Zoë Coombs Marr; Catherine Bohart; Geraldine Hickey; Darren Harriott; Jenny Tian, Laura Davis; Rhys Nicholson; Comedy Zone; Grace Jarvis; John Hastings; Tom Walker; Melanie Bracewell; Tom Cashman


Battling a prolonged funk last year, “she/her with a they/them rising” decided to catalogue her entire life in one mind-bogglingly hyperlinked and many-tabbed spreadsheet. It’s the perfect source material for congratulation/commiseration speeches. Or for a rib-hurting hour of seemingly chaotic but actually expertly controlled stand-up.

Pivoting through the spreadsheet’s many wonky wormholes, selecting cells to expand upon at whim, means no audience will get the same madcap show.

<i>Every Single Thing In My Whole Entire Life</i> by Zoë Coombs Marr is on at Melbourne Town Hall until April 21.

Every Single Thing In My Whole Entire Life by Zoë Coombs Marr is on at Melbourne Town Hall until April 21.

Our night covered everything from random pavement pukes Marr’s photographed over the years (much to the chagrin of her partner) to a catalogue of exes, including a surprising boy whose appearance delivers a mic-drop one-liner. More “mundane” achievements – like eyebrow-raising haircuts, uni assessments and being born – are also skewered.

Gloriously off-the-wall, Marr fires through an astonishingly high-concept show with seemingly contradictory low-key charm, something she Excels at.
★★★★★
Reviewed by Stephen A Russell

Jenny Tian | Chinese Australian: A Tale of Internet Fame
ACMI – Swinburne Studio, until 21 April

Actor and comedian Jenny Tian – whose stand-up audience has grown following an exponential rise on social media – structures her routine like an algorithm, playing content on a vertical TikTok-like screen.

Chinese Australian: A Tale Of Internet Fame by Jenny Tian is on at ACMI – Swinburne Studio until 21 April

Chinese Australian: A Tale Of Internet Fame by Jenny Tian is on at ACMI – Swinburne Studio until 21 April

Unlike other Sydney-based comedians, she doesn’t adapt state-specific humour (aside from mentioning her viral “Melbourne vs Sydney” content). Instead, she draws on relatable dating and work anecdotes, her Chinese Australian identity, and mocking social media content creators – despite being one herself – to anchor her routine. When lines don’t land, she professes sarcastically, “I didn’t just write this today … I’ll work on it”.

Tian acknowledges that her bogan accent defies stereotypes and plays it up, describing a video version of herself as an “absolute c–t”. When she discloses the hurt she feels from xenophobic comments online, it creates an odd tonal shift but feels refreshing all the same.

A show with well-executed multimedia integration from a skilled digital personality.
★★★★
Reviewed by Vyshnavee Wijekumar

Melanie Bracewell | Attack of the Melanie Bracewell
Max Watt’s, until April 21

What would you do if you could trace the culprit who stole your AirPods?

Attack of the Melanie Bracewell by Melanie Bracewell is on at Max Watt’s until April 21

Attack of the Melanie Bracewell by Melanie Bracewell is on at Max Watt’s until April 21

Melanie Bracewell’s amusing attempt to unearth this malefactor is the through-line of her latest show, as she grapples with how to unleash her rage as a mild-mannered Kiwi and exact justice for her ears.

At six feet two inches, Bracewell’s long-limbed lankiness is integral to her comedy as she prowls across the stage, aided by the judicious use of a slideshow and the smooth integration of crowd work into her routine.

Segues are seamless as she flits effortlessly from the perils of riding a bike in Melbourne, to the process of getting an IUD inserted, to the status symbol afforded to reusable water bottles. Those familiar with Bracewell’s past life as a netball pro won’t be disappointed on this front as she spins gold out of an interaction with a good-natured audience member new to the game.

The queen of well-earned callbacks and a master of wordplay, Bracewell’s always one step ahead of her audience.
★★★★
Reviewed by Sonia Nair

Catherine Bohart | Again, With Feelings
The Westin, until April 21

With manic motormouth delivery, Irish comic Catherine Bohart bursts out of the gates and doesn’t give the audience a second to catch their breath as she whirlwinds through a sublime hour.

She pummels through topics, traversing her parents’ concerns about her being unmarried in her mid-30s, the gender standards that come with having a generational age gap in a relationship, and how to decide which partner should carry the child in a queer romance. She also floors the room with an R18+ punchline regarding sharehouse foraging for crockery that left several more prudish audience members gasping.

<i>Again, With Feelings</i> by Catherine Bohart is on at The Westin until April 21.

