"Punch isn’t as funny as it used to be," people used to remark to Malcolm Muggeridge, the editor of the famous, now forgotten, "humour" magazine. "It never was," Muggeridge would reply. This appears to be the fate of humorous outlets everywhere. One always remember them from first contact -- Python, Mad Magazine, Quadrant -- as hilarious. As the jokes are internalised, their impact dies, and it looks as if the thing itself has gone off. Even though you know this, one can never quite believe that it is happening inside you, and not out in the world.

Nevertheless, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival isn’t as funny as it used to be, and that’s just a fact, I won’t brook any argument. What was once a multi-genre festival stretching to avant-garde theatre at one end, through comedy writing, to sketch and then stand-up, has become a monoculture of the last of these. Hundreds of people, well, standing up, to give their views of the world. A bare handful of sketch and movement acts among them. The cabaret festival is nabbing some of the best musical stuff. The monoculture breeds monotony. Every year it becomes a little worse this way. Every year it makes more money.