Melbourne at Comedy Festival Time

Melbourne Town Hall where the annual Comedy Festival is heldEach year from late March and into April the city of Melbourne holds its annual Comedy Festival.

The first festival was held in 1987, when it was launched by one of Australia’s best known comedians Barry Humphries, and since then the festival has grown to be one of the top three comedy festivals in the world.

Throughout the month-long festival dozens of comedians perform hundreds of shows.

These shows range from world famous comedians playing in large venues, to up and coming comics trying out their stuff in small bars and restaurants.  The better known comedians play to packed houses, the lesser known, and unknown comedians play to houses for which audiences can be quite spare.

However, it’s not the size of the audience that matters, but the quality of the material that is presented.

There are also plenty of free shows on public stages on Swanston Street and in Federation Square, so that you can be entertained simply by wandering along the right street at the right time.

Throughout the festival the Melbourne Town Hall precinct is converted into a giant comedy hub, where there is something for every comedy lover, from the very best local and international comedy acts in venues of all shapes and sizes.

Whilst walking past the Town Hall I was accosted by several people touting shows that were playing that night at a variety of venues.

Some venues feature several artists each night, and some comedians move from venue to venue to perform a couple of times over the evening.

I got chatting to a charming comedian called Hayley Brennan.  She was doing a free show that night at the Bull and Bear Tavern in Flinders Lane, and was attempting to pull in an audience.

I’ve done a bit of stand up and a lot of improv, so I know how tough performing comedy can be.

I turned up for the hour-long show that was held in a small room.  Hayley presented a show that was amusing rather than rib-tickling hilarious, and her ad libs were better than her scripted material.  I had a smile on my face throughout the show, and learnt that she had performed at the festival the year before, and was to do another show with a group of comedians later than night.

The fact that Hayley had the fortitude to persevere to forge a career in comedy, despite getting some bad reviews the year before, impressed me very much.  Her show was enjoyable, and she had obviously worked on her material.

It was this opportunity to give raw talent a chance that heightened my respect for the Melbourne Comedy Festival.  It is good seeing great comedians, but to see someone who was at the beginning of their career be encouraged to perform was fantastic.

Hayley’s show was free, but she did ask the audience to contribute if they felt like it.  I did contribute some cash because the Hayley Brennan’s of this world should be encouraged to pursue their dreams.

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