The city of Melbourne will soon be alive to the sound of laughter.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is an annual highlight for Victoria, and the city is crawling with comedy fans and comedians alike. With hundreds of official shows and a variety of unofficial offerings, there’s something to cater to everyone.

The hub of the festival tends to congregate around the Melbourne Town Hall, with venues scattered throughout the city in bars, hotels and clubs. There are street performances in elaborate costumes, acrobatics, and an entire range of comedians wandering a couple of blocks in Swanston Street, at times begging people to come and see their show.

This is the 25th year of the festival, and to commemorate the occasion there’s a special free exhibition at the Arts Centre, which is worth taking a look at. Besides that there’s comedy with amateur offerings, local legends, national treasures and international wonders taking the stage, and enough in between to cater to all tastes.

While there are many high-profile comedians holding their shows, take a risk one night and see someone you mightn’t normally see. Some of my chance discoveries have ended up being my favourite shows — acts such as Mark Butler, Lawrence Mooney, Dead Cat Bounce, Andrew McClelland and Anyone For Tennis mightn’t have the highest profile but the laughs are definitely there.

For those who live elsewhere in Australia, you have my condolences (for missing this great event, of course), but fear not: after the comedy festival concludes, a selection of willing and eager comedians embark on the comedy festival roadshow, taking their acts to every state in a town near you.

So make sure you get out there, there’s no excuse to miss the great home grown comedy.

The details: The Melbourne International Comedy Festival starts on Wednesday and runs until April 24 across various venues around Melbourne city, before hitting every state with its roadshow.

Peter Fray

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