Sydney Comedy Festival is beyond a joke


"We're mainly in the inner [city], but we've booked shows at Chatswood, we get out to Parramatta," Menidis says. "We're kind of everywhere."

When it first started, the festival had about 30 acts, and international performers were the big drawcards.

"Now it's the Australians who are the real standouts," he says. "We still second-guess ourselves and generally don't recognise we have world-class talent."

The festival scours the world's festivals, such as the Edinburgh Festival and Canada's Just For Laughs, to bring international acts and fan favourites Down Under.

Yet it also has the knack of picking future local stars such as Ronny Chieng, who first appeared on the bill in 2011, and now appears regularly on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

"We're pretty chuffed with the number of people that we had on our Fresh [program] that have gone on to have massive careers," Menidis says.

"There are emerging comedians like Becky Lucas. She's writing, she's performing, she's very funny … and you can put her up against anybody around the world."

Menidis says Sydney's comedy landscape has become "far more interesting" and nuanced over the years. He thinks we have always had diverse acts, but they were "siloed".

"Way back when the guys were doing Wogs Out Of Work, they weren't mixing with the general population, so to speak. I think today a lot more people are prepared to try things and it's really a reflection of where society is at."

Menidis believes Australians have no problem laughing at themselves.

"We have a fairly healthy sense of humour … other than maybe [about] our cricket team."

As for the eternal question – will Sydney ever steal Melbourne's comedy crown? – he says we should forget about the rivalry and celebrate a golden period of Australian comedy.

"There's so much good comedy coming out of Sydney. The comedy scene is so healthy," he says.

The Sydney Comedy Festival runs from April 23 to May 20, www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au.

Something for everyone

Jorge Menidis and Charles Purcell run their eye over this year's line-up.

Reliable laughs

  • British "surrealist" Ross Noble is legendary for mind-bending shows that go from A to Z via X. Enmore Theatre, April 19-20, Concourse, April 21. JM
  • "The irrepressible Urzila Carlson leaves no stone unturned in mining laughs," Menidis says. Enmore Theatre, April 26-27. Concourse, April 28. JM
  • Perennial festival favourite Stephen K. Amos ponders a world featuring Trump, Brexit and "no more Mary Berry on the Great British Bake Off" during Bread & Circuses. Enmore Theatre, May 4. Concourse, May 5. JM

Bright new talent

  • Shayne Hunter is one of the stars of Fresh, the festival showcase of the best emerging comedians. "Exciting, political and refreshingly opinionated," Menidis says. Enmore Theatre, May 3-6. JM
  • Who knows what makes Millennials laugh? Charisa Bossinakis does, rhapsodising about Tinder, yoga posers and "whore hierarchies". Give her a big cheer as she presents her first hour of comedy in Boss. Factory Theatre, May 9 and 11. JM

On the edge

  • Menidis nominates "wolf in sheep's clothing" Daniel Sloss for his ability to challenge society's norms. "His last show encouraged everyone in a relationship to question the veracity of the relationship. He ended up celebrating the over 100 people who broke up after seeing his show!" Enmore Theatre, April 28. JM
  • Heath Franklin turned his impression of late gangster Mark "Chopper" Read from a TV skit to a stage sensation. If you only see one parody of an ex-con who cut off his ears in prison, see this one. Enmore Theatre, May 17-20. JM

Take your mum

  • Menidis claims all the festival's shows are "mum friendly", however, your mum should love Menopause The Musical, aka the "Mousetrap of menopause musicals". Factory Theatre, May 9. CP
  • Mother-of-five Fiona O'Loughlin is riding high after winning I'm A Celebrity Australia. She'll deliver the gift of "lols" during Gap Year. Factory Theatre, May 12-13. JM
  • Menidis nominates cheeky Scot Craig Hill: "Bawdy, loud and very rude … brilliant for the whole family." Factory Theatre, April 26-29. JM

Leave her at home

  • Mum probably wouldn't appreciate a battle where contestants trade "yo mama" insults based on topics straight from the audience. You might, though. Yo Mama Battle! X, Factory Theatre, May 10-11. CP
  • The Hamburger, The Eiffel Tower, the see-it-to-believe-it Loch Ness Monster … you'll behold them all during Puppetry Of The Penis. Concourse, May 1. Enmore Theatre, May 5. JM
  • Fat Pizza star Pauly Fenech has been going for the comic jugular ever since he won Tropfest in 1998 under an assumed name. Hear him recite comic psalms from his politically incorrect Bogan Bible. Factory Theatre, April 27. JM

First date

  • We're not sure what it takes to amuse a moose, but Scotland's Larry Dean does, winning the Amused Moose Best Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe. "Your partner will fall in love with him," Menidis says. Comedy Store, May 3-5. JM
  • "He makes you feel like you're hanging out with your mate," Menidis says of Matt Okine. You might already love him from his hit series The Other Guy on streaming service Stan. Enmore Theatre, May 11. JM

Best group acts

  • Menidis reckons you should give cult Sydney improvisers The Bear Pack a go: "Steen [Raskopoulos] and Carlo [Ritchie] are incredible and should be lauded." Giant Dwarf, April 26-28. JM
  • Edinburgh Fringe award winners the Kagools (yes, they have an Amused Moose on their mantlepiece, too) bust out all-new anarchic antics during Kula. Factory Floor, April 28-29. CP
  • See a curated selection of the best established and emerging stars during the Sydney Comedy Festival Gala. Various locations, from April 23. CP

Local heroes

  • Becky Lucas was named as one of Buzzfeed's 27 funniest Australian comedians on Twitter and also wrote for the Emmy-nominated Oz show Please Like Me. Factory Theatre, April 16-20. JM
  • In 2012, the SMH's Metro section listed Rhys Nicholson as one of its top 10 local comedians to watch. Now the ARIA nominee is bona fide star of stage and screen. Factory Theatre, May 17-20. JM
  • Sharp, funny, relatable … Kitty Flanagan has long been one of our favourite local comics. Enmore Theatre, May 5. JM

Plain weird (but brilliant)

  • "This will be the craziest comedy show at the whole ruddy festival," Sam Campbell says of The Trough. At least one actual snake is also promised. Factory Theatre, May 2-6. JM
  • Award-winning absurdist Fran Middleton also gets the nod from Menidis for her show Franny Pack, which "may contain traces of Bjork, spit and your mum". Enmore Theatre, May 3-6. JM

Wild card

  • There's nothing up their sleeves … mostly because The Naked Magicians don't have any. Kit-off abracadabra at its finest. Concourse, April 24. JM
  • Netflix star and former Orthodox Jew-turned-cynical-atheist Ari Shaffir shares hilarious tales from his life in Heretic. Factory Theatre, April 28-29. JM

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