitive. Secondly, you are about to enter Fiannah’s brain, self-described as akin to that of a stoned 13-year-old boy. It is a world of simultaneous paranoia and wonderment, fear and naivety. This is the tone that pervades the whole performance, and while it is certainly endearing, it results in a somewhat chaotic and rambling production.

It’s Not Funny opened on Monday night to a warm and receptive audience who were treated to de Rue’s witty observations delivered with passion, excitement and a healthy dose of self-awareness. As a performer, de Rue is a joy to watch – she effortlessly puts the audience at ease and welcomes them into her charmingly awkward world. Unfortunately, the performance as a whole seemed to be missing something. Filled with self-deprecating humour and amusing stories from her childhood, de Rue’s writing lacked narrative and structure. Even more conspicuous was the fundamental absence of a discussion of death. The audience are introduced to de Rue’s grieving process with the purchasing of a coffin and organisation of the wake – there is no mention of the cause of her father’s death, how she learned of it or how this emotional upheaval has impacted her.

This is perhaps what was most frustrating about It’s Not Funny – there was almost palpable potential. In a venue that might once have been someone’s living room, with minimal technological invasion and clever writing, the opportunity for connection and emotional growth was huge. It made me wish director Hayley Tantau had pushed de Rue further into more confronting and emotional territory. Ultimately, I was left wanting more and sincerely hope that I will be able to see an updated version of this show in a few years time when with greater distance, grief is more able to be reflected upon, and the tragedy is able to be made funny.

It’s Not Funny is being performed at Tasma Terrace until 22 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

MICF presents Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls

Enter the mad, mad world of David Massingham

By Leeor Adar

David Massingham is a one-man show of wonder, and he takes you and your fellow audience on an adventure, and one that requires you to become a part of the act. Now, that isn’t exactly everyone’s taste, but I can assure you that even the wallflowers of the audience had smiles bursting at the seams as Massingham drew them into his mad, mad world.

Set in a gorgeous and intimate room in Tasma Terrace, one really feels like they’re in a boudoir being sketched by an eccentric. With artful use of voice over, and a fantastic set of drawings to accompany his sketches, Sketch Me is an utterly spirited and innovative sketch show. Massingham’s marvellous embodiment of a multitude of characters, and brilliant knack for unique sketch makes this a highly enjoyable show for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Massingham is kind of a big deal already in comedy circles, he’s a state finalist for Raw Comedy Queensland (where he hails from), is a member of The Sexy Detectives, and has been running shows since 2015 for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He swims in his material, and as a comedic improv master, he’s not afraid of his audience, but rather harnesses the audience’s power to his bidding. This particular quality features frequently in his sketches, where he anticipates audience avoidance, and instead turns it into participation. I won’t let on how he does this, but at one point he uses his sketchpad.

Within a series of sketches, some are recurring, and honestly garner the most laughs. I had a perpetual smile on my face, teeth ready for the next toothy laugh. The audience became Massingham’s co-conspirators in the humour on show, and it takes a truly talented performer and sketch writer to harness us all on stage with him. This is what really drives the success of Sketch Me, between the clever plots and puns, Massingham challenges his audience through breaking – no, smashing – through the fourth wall to deliver comedy gold.

David Massingham is a rising star, and I am genuinely excited to see what he sketches next.

Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls plays at Tasma Terrace until 8 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

Photograph: Kris Anderson

MICF presents Massive Bitch

 The eccentric and brutal machine of network television revealed

By Josephine Burford

The realm of daytime TV might seem shiny, smiley and choreographed, but the business of network television can be brutal. In order to win the battle for ratings, the producer must be ruthless. She must court controversy and know which buttons to press and which to leave untouched. She must be, well, a bitch.

Returning to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Massive Bitch, Chelsea Zeller’s one-woman theatrical production flips the focus, revealing the backstage drama of live television and the eccentric cast of characters that create it.

Massive Bitch is built around Victoria Bidder, the fierce producer brought in to resurrect the once great, “Do You Want The Good News?” Having pulled ratings back to respectable numbers, Victoria only needs to survive her sixtieth show and she will be rewarded with an executive role on the production of her choice. But with an inexperienced crew, unpredictable hosts and guests who don’t play by the rules, Victoria’s success is far from guaranteed.

Zeller gives an impressive performance, transitioning smoothly between wildly divergent characters; from the uptight and ambitious host Angie, to the sporting hero now appearing on the latest season of The Bachelor. From the no-nonsense cameraman to the all-nonsense psychic Beverly. Moments of audience interaction are negotiated with care, and the performance feels present – specific to this audience and this night.

This production is filled with familiar and well-worn cultural-political references such as the dual-citizenship scandal, the Me Too movement and Lee-Lin Chin’s exclusive clique of journalistic stars. While Massive Bitch doesn’t add anything new to these issues, the show’s satirical style is refreshingly kind. Together, Zeller and the show’s director Samuel Russo are ridiculing daytime television and its strange inhabitants yet not disrespecting them. It is at once a send up and an affectionate ode to Australia’s attempt at show business.

Given the unavoidable limitations of a shared performance venue, the duo has made the smart decision to keep technical elements to a minimum. Simple shifts in lighting combined with a recurring theme song mark the transitions between on-air and back stage. These are effective, but unobtrusive, ensuring the focus remains where it should: on Zeller’s multitude of characters and the strange people they become under pressure and on camera.

Massive Bitch plays at The Butterfly Club until 8 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

MICF presents RockWiz’s Really Really Good Friday

The tongue in cheek way to celebrate the Easter holiday

By Leeor Adar

RockWiz live out of Hamer Hall on Good Friday is exactly the kind of Easter treat I’m looking for – I just wish it had the seedy intimacy of the Gershwin Room in St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel.