Again, With Feelings by Catherine Bohart is on at The Westin until April 21.

Truth be told, the material never deviates far from standard comic fodder. But her blistering execution and rapid-fire gags make it impossible to complain. The interspersed audience interaction, while used sparingly, is first-rate.

A gem of the festival waiting to be unearthed – don’t sleep on it.
★★★★
Reviewed by Tyson Wray

Geraldine Hickey | Don’t Tease Me About My Gloves
Arts Centre Melbourne, until April 21

Attending a Geraldine Hickey show feels like a much-anticipated annual check-in on what has been going on in her world.

Don’t Tease Me About My Gloves sees Hickey in a more contemplative space than her previous few offerings. No wonder given the year she’s had, including being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder (thus the gloves), giving up drinking, and her father’s death.

<i>Don’t Tease Me About My Gloves</i> by Geraldine Hickey is on at Arts Centre Melbourne until April 21.

Don’t Tease Me About My Gloves by Geraldine Hickey is on at Arts Centre Melbourne until April 21.

The mood of the show is reflective, the stories delivered with Hickey’s disarmingly affable style. It’s a show about facing challenges: some big, like losing a loved one; some small(er), like taking the hard road up a mountain. But all of them a lighter load after Hickey finds the humour within, which, remarkably, she does. It’s a gift to be able to bring humour to the hardest times.

Every year it feels like Hickey brings more of her authentic self, and this deeply personal offering is all the better for its honesty.
★★★★
Reviewed by Lefa Singleton Norton

John Hastings | Comedian John
Victoria Hotel, until April 21

With a neutral face that could belong as much to a kindergarten teacher as to a serial killer, John Hastings knows how to play with his audience’s preconceptions. He’s big, white and Canadian, but you’re never sure if he’s as soft as a cloud or as tough as an iceberg. You trust him, basically, but – as he tells us – he also gets thumbsy-uppies from white supremacists on public transport.

Comedian John by John Hastings is on at  Victoria Hotel, until April 21

Comedian John by John Hastings is on at Victoria Hotel, until April 21

In recent years, he’s been a festival regular. He doesn’t command huge rooms here, but he’s won the attention of high-profile comics who are tuned in to his tight crowd-work and ability to paint vivid word pictures.

The show steers clear of any cohesive thread, instead going wherever the funny leads us, from a first-hand account of butt chugging (please don’t let curiosity stain your search history) to the effect of stripping naked in the face of a mugger. You’re with him all the way, but glad you weren’t there at the time.
★★★★
Reviewed by John Bailey

Tom Walker | My Treasures My Beautiful Treasures
Trades Hall, until April 21

Since taking out Best Newcomer at the 2016 comedy fest, Tom Walker has secured a fearsome reputation as a Collins-class weirdo – off the radar for most, but able to blow his loyal fans’ minds. He’s an ‘if you know, you know’ comic. If you don’t, you might want to pre-book a few therapy sessions before braving this one.

My Treasures My Beautiful Treasures by Tom Walker is on at Trades Hall until April 21

My Treasures My Beautiful Treasures by Tom Walker is on at Trades Hall until April 21

The treasures of the show’s title are the deeply pathetic but generally harmless men he ‘collects’. If that sounds a mite creepy, strap in. Walker harbours a fanatical passion for scouring niche internet forums, vacuuming up the life stories of gents even stranger than he is. To list the predilections of these fellas would be less spoiler than repellent, yet in Walker’s care their unprintable desires take on a patina of innocence, like babies caught doing something that would mean jail time for the rest of us. It’s as if Wrongtown and Pleasantville share the same postcode, and Walker is mayor of both.
★★★★
Reviewed by John Bailey

Laura Davis | Albatross
Doubletree by Hilton, until April 21

Cult favourite Laura Davis offers an unusual lens on the world, and the world of comedy.

From starting the show off-stage to finishing over time, there’s a meandering fluidity to this show that, at times, is magic, while at others misses it the mark.

Albatross by Laura Davis is on at Doubletree by Hilton until April 21

Albatross by Laura Davis is on at Doubletree by Hilton until April 21Credit: Chayla Taylor

There’s beauty, dark humour and metaphors aplenty – often including birds, both alive and dead. Davis insists she’s a comedian and not a poet, but there is gorgeous poetry in her writing, as there always has been.

As a complete entity, however, this show feels ambivalent and uneven, and lacks some of the more madcap elements that have elevated previous shows.

