MICF: Justin, Isabel & Rachel, David, and Bryony

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is off and running. There’s only one way to do it: go hard, be brave and know that The Supper Inn will be open at midnight when you haven’t had time to have a meal.

Then spend the next day wondering how on earth you can do it again the next night, let along the next month.

Justin Hamilton
Justin Hamilton

I started easy with Justin Hamiton’s secret squirrel preview of his new show on Monday night.

In 2012, he said goodbye to stand up but went on to do 155 gigs in 2013 – some in Afghanistan, instead of doing the 2013 festivals.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 starts with a smooth-concrete sidewalk in quiet suburban Adelaide and moves to a war zone in Afghanistan where the military cars can survive anything except a suicide bomber.

As always with Hamo’s work, it’s personal and exposing but told with enough distance to let his audience put themselves in his shoes and imagine what they would have or have done at similar times.

It’s not traditional stand up or theatrical monologue. He’s found something in between that’s flexible and works so well for him that it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is so beautifully written that I want to read it, but it wouldn’t compare to the experience of Justin telling his story.  He’s gut-aching, mind-whirling, unforgettable funny and never to be missed.

Edge: Rachel and Isabel
Rachel and Isabel

Isabel and Rachel (their chat) won Best Comedy at the Melbourne Fringe in 2013 for EDGE!. After visiting Perth and Adelaide, it’s back home at the Tuxedo Cat and it’s best to book now if you were among the many (like me) who couldn’t get a seat to see it at the Fringe.

Stella is 11. She had a viral hit on YouTube when she was 8 and her mum is trying to make her a star – even if she’s in LA and talking to her daughter on the phone. It’s one thing to sing about clouds and marshmallows, but it’s time Stella grows up and becomes like other famous internet stars.

Isabel and Rachel are a fresh, original and adorable new voice who are sprinkling glitter and light on the frustrations and ironies of girls and young women aspiring to be famous for being famous.

David O'Doherty
David O’Doherty

Next was the preview of David O’Doherty Will Try to Fix Everything.  As it was a preview, it’s not for reviewing.  But I hadn’t seen him before and was totally engaged in his mix of vulnerable sweetness and stuff-you-life frustration. And he sung a song about Grand Designs: what’s not to love about that!

He’s also doing a version of the show just for 12–18 year olds on 12 April. It’s about being happy and how even 38-year-olds still think that the latest gadget will fix everything. It’ll be a great show for teenagers, but don’t tell them that a woman as old as their mum said so.

Briony Kimmings Sex Idiot
Briony Kimmings

And my night ended with Bryony Kimmings’s delightfully wonderful Sex Idiot.

When she was 29, Bryony had a sexual health check and found out she had a common STI. Her doctor offered to send anonymous letters to everyone she’d been in sexual contact with warning that they should have a sexual health check, but Bryony decided to contact her past lovers herself – and make a show about it.

The Comedy Festival set a ridiculous tone when they took down her promotional video of “The Fanny Song”.  The song lists words used for vagina and includes the word that rhymes with munt. Given it’s hard to find a stand up in the festival who doesn’t abuse someone by calling them that, what can you say when they censor the rare time it’s used in a non-abusive and positive context.

But Sex Idiot is a fearless, hilarious and heart-touching look back at her loves, lovers and others. (And a reminder to use condoms and barrier methods to keep you healthy.) Of course, hearts can’t be as easily protected and the most powerful moments are those when she reflects on those that she knows she hurt along the way.

There are only five more performances (this and next weekend) and given the reaction to last night’s first show, you’d better grab tickets now.

And I recommend wearing pants or a skirt. You’ll understand why when you get there.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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