🤡 MICF Review Roundup | Week One

It's the funniest month of the year, Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Highlights so far include a musical about sperm donation, exquisite feminist clown, campy scifi standup and heaps more.

🤡 MICF Review Roundup | Week One

It's the funniest month of the year, Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I'm going buck wild seeing shows—at this point I'm up to 14 with another 30 or so planned for the rest of the festival.

I've been reviewing everything I've seen, and when you scroll down you'll be able to see all of those reviews. If you're short on time though, here's my top shows from week one.

This year I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in the Funny Tonne, a program for emerging reviewers to see shows for free with the proviso that we write about them. Plus, there's awards to be won for the best review. Everything I write is uploaded to the MICF website, but I'm sharing here for posterity.

Enjoy reading, and I hope you have a brilliant festival! 💋

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For any artists reading this, I would love to see your show. DM me on Instagram or email me at ryan@ryanhamilton.work

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Darby James | Little Squirt

Little Squirt is the surprisingly earnest cum-pun-filled musical you never knew you wanted. Darby James pulls back the curtain on becoming a sperm donor but it’s about loads more than that. Darby’s journey throws him for a loop, leaving him questioning his legacy, our debt to the future, and parenthood. He is a master at his craft, showcasing witty lyricism, banging tunes, and a restrained yet enchanting stage presence. It’s hilarious and vulnerable and an absolute treasure. In Victoria sperm donors are able to write a letter to their offspring and in a remarkable climax, Darby reads us the letter he wrote, filled with poignant advice for a child growing up into an unknown world. Little Squirt grapples with massive generational worries with care and humour and genuine wisdom, proving Darby to be a talent to look out for.

The Malthouse until 21 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Con Coutis | Con 2077

Con Coutis is the last comedian in the world in his latest show, Con 2077. There’s no one doing comedy quite like him, using a combination of sound effects and clowning to create an endlessly evocative sci-fi world. This is his best show yet, filled with that signature technical prowess, physical humour, and campy plots. His physical comedy is so good that at times I forgot he was miming, and his crowd work left me genuinely wondering if he had planted folks in the audience. Con 2077 is a celebration of comedy’s healing potential and honestly could be read as a metaphor of the long-term consequences of an underfunded cultural sector—but don’t quote me on that. What you need to know is that Con Coutis, the last comedian on Earth, is definitely funny enough to save the world.

The Malthouse until 7 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Han Arbuthnott | Dysphoria in Memoriam

Han Arbuthnott’s expertly curated fundraiser for gender-affirming care is the best night I’ve had at the MICF yet. Featuring an all star lineup of local and international queer comics, including Rhys Nicholson, Kirsty Webeck, Geraldine Hicket, Lou Wall, Scout Boxall, and Chloe Petts. Han’s lineup created a healing and hilarious queer space—the energy in the room was infectious and I left beaming. I’d recommend you go but it was a one night only affair.

Trades Hall on 30 March

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Belinda Anderson-Hunt | The Sun and The Hermit

There’s a lot of ways I could start this review. I could start with statistics highlighting the exclusion of women from the comedy industry. Or maybe I could talk about gender performativity or even try and decrypt what The Sun and The Hermit mean when pulled from a Tarot deck.

Instead, I want to tell you that this is a very funny show. Funny haha. Book ticket now. Done? Let’s talk.

Anderson-Hunt is caught in an attic of sorts, forced to perform under the illumination of a searching spotlight. A series of characters loosely chart the stages of womanhood from girlhood to death, but despite their skilful performance, Anderson-Hunt isn’t saved from the same fate.

“The Stage is a Prison” declares one of her characters, and so too is the performance of gender. Anderson-Hunt uses clown to critique the reinforcing structures of patriarchy and the limited paths women have to rebel within it. Doing so, The Sun and The Hermit marries a profound intellectual rigour with razor sharp clowning.

I’m making this show sound wanky and high concept but it’s actually just very silly and goofy and accessible—an absolute pleasure to watch. Anderson-Hunt’s crowd work is a treat and their physical comedy is spectacularly grotesque. I won’t be able to get the image of them eating a corn cob out of my mind anytime soon.

It’s like if Nanette was made by a clown. A must-see of the festival.

Motley Bauhaus until 5 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Jett Bond | I Love Money

Home ownership may be out of reach for anyone not a mining magnate, but luckily for you, you won’t need a mortgage to see Jett Bond’s ‘I Love Money. Jett takes us on a captivatingly ramshackle hour of character, clown, and commerce, skewering landlords and capitalists along the way. He’s a treat to watch and his crowd work is brilliantly absurd. There’s a lovely nonchalant attitude about it all that makes being in the audience delightful, whether it be covering himself in food, biting pens in half, or divulging his bank details to the crowd. I Love Money is another example of how far Jett Bond is willing to go for a payoff. And in 2024, facing a cost of living crisis, he’s willing to go far.