The laughs peter out somewhat towards the end, where the otherwise largely personal show is tied up with a clunky bow of Australian social commentary. It’s not the strongest note to finish on, especially coming from someone who has moved abroad.
★★★
Reviewed by Hannah Francis

Grace Jarvis | Oh! The Horrors!
Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room, until April 21

Twenty-something Grace Jarvis is on a mission to bridge the widening generation gap … and hopefully save humanity with her expert pattern recognition skills.

Oh! The Horrors by Grace Jarvis is on at Melbourne Town Hall - Backstage Room until April 21

Oh! The Horrors by Grace Jarvis is on at Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room until April 21

If that sounds ambitious, it is, and the jokes about Boomer quirks and the misunderstanding of Generation Z have her falling at the first hurdle.

Some of the funniest content centres around Jarvis’ experience of sex and dating with a disability. Other jokes rely a little too much on cultural references and run the risk of being unfamiliar to some audience members.

Jarvis is also quick to label aspects of her life or personality as particularly unusual or dark, which doesn’t always ring true. She isn’t the only comedian at the festival dealing with an autism diagnosis, weird family members, climate change and the prospect of impending world war. There are some good observations in here and Jarvis has plenty of charm, but she might allow more room for the material to speak for itself, and for her audience to make their own judgments.
★★★
Reviewed by Hannah Francis

Tom Cashman | Everything
Basement Comedy Club (Morris House), until April 21 

Shows drawing on slideshows are a dime a dozen at this year’s festival, but Tom Cashman’s use of screen prompts has to be one of the best.

Signposted by disparate headings like “romance”, “technology” and “language”, Cashman launches into sprawling anecdotes punctuated to great effect by screenshots of DMs, emails and his dating profile; bar charts exposing his love language (data); and footage of him being stitched up on a certain primetime talk show.

Some bits are more successful than others. Cashman’s ability to poke fun at the absurd mundanity of being emailed by a toll road company and our collective fixation with reducing our screen time is mined uproariously for laughs, as are his self-coined acronyms, but some callbacks are performed to the point of exhaustion and the tension sags with certain stories.

Everything by Tom Cashman is on at Basement Comedy Club (Morris House) until April 21 

Everything by Tom Cashman is on at Basement Comedy Club (Morris House) until April 21 

Quick on his feet with a rapier wit, Cashman is nimble with the crowd, but a prolonged exchange with two talking audience members derails the set somewhat.

There’s much to like about Cashman’s affable charm and his self-deprecating, incisive brand of comedy – just pray no one is rude enough to talk during his set.
★★★
Reviewed by Sonia Nair

Darren Harriott | Roadman

The Westin, until April 21

The latest offering from Darren Harriott, a two-time nominee for the Edinburgh Comedy Award, is an affable if uneven hour.

<i>Roadman</i> by Darren Harriott is on at The Westin until April 21.

Roadman by Darren Harriott is on at The Westin until April 21.

Jabs at his Rastafarian heritage are fine enough. But recollections of being a perennial loser on celebrity UK game shows and why he needs Kanye West to be uncancelled by society purely for selfish financial reasons feel middling at best. As are routine anecdotes of committing dating faux pas, and stumbling over his words when talking to a Ukrainian about the war at a dance class.

His most engrossing material stems from his participation (or lack thereof) in the looting that took place during the 2011 London riots. It’s an acute and sharp exploration of the dangers of mob mentality. That said, it doesn’t help that his friends mocked his cowardice to commit theft while they were behind bars for taking part.

His stage presence and confidence ensure an enjoyable experience, but ultimately it’s a lukewarm show that doesn’t live up to the performer’s previous heights.
★★★
Reviewed by Tyson Wray

Comedy Zone
Trades Hall, until April 21

With a line-up handpicked by festival staff each year, Comedy Zone has launched the careers of the likes of Hannah Gadsby, Ronny Chieng and Josh Thomas.

It’s usually a festival highlight unearthing the next generation of Australian talent, but the 2024 iteration – at least at this early stage of the run – is the weakest in many years.

Comedy Zone is on at Trades Hall until April 21

Comedy Zone is on at Trades Hall until April 21

The constantly fumbling MC, William Wang, never quite found a steady rhythm. Last year’s RAW Comedy winner, Henry Yan, offered a sub-par set on witnessing street violence that saw him laughing more than the audience. Frankie Rowsthorn’s tales of her constant sweating were delivered with next to no confidence or candor. Rapha Manajem’s recollections of growing up in a diverse household were clever enough, but treaded roads well-travelled. And Meg Jäger’s attempts to decipher her father’s peculiar vernacular were typical bogan ridiculing with little substance.

All performers showed some promise, but I’d suggest waiting until later in the run after the kinks are hopefully ironed out.
★★
Reviewed by Tyson Wray

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