Laugh about euthanasia, sex while wearing a backpack and how nothing you do means anything at all.

Prepare to have your funny bone well and truly tickled, because the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is upon us once again. From Wednesday, March 29 through to Sunday, April 23, hundreds of humorists from all around planet earth will descend upon dozens of venues around town to make you giggle, guffaw, snort, snicker and shoot milk out of your nose. Why you were drinking milk at a comedy show is a whole other question.

This year's lineup is predictably packed, with big name international jokesters including Daniel Kitson, David O'Doherty, Jason Byrne and Paul Foot joining beloved locals including Aaron Gocs, Cal Wilson, Demi Lardner and Matt Okine. There'll also be musicals and debates and live podcast recordings, and even a silent comedy event inspired by silent discos. And that's to say nothing of the countless up-and-comers whose names you mightn't know yet, but who you'll no doubt be hearing a lot more from in festivals to come.

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    Laura Davis: Cake in the Rain

    A cult favourite on the local stand-up scene, the comedy of Laura Davis is at once baffling, confronting and uproariously entertaining. Her show at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival saw her deliver jokes from the top of a ladder while wearing a blindfold. On paper it sounds like a gimmick; in execution it was one of the funniest and most disarming acts we saw all festival. Her follow-up is titled Cake in the Rain, and we haven’t the faintest idea what it’s about. But you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be there opening night.

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    Becky Lucas: Little Bitch

    An undisputed rising star of the Australian comedy scene, Becky Lucas is one of the must-watch young acts at the festival this year, with a resume most comics would kill for. She’s written for Josh Thomas’ Please Like Me and Matt Okine’s upcoming show on Stan, and opened for the likes of Wil Anderson, Joel Creasey and Jim Norton. (She’s also one of the funniest people on Twitter, for what it’s worth.) Her new show Little Bitch is about, amongst other things, drunk emailing, sharehouse living and sex while wearing a backpack. Who can’t relate to at least one of those things?

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    Michael Workman: Nothing You Do Means Anything

    For those who like their comedy tinged with a little melancholy, Michael Workman is the stand-up for you. Over the past couple of years, the West Australian comic’s strange and occasionally bleak (but always entertaining) sets have been amongst the best things on offer at the Comedy Festival. His latest routine is titled Nothing You Do Means Anything, and is billed as “manic”, “frightening” and “the most iconoclastic show” of his career. In other words, don’t expect his outlook to have gotten any sunnier. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll question your place in a cold, unfeeling world. Sounds like a fun night out, right?

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    New Order

    Four acts for the price of one? Don’t mind if we do. An annual highlight of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the New Order program brings together a collection of emerging comedians from across the UK. This year’s contingent includes Ahir Shah, Brennan Reece, Steve Bugeja and — our personal pick of the bunch — Emma Sidi, whose act is inspired by Latin telenovelas and will feature “passion, obsession, revenge and some serious dancing”.

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    Nazeem Hussain: Public Frenemy

    Fresh from his stint in the jungle on I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, TV and radio personality Nazeem Hussain is taking the stage at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for his new show Public Frenemy. As he did time and time again in his brilliant, Logie-nominated sketch series Legally Brown, expect Hussain to carve up social prejudices, shatter expectations and break down in frank, funny terms his “love/not-so-love relationship” with modern day Australia.

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    Assisted Suicide: The Musical

    There are some shows that you know you need to see based purely on the name. Assisted Suicide: The Musical is one of them. Written and performed by disability rights campaigner and actor Liz Carr, this “TED talk with showtunes” arrives on our shores following sell-out engagements in the UK, at a time when Victorian state parliament is gearing up for a conscience vote on euthanasia. Carr’s toe-tapping production will provide a personal, entertaining perspective on a controversial subject, and may well force a few audience members to confront their own beliefs and prejudices.

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    Andy Zaltzman: Plan Z

    There’s never been a better time to be a political comedian, and the UK’s Andy Zaltzman is one of the sharpest in the business. Best known as the voice of the satirical news podcast The Bugle — which he used to co-host with Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver — Zaltzman will put despots and dictators to the sword with the help of some alternate facts and a few well-placed puns. Actually, it’ll probably be a lot of well-placed puns. He’ll also record the first ever live Bugle, featuring “live guests, people on screens, freshly-hewn satire, lies, puns and high-grade bullshit”.

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    Some of the best young comedians of the American stand-up circuit make up the docket on this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival Headliners stream. In fact, the lineup is so jam-packed that they’ve split it into two separate streams. From March 30 to April 9, ticketholders will enjoy the comedy stylings of Emily Heller, Jak Knight, Liza Treyger and Ryan Hamilton. Then from April 10 until April 23, they’ll be replaced by Fortune Feimster, Janelle James, Joe DeRosa and Orlando Baxter. Between them, these guys have appeared in everything from Inside Amy Schumer to Horace and Pete to Late Night with Seth Meyers. USA!

Published on March 28, 2017 by Tom Clift

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