The Ghosts of Festivals Past #micf2014 – by Dr Watson
In case you don’t have a lot of friends that are comedians, and your Facebook newsfeed isn’t as chock full of “please see my show” requests as mine is, you might not know that the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is upon us. Otherwise known as, the most wonderful time of the year!
Some people love Spring Racing, or Grand Final time, others love the summer festival months, but for me the commingling of fantastic comedy, city lights, buzzing streets, earlier nightfall and just that little nip in the autumn air make April a magical month.
Sure, there’s never enough time (or money) to see all the shows you want, and there are some sleepy workdays post accidental mid-week Festival Club but this all adds to the general excitement – after all, what’s a few hours less sleep when you can see some of the world’s best comedians performing one after another on the HiFi Bar stage?
I first fell in love with the MICF when I was still in high school, and being a devout comedy lover already, I schlepped into the Athenaeum to see The Three Canadians three times in one year. (Remember them?!) And so began the annual anticipation of the Comedy Festival guide. Like a die-hard footy fan, I would be thumbing my Record, seeing who’s who for the season.
When I got to uni and started doing comedy myself, I really caught the bug. The year I first performed in the Festival, 2001, I had a Festival pass and I found myself at Festival Club every night, brushing shoulders with Ross Noble, Dave Gorman, Chris Addison and Arj Barker in the VIP Bar. (I do also remember a, now embarrassing, all pervasive crush on Ross Noble, which had me in the front seat of his show like a breathless super fan, crushed that he had forgotten to put me on the door – like he said he would. Turns out he had put me on the door of the room, not at the Box Office. Doh!)
I couldn’t believe it. What enchanted world was this? What elixir of joy had I consumed? There I was, a young comic actor, barely out of my teens, and I was drinking in bars, and meeting my idols. In what other entertainment industry sector are the world’s best so accessible? Certainly not music or film.
So while my super fan tendencies are as in the past as my carefree uni days (sure, I can totally stay up til dawn drinking every night, I don’t have a job to go to), my enthusiasm for this incredible annual event remains.
Over the years I have seen some incredible shows, and have some unforgettable memories: singing ACDC with the Superband to a packed HiFi Bar, having a very drunk (pretty famous) Irish comedian ask me back to his hotel room (I declined), Dave Callan coming up to me saying “You’re doing the show about Robin Hood” and making my entire Festival, selling out the final week of our Vinyl Countdown show at Cherry Bar, laughing so hard it actually hurt at Are You Dave Gorman?, performing with my faux Norwegian bandmates in Nuclear Pussy, dancing til my clothes are drenched in sweat and they turn on the lights at Festival Club at least once a year. There have been a few triumphs, a few empty shows, crushing hangovers, embarrassing hook ups, trams at dawn, subtly stolen posters (I still have a Boosh one somewhere) and some satellite friendships that seem to realign every April.
It always strikes me as remarkable that for one month of the year comedians who are only known to real comedy-heads for 11 months of the year, suddenly become celebrities for one month, their names on the tips of everyone’s tongues – “Did you see, Simon Amstell?”, “I heard Daniel Kitson is doing a secret show”.
Then there’s the breakout star. The comedian you had never heard of before that year, who is instantly the talk of the festival. The must see act. Dave Gorman, Rhod Gilbert, Tim Minchin, Nina Conti, Flight of the Conchords have all been that act and gone on to big things. And closer to home, a good festival can be the making of a local act – Ronny Chieng and Matt Okine have had a big couple of years since winning best newcomer in 2012, and who will ever be able to forget seeing Dayne Rathbone’s show last year? I certainly can’t. Even after therapy.
Now that I don’t perform comedy anymore, I am free to see as many shows as I find the time to, and am asked every year by anyone not in the comedy loop “Who’s good?”, “What shows should I see?” etc. So this year, I’ll be telling you all that right here. I’ll give you all the reviews, and all the buzz of the Fest. And who I think you should be checking out.
So stay tuned…
And get out there! We are lucky enough to have one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals right here on our doorstep. Don’t miss out.
ALSO – what are your favourite MICF memories?