Motley Bauhaus until 5 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Sugar Bits | Hit n Hope: A Character Cabaret

There’s plenty of fish in the sea, but according to this show in MICF, they’re all a bit flakey: Hit n Hope, a character-driven comedy cabaret by Sugar Bits, takes us on a musical dive through the dating pool. The trio’s crowd work is phenomenal, showing off their sharp wit and being a pleasure to engage with. They have a gag in there about anal performed with a measuring tape and a volunteer which is absolutely riotous. Sugar Bits are at their best spoofing the dating scene and their exes, but sometimes get stuck in extended dance breaks which, while impressive, slow down the pacing of the show. Other (read: male) comedians would be forgiven for thinking dick jokes are a hard sell these days, but Sugar Bits proves just how great they can be when you throw a feminist lens in the mix.

Motley Bauhaus until 10 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Hannah Gadsby | Woof!

In 2017 Hannah Gadsby was tired. But now, thanks to a CPAP machine and sleep apnea diagnosis, Hannah’s just worried. Woof! Is (in Hannah’s words) their dead-dad-show, a free-wheeling and sentimental journey through grief, loss, and fame. Subject matter is broad as Hannah takes us on a journey of the things that worry them, climate change, abortions, staying relatable, and where all the cabbage patch dolls went. Woof! may not be as surgically crafted as their prior shows, but it’s still a joy to spend an hour with Australia’s greatest queer comic.

Arts Centre Melbourne until April 20

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Julian O'Shea | M is for Melbourne: The World’s Mostly* Liveable City

Julian O’Shea’s brings his affable blend of urbanist education and candid humour to the festival in M is for Melbourne. Julian has cultivated a community who loves his cheeky and rebellious take on urbanism, and this live show delivers that in spades. This is an hour full of genuinely eye-opening facts about our city and a satisfying mix of accessible and nerdy humour. He avoids taking an uncritical eye towards Narrm and highlights the missteps in our urbanist history, and in doing so he firmly places comedy in the urbanists toolkit as a way to speak to the heart and empower city-dwellers to advocate for better cities. A brain-tingling and satisfying night out.

DoubleTree by Hilton until 7 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Chloe Petts | If You Can't Say Anything Nice

We’ve caught Chloe in the midst of a reckoning with rage, anger, and the elderly audience members who cross their arms in the front row. Chloe’s therapist reckons they have an anger problem, but they think being angry’s pretty fun. By their own admission, Chloe has two types of audience members: soccer fellas and genderqueers. Their jokes, perfectly crafted for those two groups, riff on gender, sex, and football (the European kind). It’s crude and infectiously funny and their crowd work brings them into a tight camaraderie with the audience. Chloe gets at the consequences of bringing anger into the world and the reflections they serve are poignant and hilarious. An intimate and friendly night full of teasing banter.

The Westin until 21 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Piotr Sikora | Furiozo: Man Looking for Trouble

Piotr Sikora’s Furiozo is a deft exploration of the cycle of toxic masculinity through clown. It’s aggressive, hilarious, and honestly really sweet. You kinda can’t help but fall in love with him as he evades the police, falls in love, and lets the cycle repeat. Furiozo is heavy on the audience participation but Sikora leads participants with charm and grace to great effect. An altogether enrapturing performance from a skilful clown with a big story to tell.

Motley Bauhaus until 10 April

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Aiden Willcox | Jokes from Beyond the Crypt

Aiden Willcox is a captivating performer who takes jokes so far they morph into surreal and infectious invitations to laugh. Jokes from Beyond the Crypt is an intimate and enjoyable set less about Nosferatu and more about lettuce pizza. Featuring absurd clown, musical comedy, and playful crowd work, this is perfect late-night viewing.

Pilgrim Bar until 21 April

⭐️⭐️ Necrophilia

Maybe I’m a prude, but a play which spends an hour contemplating the ethics of a ‘victimless’ crime such as Necrophilia isn’t a play worth watching. Both for the fact that I think there’s very little wiggle room on the moral correctness of necrophilia, but also that this text offers very little in the way of re-examining necrophilia. I was left wondering what the artists saw in this work beyond cheap shock humour wrapped up in a crude attempt at a feel-good romcom.

Motley Bauhaus until 10 April