You’re having a laugh: The best Aussie comedy festivals

2020 was no joke. Seriously. Amongst the carnage wreaked by the pandemic was the cancellation of cultural events big and small, including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in late March – one of the three largest laugh fests on the planet. But we’ve learned to adapt and yearned for a good old fashioned LOL, and MICF is back for 2021 – COVID-safe and ready to deliver some much needed, socially distanced mirth to the Victorian capital. In fact, there’s hope for most of the major comedy events across the country. Here are the crackers to look out for.

Melbourne International Comedy Festival – 24 March – 18 April

Traditionally, you can’t turn around in Melbourne during MICF without tripping over a comedian. They’re everywhere, and shows pop up in the most unlikely of places. While this year’s event will be less organic than usual, and with a reduced number of venues and international performers, it still promises to be an awesome experience. The Gala is returning to its spiritual home at the Palais Theatre, but as usual, it sold out as soon as tickets went on sale. However, you can still put yourself in the safe, guaranteed-to-be-funny hands of Akmal, Arj Barker, Lawrence Mooney, Jimeoin and the perennial Umbilical Brothers. You need this!

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Melbourne International Comedy Festival takes over the city. Image – Visit Victoria

Brisbane Comedy Festival – July/August (usually Feb/March)

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival generally goes on the road each year, but the only venue so far to stick its head above the parapet in the face of the pandemic is Brisbane. It will host the MICF roadshow in early June at the Powerhouse. Check here for future updates. The River City’s own Comedy Festival is quintessentially Queensland and always a corker. Usually held early in February and March, it will roll out mid-year in 2021 and promises more one liners than you can poke an under-utilised funny bone at.

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Sydney Comedy Festival – April/May

It’s also full steam ahead for the Sydney Comedy Festival in 2021, and one positive thing the pandemic has done is given our top comedians a swag of new material. Expect side-splitting cracks about life with Rona from the likes of Joel Creasey, Akmal, Effie, Rhys Nicholson and Ross Noble in his ‘COVID Comeback Special’. The festival’s three Gala events take place simultaneously across Sydney at three different venues. Browse the full programme of shows here.

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Perth Comedy Festival – April/May

The Perth Comedy Festival fires up at the same time as Sydney’s, but with state borders opening and closing more sharply than Joel Creasey’s delivery, whether east coast talent will make it to the west remains to be seen. Either way, expect to get a first look at some exceptional new local talent. The festival will not be without at least one international superstar. Scotland’s Daniel Sloss will brave quarantine and return to Australia in April with his 11th solo show Hubris. There are dates in Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, before the closing show in Perth at the Astor Theatre.

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Image – Perth Comedy Festival

Adelaide Fringe – February/March

While it’s not strictly a comedy festival, the epic, month-long Adelaide Fringe always serves up a generous helping of belly laughs. With upwards of 800 shows, it’s one of the world’s largest arts-based events, and what’s more, as an ‘open festival’, anyone can perform. You just need some jokes and a venue to deliver them in (which in theory could be anything from a bar to a broom cupboard – and don’t laugh, it’s been done). Hence, comedic up-and-comers often get their first leg-up right here.

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About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.

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