A Tribute to Melbourne Comedy Festival

Despite Glasgow and the Fringe, Scotland doesn't have a monopoly on comedy festivals. Edinburgh based Aussie Shannon Dymond introduces us to her hometown and one of the best comedy festivals in the world, as it celebrates a special birthday

Feature by Shannon Dymond | 24 Feb 2016
  • Melbourne Comedy Festival

One look at our last Prime Minister is evidence enough that we Aussies love a bloody good laugh.

Maybe the isolation did it to us. After all, when you live in a part of the world where 90% of the wildlife wants to murder you, there's little choice but to develop perspective.

Our sense of humour is best demonstrated in Melbourne, which has a long and special relationship with comedy and this year its festival celebrates 30 years.

Like Glasgow Comedy Festival, with which it overlaps on the calendar this year, Melbourne is one of the few festivals dedicated solely to comedy. Furthermore, it is now one of the most prestigious, and also the third largest, comedy gathering in the world. Described as the festival 'where the comedians come out to play' it is more laid back than its rivals in Montreal and Edinburgh. In fact, Melbourne is something like the Bogan Brother to the Fringe, driving along in the ute and not even bothering to check to see if the dunny is filled with redbacks.

This carefree atmosphere goes back to its origins. The first festival opened with a media conference co-hosted by the somewhat 'tired and emotional' Peter Cook and the legendary Barry Humphries, who in character as Sir Les Pattinson dropped his trousers. With this image in mind, it's fitting that the prestigious main comedy awards in Melbourne are named after him.

The awards generally are also a bit more lighthearted. In Melbourne there's even a Piece of Wood Award, which is the comedians' vote for someone who is "doing good stuff n that." By the way, not only is this wood award an official gong, "doing good stuff" is the official criteria and description. Needless to say the award is also, quite literally, a piece of wood. These awards sure smile more than some we might mention sponsored by a certain, ahem, Australian lager.

Following what's happening in Melbourne in March and April is also a good way to get ahead of the curve for Edinburgh in August.

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More from our Comedy Spotlight:

Amy Gledhill Amy Gledhill on moving to Manchester and fighting whales

Brendon Burns Fringe Dog interviews Brendon Burns

Did you know about 100 acts at last year's Fringe were Aussies? Anyone following or visiting Melbourne last year would have known Sam Simmons, Corey White and Sarah Kendall had guaranteed hit shows. Indeed, Simmons scooped the Barry award ahead of his Foster's win in August.

In Edinburgh, the Gilded Balloon in particular has a reputation for being so welcoming to Aussies that Karen Koren may as well light-up the BBQ and put on the snags herself. Frenchy and Neel Kolhatkar are just two of the new generation of Australian comedians who hopped from Melbourne to the Balloon last year. 

The Melboune finale leads up to one almighty gala, broadcast on our illustrious Channel 10, and this year presented by another Fringe regular Celia Pacquola. It's a major fundraiser for Oxfam, and it's reassuring we can help the less fortunate people in the world before our Government has a chance to drown or imprison them.

Overall the gala is two and half hours of the best acts just talking shit. That's what Aussies do best, we just talk shit. Adam Hills once explained this was a major difference between Australian comedy and the rest of the world. It's talkin' shit and platypuses that have made Aussies famous around the globe. 

Harmony is a near impossible thing to reach, but Aussies come bloody close to it by not taking ourselves seriously. How could we when our national dish is Vegemite?

Melbourne Comedy Festival runs from 23 Mar-17 Apr http://comedyfestival.com.au