So there you are: perusing through the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website, clicking aimlessly, unsure of who you want to see, or even what kind of comedy you want to see. You know you want to see SOMEONE, and not just your typical down the barrell stand up fare. You watch a lot of YouTube in your spare time (probably friendlyjordies and all of the sketches from Snuff Box) and you’ve seen every Comedy Next Gen special iView has to offer. So where do you turn? Why, to Giant Dwarf of course.
Giant Dwarf is a Sydney-based production company turned independent theatre turned talent agency with a knack for picking up weird, whip smart comics with a political bent. Which is to say, they’re the company behind the Chaser team, and a big ol’ swathe of your favourite leftist indie comedy on TV. Their live shows have a similar bent, born from groups like the Bear Pack, and ranging from the ongoing Story Club to the hosting of international acts like Daniel Kitson.
What does this all mean for MICF? Great comedy, of course.
Producer-on-the-ground for Giant Dwarf at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival is Fran Middleton, who, like many in the company, has a solid background in sketch, improv and contemporary theatre. She’s also got her own show, Ceiling Fran, her debut solo show at the festival. The show description simply reads “Come sit in a room. We’ll put the Fran on”, which already conjures images of absurdity. If the description made you giggle, you’re sure to be in for a good time. With a short run from 29 March – 8 April, no Sundays, Fran is the perfect, cooling way to start off a festival that is only going to get hotter.
Improv duo Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie A.K.A the Bear Pack are bringing their long form rambling tales to Melbourne to get you to laugh. Called “the most cutting edge improvisors in Australia right now” by a Logie award winner (Rob Carlton), the Bear Pack are a fixture at Giant Dwarf’s theatre in Redfern, which means all your coolest Sydney friends have already seen them like, four or five times already. If you’re after improv that goes beyond theatre spots, that’s not held down by Harolds, and that isn’t afraid to pack a little emotional or political punch along with its comedy, the Bear Pack are the team for you. They’ve only got a select run, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 April – 22 April, plus Monday 10 & 17, so be sure to get tickets fast because they’re definitely going to sell out.
Carlo Ritchie is one half of the aforementioned Bear Pack improv duo. Fast and eloquent, Ritche is also a video game enthusiast replete with successful video game talk show Big Head Mode’s Bonus Stage and a linguist. His show, Cooking for No One, is on from 10 April – 22 April, but not the 14 April – 17 April. It’s bound to be an evening of blended tales and comedy – apparently some are even about ‘romance’.
It’s no surprise that Greg Larsen is on the Giant Dwarf bill. Larsen gets around, having spent last year volunteering with the True Aussie Patriots and while still working his day job as a member of the sketch group Fancy Boy, who recently produced a series for the ABC. Comedy geeks will also recognise the sound of Larsen’s voice from episodes of the Little Dum Dum Club podcast. Larsen’s style is lathargic, even borderline uncomfortable, but never in a manner that’s too aggressive towards its audience. The word “wicked” comes to mind, but this article has enough cliches in it already. It’s not a stretch to say that the whole audience will feel like A Grub in the Muck by the end of Larsen’s show this year. It runs from 30 March – 23 April, no Mondays.
We’ve reviewed Penny Greenhalgh’s debut show Pop Pop here at Popculture-y in 2015, and we liked it so much we reviewed it twice. (No seriously, we did. I only just noticed. It’s embarassing). Katherine Back said Greenhalgh had “beautiful comic timing and [an] infectious grin”, and I said she “makes the audience laugh in the most embarrassing sets of snorts, giggles and squeals”. So you know she’s got two good reviews from a trusted source. Also she’s a writer and actor on the Checkout, and has won a number of awards. Greenhalgh’s style is perhaps the most lighthearted of the comedians on this list, but that doesn’t mean she’s not sharp and ready to spring in to action – literally, Greenhalgh isn’t afraid of a little physicality. This year’s show, Pony Greenhorse, promises to be just as wild and left-of-centre. It’s on all festival from 30 March – 23 April, with no shows on Mondays.
For more information, tickets, and accessibility information about these acts and their venues, check out their pages on the comedy festival website; Penny Greenhalgh, Greg Larsen, Carlo Ritchie, The Bear Pack, and Fran Middleton.