The Melbourne International Comedy Festival can be a real mixed bag. You can fork out a bundle to see a big international comic and not even crack a smile, or you could wander into a tiny bar and have your hair blown back by an undiscovered gem. That’s part of the charm, too – you never know exactly what you might stumble upon.

Flipping through the program can be intimidating, with hundreds of names and endless pages of grinning comics vying for your attention. Close the brochure. We went straight to the source, approaching the comedians themselves for their top picks of the festival and got the inside word on the big names, and those we'll all be talking about next year.

CELIA PACQUOLA

Heavy Hitter: Wil Anderson. Wil's shows are always fantastic. He's in top form, has been gigging around the world and I hear his new show is incredible. Make sure you book early.

Middleweight:  Luke McGregor. If you saw him at The Gala you've probably already got tickets. Just go. He's about to be super huge, this will be the last time to see him in a smaller room. Take a date. Go on your own. Wear waterproof underwear. (I'm suggesting you might wet yourself from laughing, just in case that wasn't clear).

Take a chance on: Oliver Clark. Okay, definitely take a date to Oliver Clarke. Or if you don't you'll probably leave with one. This velvet suit-clad comedy crooner is one of the favourites of the comedy scene. I'll probably be at this show a few times.

GREG FLEET

Heavy Hitter:  Wil Anderson or Anthony Morgan. Because, baby, if I'm the bottom, they're the top. Titans.

Middleweight:  David Quirk or Justin Hamilton. Two top-notch masters of poetic mirth. Stay gold, pony boys.

Take a chance on:  Amos Gill or Sam Petersen. Put your wages on these two punchy, young gag-slingers. See 'em before they get fat and lazy from the good life.

MATT OKINE

Heavy Hitter:  Anjelah Johnson. If you like your comics bold, loud, and in your face, Anjelah will deliver. Both my sister and girlfriend have been quoting her ever since they saw her famous (and fairly un-PC) ‘Nail Salon’ sketch.

Middleweight: After a killer five-star review in Adelaide, Cam Knight is making a big comeback to the festival scene. Definitely a middleweight who knows how to throw punches.

Take a chance on:  Susie Youssef's Sketchual Chocolate is a hugely promising debut that will likely leave you wanting more ... much like real chocolate.

COLIN LANE

Heavy Hitter:  Not a huge name but Sean Cullen is a guy I saw in the Canadian trio Corky and the Juice Pigs and he is one of the very few people who have made me literally cry with laughter. Check out his mind-meanderings.

Middleweight:  Kate McLennan is good. She is really good. We comedians often talk about whether people have 'funny bones', as in, are they inherently funny. I reckon she has and she is.

Take a chance on: Gillian Cosgriff. She writes her own songs. She sings her own songs. She plays her own songs. If my mum was reading this she would say 'she's the cats mother'. But she's not. She's a writer, singer, and, um, player.

NISH KUMAR

Heavy Hitter:  Milton Jones. Beautifully crafted one-liners. He paints perfect pictures with very few words. He is hilarious and unique.

Middleweight:  James Acaster. Everyday life is filtered through the mind of a true weirdo. He is one of my favourite comedians.

Take a chance on:  John Kearns. Master of absurdity. John is a true original. He's also very funny.

RONNY CHIENG

Heavy hitter: Matt Okine. This guy is the new Triple J Weekend Morning Breakfast host and was nominated for Best Newcomer at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. Do it.

Middleweight: Luke McGregor. The reigning MICF Best Newcomer has made every TV appearance possible in the last year and is back for more hilarity.

Take a chance on: Steen Raskopoulos. Sydney Comedy Festival's Best Newcomer from last year. He does one-man sketch comedy, if you are looking for something other than stand up.

ANNE EDMONDS

Heavy hitter: I have been a huge fan of Fiona O'Loughlin for years and still have to pinch myself when I get to perform alongside her. I've been watching her develop the material for her new show, My Brilliant Career, at gigs around Melbourne and it is heartfelt and hilarious and everyone should check it out.

Middleweight: If you want to see a million jokes a minute delivered by a naturally funny comedian, check out Joel Creasey in Rock God this year. I spend a lot of time on tour with this guy (including in New York last year where he supported Joan Rivers!) and we laugh ourselves sick backstage. That's what you want in a comedian.

Take a chance on: Everyone should go and check out The Comedy Zone this year. It's is a line-up of the best up-and-coming comedians in Australia hand-picked by the Comedy Festival. Becky Lucas is one of them. She's funny and a good bloke as well.

comedyfestival.com.au