An Introduction to the Melbourne Comedy Festival

This is the piece I wrote for the Inpress 2011 Melbourne Comedy Festival guide.

1987:  I remember it like it was just 25 years ago.

A momentous year as Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame; The Simpsons made their debut on the Tracey Ullman show and Lance Franklin was born taking a mark and playing on to kick a behind.

Now before you think this is just a recounting of information you can find on Wikipedia I need to tell you that this was also the year of the inaugural Melbourne International Comedy Festival; a Festival so successful that Sydney is attempting to copy it, Adelaide is content with a Fringe and Brisbane declared “We like rugby”.

Looking through the list of performers who attended that first festival is breath taking.  The Doug Anthony All Stars starred in a time before their costumes took on a life and a smell of their own.  Rod Quantock was already reinventing what stand up means before it even had time to realise what it actually was.  Gina Riley was beginning to flex her considerable comedic muscle and talent.  This is not to forget the brilliant Glenn Robbins, the fantastic Wendy Harmer and the ground breaking Los Trios Ringbarkus.  The Festival was launched by two legends of the comedy world:  Peter Cook and Barry Humphries.  We honour their legends by ironically naming a bar after Peter and what sounds like an award for best Bogan after Barry.

25 years later we have seen some of the greatest comedians rise up to shape the entertainment landscape.  Wil Anderson proved that if you put your name in a title every year it would go from cute to ho hum to brilliant.  Judith Lucy declared through her actions that you should participate in the festival only when you have something interesting to say.  Greg Fleet blended the surreal with the real to such an extent I’m not even certain he knows what is reality anymore.  Who can forget the excitement of a young Ross Noble stalking the stage like a tiger searching for a link to something he said three hours before?  The ubiquitous Daniel Kitson proved you can use words like ubiquitous on stage.  Maria Bamford debuted with a talent so unique that l learned more in her one-hour show than I did in all of high school.

More importantly the Festival has continued to evolve.  In 1987 it was 56 shows in 33 venues.  This year it is without exaggeration, millions of shows in thousands of venues.  The future of comedy is already here and you can find it in the talent on display in the Comedy Zone, in the delightful candour of Tom Ballard and the whip smart observations of cardigan wearing Mel Buttle.  The stars of tomorrow are already here brushing shoulders with the giants of today.  Jump on board and embrace the ride.  We have a month to celebrate and to be honest I’m just happy to be here.

To check out the app and to purchase tickets for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival season click on “Circular”.

Justin Hamilton

Fitzroy North

30th of March, 2011