Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Melbourne goes crazy for the next 25 days with the 31st Comedy Festival… Get this, more than 2,000 comedians from 15 countries, with many international superstars of comedy side by side with the new breed and many first-timers, a whopping 544 shows, performed in 100 venues, totalling more than 6,860 performances, with more than 700,000 comedy fans.
This festival is one of the biggest comedy festival in the world and the biggest festival in Australia, it officially kicked off at the launch the other day at the Forum Theatre (one of the major venues for the festival) hosted by Judith Lucy and Denise Scott [two legends of comedy] in a bed, with a couple of comedy acts to get the media in the mood, then of course the kind of formal speeches, that night was the mega annual Comedy Allstars Supershow at the Regent Theatre – 2,500 people.
Most of the performances are “stand up” comedians, so my big question is, is stand-up an art form? On my Sunday Arts Magazine show – JOY94.9, I asked celebrity comedian Lawrence Mooney that question. He came up with a good answer…yes! As he said he started out as the class crown at school, he then fell into theatre, where he always got the comedy side kick roles. Then a friend said he should give stand up a go and it worked, but he went onto say, the art is coming up with the concept/idea, writing the script, then the act of delivering like an actor would. My observation of a large percentage of comedians, that once you get them of stage they are quite shy people – Lawrence Mooney isn’t, that’s called adlibbing, to me it’s a real art form.
Anyway back to the festival, there a quite a few festival hubs around town with the major hub being Melbourne Town Hall (they even change the light globs around the building to give it a happy face), using every available space within the building, some shows only have an audience of 10 people as it might be in a broom closet or even fewer people with the performance in a life, that show only lasts for about 2 minutes, or as long as it takes for the lift to go up and down.
The buzz out the front of the Town Hall is incredible, with performers spruiking their shows, it can be quite funny and the punters take flyers of interest and of course the hordes of people lining up for the whatever show they are seeing, lots of new friends are made chatting with the people around you…most shows run for about 60 to 90 minutes.
There is always free performances on the outdoor stages, you often see the up-and-coming comedians, or some really bad performances.=, which all adds to the magic.
Situated on the forecourt of the Arts Centre, most years The Famous Spiegeltent is in town for the festival (if not this festival, it comes for the arts festival), as its traveling the world the rest of the year. There are only a few of the tents in existence in the world, originally built in Belgium around 1910-1920, they were built as a traveling entertainment venues (non circus), before concert halls were built, hosting some of the world’s greatest performing artist of the day. Made of ornate wooden slates (no nails or screws) they just slot together with a canvas roof, lavishly decorated with mirrors and stained glass, beautiful inside! These days they are often the feature attraction at various international arts festivals. This Famous Spiegeltent, included performances by Marlene Dietrich, who sang “Falling in Love Again” during the 1930’s. Guess what, it’s owned and managed by Melbourne lad, David Bates.
The performances within The Famous Spiegeltent are stand up of course, but mostly cabaret –style comedy, burlesque and Circus…it just suits that style of performance.
Theatre plays a big part in the festival these days, with many comedy plays including musical comedies, this year one of my favourite theatre groups – Metanoia Theatre are presenting the hilarious Argentinian comedy The Omission of the Coleman Family, about a family on the brink of separation, bring it on…
OK, maybe it really is an arts festival as well!
What I really like about this festival is that it gives back, a 16 to 18 year old kid will win best young talent. Then there is the Comedy Festival Roadshow, traveling to all major regional towns, with talented newcomers and international performers, covering all comedy bases, imagine how much fun they will have!
The wonderful thing about this festival is it brings people into the city and a lot of interstate people. Yet another reason to hit the city of Melbourne…Oh also this week the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has started and the International Flower and Garden Show is on this weekend…