Brisbane’s Comedy Festival has been going since 2009, so you can be forgiven for sticking to the sure bets before now. But this year we think it’s time to look beyond the old favourites.
You’re no doubt aware that Wil Anderson always puts on a smart, funny show; and good-looking Scotsman Daniel Sloss is a master of confidence who always stays the right side of the line between likeable cockiness and arrogance. And that Mel Buttle is a beautiful and hilarious storyteller who makes you feel more at ease with the world because she’s in it.
This list looks at perhaps slightly lesser-known acts, or great comedians who are known less for their comedy than their media personality. If there’s a name you don’t know, take a chance. Hopefully, you’ll get that particular joy of discovery, as well as a night of great jokes.
Anne Edmonds – No Offense, None Taken
Anne Edmonds didn’t start doing standup until her late 20s – and maybe that’s why her comedy feels both so raw and completely confident. This isn’t someone who’s gone from school talent show to standup competition. She’s lived. She’s messed up. And she’ll make you do those shocked guffaw laughs when she says something outrageous and shocking that you thought was only in your head. She’s a wonderful physical comedian, using her face and body in unexpected ways to evoke characters, as well as just to muck around. Edmonds has the talent and drive to break into standup stardom at any time, so catch her while you can.
Luke McGregor – Almost Fixed It
Luke McGregor's “nervous guy who doesn’t know anything about women’’ shtick could have got old really quickly. But there’s something about him that’s so likeable, so different from anyone you usually see on TV or on stage that you want to watch him forever. You want him to succeed. After appearing in shows such as Luke Warm Sex, Rosehaven and Utopia it’s become obvious that his odd brand of charisma translates just as well to screen as stage. McGregor isn’t playing an awkward character to get laughs – he just happens to be both completely hilarious and also constantly uncomfortable. What’s especially cool is that he’s not only making a name for himself in the Australian comedy scene, but also a space for other strange, unlikely people like him.
Becky Lucas – Little Bitch
Becky Lucas's show is called Little Bitch. That alone is extremely funny. Her Brisbane Comedy Festival show last year, Baby was a slightly haphazard hour that nonetheless showcased her cruelly hilarious voice and talent for making excruciating embarrassment and shameful secrets into sharp, dark fun. Since then she’s become a much more focused and confident performer, honing her skills for observation and comparison, while mining her own emotional trauma with terrific results.
Susie Youssef – Check Youssef Before You Wreck Youssef
Susie Youssef knows how to write a joke. Her main gig is writing for TV and sketch comedy. However she’s also a quick improviser, appearing in improv shows across the country and overseas. These dual talents make her a formidable comedian who can both effortlessly inhabit characters and also reveal truths about herself and her experiences. Youssef’s standup is professional and well produced, but with room for happy accidents and improvised fun. There’s a talent to making an audience feel comfortable without playing it safe, and Youssef is a master.
Hannah Gadsby – Nanette
Ok, so Hannah Gadsby is a pretty big name. But sometimes we get complacent when we know someone is good; when we’ve seen them on TV or read their op-eds, and we think we don’t need to see any more. You need to see every one of Hannah Gadsby’s hour-long shows. Gadsby is one of the greats of Australian comedy – her deadpan delivery of searing wit and thoughtfulness on both personal and political issues. Her writing and show structure. Her empathy for others, as well as complete no-nonsense derision of those who cross her. Gadsby reels you in, takes her time with jokes, then delivers quality consistent laughs again and again.
Matt Okine – We Made You
One of the reasons Matt Okine decided to give up hosting the breakfast show on Triple J last year was to focus on his standup. He’s quick, direct, and unafraid of tackling sensitive issues and making them very funny, though he can also be introspective and extremely personal, displaying a rare kind of honesty and cool without affect. He’s been the recipient of stacks of awards; his festival shows regularly sell out; and streaming service Stan recently picked up his 2015 festival show, The Other Guy, to turn into a TV show. All the signs say he’s just getting started.
The Brisbane Comedy Festival runs from Sunday February 26 to Tuesday March 28 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.