The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Starts This Week!

… yeah, we’re not going to be covering it.

It’s fairly obvious from the content of this blog that live comedy is not our thing. Then again, we shouldn’t assume that anything here is “fairly obvious”: it’s also fairly obvious that this blog is written by a team of people (we’ve even had guest posters), and yet we occasionally hear about one comedian or another convinced they’ve tracked down the singular “person” behind this blog. So, in the spirit of spelling everything out, here goes: we’re not all that interested in live comedy.

Sure, maybe we should be. Lord knows we get enough people telling us about this or that great stand-up (or YouTube comedian) we really need to take a look at if we’re going to take the real pulse of Australian comedy. But we have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to comedy coverage – no, we’re not going to drive three hours to check out your open-mic night – and our line is this: once you get on television, that’s when we’ll take a look.

To be honest, we’re not even all that excited about filmed stand-up sets broadcast on television. Stand-up is a live act designed to be performed in front of a crowd that is reacting to it: filming it for broadcast is a great way to record material that might otherwise be lost, but it certainly loses something in the translation. Some comedians figure out ways to make up for that loss: when we start getting the Australian equivalent of Louie or Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, give us a ring.

This is in no way a dismissal of all the good work going on out there in stand-up land. It’s just acknowledging the fact that stand-up comedy is largely a niche act for a niche audience. As one of the things we self-important wanker types at Team Tumbleweeds are interested in is comedy’s place in Australian culture – that’s why we crap on about reviewers so much, as in some ways those guys are trying to nail down where a comedian fits in our culture (Chris Lilley is hilarious and exposes fault-lines in Australian culture; Shaun Micallef is a little too “smart” for mainstream acceptance; Andrew Denton is a genius; Dave Hughes is a knockabout everyman; you get the idea) – and stand-up’s place is way out on the fringe.

Of course, the fringe is a good place to be if you want to try out new and different stuff. Again, because this entire post is about making ourselves clear so we don’t spend the next few weeks fending off questions about our lack of MICF coverage as if we’re the only blog in Australia dealing with comedy, we’re not having a go at stand-up. Covering it is just not what we do.

Now, slagging off dodgy comedy gala reviews (“slightly un-PC” – Jesus wept) – that’s another story.

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  • BIlly C says:

    Fair enough. I’m planning on seeing a lot this year. Will not be bothering to watch the gala though.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    “…when we start getting the Australian equivalent of Louie or Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, give us a ring”

    or “Live at the Apollo’ and ‘Comedy Roadshow’ that brought stand-up in an easy, cheap accessible format.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Well, SBS2 and ABC2 have both run programs of “pure” stand-up in the last few years.

  • saucy gibbon says:

    Most stand up I find has the same problems as comedy TV, too personal and no jokes, too political and no jokes and/or too surreal and no jokes.

  • Urinal Cake says:

    I should’ve added ‘and became insanely popular’.

  • simbo says:

    Jim Jeffries with “Legit” is an example of an Australian who’s managed to crack the “Louie-like” show to reasonable success (he’s on his second FX series, and the ratings are comparable to Louie’s). Similarly Jason Gann is doing reasonably well with the US version of Wilfred. You’ve talked before about Australians abroad not doing well (Rebel Wilson), so why not talk positively about a couple who are doing a decent job for once, rather than just write another “Micallef is the best, why isn’t everybody else Micallef” column?

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    We’re not familiar with Jeffries work, as – as far as we know – he pretty much bee-lined it for overseas at the start of his career. Jason Gann might be doing well overseas, but we weren’t big fans of Wilfred and Gann himself seems a… colourful character at best.

    This is a blog about Australian comedy, not Australians doing comedy. The Australians who’ve gone overseas that we talk about are the Australians who’ve built some kind of career here first.

    Nice one calling us out on all our “Micallef is the best” columns too, considering we’ve written… hmm, just the one this year. Same as every other television show has received.

  • Rutegar says:

    I’ll concede that of the three big comedy festivals world-wide, the Melbourne Comedy Festival is least likely to provide a stepping stone for comic talent into other media, especially narrative comedy.

    Talents agents and producers from American TV networks laden with cash and contracts scour Montreal for fresh blood while Edinburgh has provided a constant stream of talent onto British TV and radio for decades.

    But the lack of career pathways from the Melbourne Festival isn’t really the Melbourne Festival’s fault. More a reflection of the ingrained mentality of the Australian theatre and television marketplace (which ain’t gonna change any time soon).

    That said, there may be the odd revue and sketch show at the Festival which might pique the interest of those underwhelmed by stand-up alone.