With sell-out seasons in 2016 and 2017, Really Really Good Friday delivers many belly laughs and the antics of RockWiz veterans, Julia Zemiro and Brian Nankervis. It’s an excellent way to start the Easter weekend, with a series of Easter jokes and quiz answers; it’s certainly a tongue in cheek way to celebrate the holiday.

The show begins with a rock quiz for several selected audience members and the top two will sit alongside rock legends in the main leg of the quiz. Joining the talented list of performers on this occasion is Aussie rock legend, Joe Camilleri, The Jezabels’ Hayley Mary, newcomer Alex The Astronaut, Something for Kate’s Paul Dempsey, Gillian Cosgriff and comedian Bob Franklin. RockWiz’s The Orkestra, is accompanied by Vika and Linda Bull, whom serenade and provide musical clues to our panel of artists.

Any given night of RockWiz turns on the unique qualities the performers bring, and 2018’s Really Really Good Friday is no exception. Dempsey blows us away with his voice and music knowledge, Hayley Mary’s wry humour and astonishing vocals give us the much-needed edge of the evening, and Camilleri’s winding tales test Zemiro’s metal as she drives the show on. Standout comedy goes to Bob Franklin and his love of The Wurzels, and Gillian Cosgriff’s musical number on the social media #hashtag-craze. It’s a real cocktail of cool on this stage, and there’s really something for everyone.

I’ve certainly walked away from this 2018 show with a renewed love of certain artists, and others I’ll be keeping my eye on. Do yourself a favour and keep an eye out for some of the Really Really Good Friday comedians featured during the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and take a listen to the rest.

I’m certainly keen to see what Really Really Good Friday brings out of the bag next year for another rock-fuelled night.

Really Really Good Friday ran 30 March. For more information see this Arts Centre page.

Review: A Bit of Shush

Dry wit in a mad world is what Daniel Connell packs into his latest comedy show. 

By Leeor Adar

Rising star of the Australian comedy world, Daniel Connell, returns to the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a Bit of Shush. Since 2009 Daniel has brought his humour to our stages, and had a smashing success with his 2017 act, Stacks On. Daniel made his debut performance at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala and was selected to tour Asia and Australia as part of the Festival Roadshow.

Dubbed as ‘one to watch’, Daniel combines the affable larrikin nature of Dave Hughes with the sharpness of Tommy Little. What makes Daniel a cut above most comedians is his ability to make us laugh without giving in to crassness, to which many of his contemporaries give themselves. Although, he does give us a stirring sausage/refugee analysis that could make you cringe as well as admire the genius of its comparative qualities.

From beginning to end, Daniel keeps pace and keeps the laughs rolling with a dry wit that can be enjoyed by all. In-jokes are established with his audience within the hour, and there is a joyful energy in the air. Although the piece is centred on finding ‘a bit of shush’ in this mad world, the direction of the show takes a few twists and turns, but we are happy to go along with it, particularly when Daniel takes us to Elon Musk’s alternate dimension.

Daniel’s show is one of the high quality acts you can come and watch at the Melbourne Town Hall this comedy fest season, so do yourself a favour and see a Bit of Shush.

Bit of Shush plays at The Melbourne Town Hall until 22 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

Photograph: Nicole Reed



MICF presents The Big HOO-HAA!

The Big HOO-HAA! returns to the Comedy Festival with a duel of dazzling wit.

By Rebecca Waese 

What’s been running every Friday night for 8 years and is still new to the stage every time? It’s The Big HOO-HAA!, Melbourne’s long-standing comedy improvisation battle where the audience’s suggestions prompt two teams of comics to a duel of dazzling wit and spontaneous songs. Usually at home on stage at the Butterfly Club, The Big HOO-HAA! brings a rotating cast of performers to Melbourne Town Hall for opening night mayhem at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

This show, (and I saw the late one at 11 pm), was an energetic blast of good-time feels coming at us hard. The format is designed to pit wits and courage of two comic teams, the Hearts and the Bones, against each other, mediated by a Master of Ceremonies/umpire, and fuelled by the suggestions of the audience. The feeling in the room was warm and creative and the MC, last night played by Dan Debuf, created an atmosphere where the audience was part of the magic and never a target.

Photographs: Mark Gambino

In a series of competitive comedy challenges and games, each team put their heart and wits on the line and the audience voted for a winner. There was spontaneous song-writing, scenes that were re-done in different eras, a Charades-inspired challenge of guess-three-things-about-my-perfect-lover, and a pun-infused round of one-liners with instant death elimination. Not every offer was a winner last night, but it was good for the soul to see the performers laying it out there and there were far more laughs than groans from the Hearts and Bones.

Last night, an entire musical about cheesecake arose from an audience suggestion, and the chorus from Louisa Fitzhardinge’s spontaneous ballad of ‘I’m a Milky Girl’ is still playing in my brain. Sophie Kneebone was also a standout; I particularly liked her Scottish brogue that emerged in a Russian communist party scene and her decision to embrace it. Caleb Garfinkel on guitar was a treat to listen to and set a range of musical moods at the audience’s request.

The rules of improvisation were made clear on stage: accept any offer made, commit to your choices even if they lead you to bizarre places and help out your fellow actor wherever you can. This is undoubtedly what led to the outing of an unusual love affair between Milky Ma (Brianna Williams) and her favourite talking cow, Bessie, (Luke Ryan) which will never happen again. Such is the ‘once upon a time’ quality of The Big HOO-HAA! For clever, rapid-fire comedy that makes you feel part of the winning team, head to The Big HOO-HAA! You’ll be glad you did.

The Big HOO-HAA! plays at Melbourne Town Hall until 21 April.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9245 3788.

Rebecca Waese is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University in the Department of Creative Arts and English.