Thirty-three years in and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is more enormous than ever, with 7700 performances happening in more than 100 venues across 26 days. There’s a lot to traverse. So, in an effort to avoid hard work, we spoke to some of the comedians who know best to find out who to see, where they’ll be scoffing hot chips pre-show, and where they’ll be scamming free drinks post-show.

TOM BALLARD

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Enough in one sentence.
Tom Ballard: It’s me yelling for 55 minutes about how I lost my job, how capitalism is destroying our collective future and how one time I farted into a lady’s face on the tram.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Dan Rath (Bubble Bath) because I don’t exactly know how his brain works but I’m here for it. He’s very very funny.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Simon Amstell is one of my all-time favourite acts and also we drank tea together once so it’ll be fun walking around the festival telling everyone that we’re best friends.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda – something or someone that’s under the radar but worth us checking out?
I’m extremely keen to see what the hell Three Guards on Manus Island by The Manus Island Amateur Theatrical Society is all about. It will either be genius or a disaster. And all proceeds go to the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria, so that’s very cool.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
I’ll be drinking my butt off at BOB Bar, the pop-bar set up by my friends Alex Dyson and Kyran Wheatley to replace the recently-closed Hairy Little Sista. I assume they’ll give me free drinks. If not, I shall immediately take my business elsewhere.

BECKY LUCAS

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Um Support Me?! in one sentence.
Becky Lucas: My show is a candid look inside the brain of a 29-year-old woman who pretends to be sick when her Uber Eats delivery arrives (so as to elicit sympathy and not judgment).

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Melinda Buttle. She’s the funniest person and if you’ve never seen her, you’re a lunatic!

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Michelle Wolf.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
Adam Knox. He’s hilarious!

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
Probably Nando’s. I like to go in there and secretly scoff a quarter chicken and chips. I truly am a filthy animal. But if it’s a special night I might go and have dinner and drinks with friends at Embla on Russell Street. Love that joint.

BEN KOCHAN

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Comedy Zone in one sentence.
Ben Kochan: Comedy zone is a showcase featuring the best up-and-comers from around Australia. We’re up, we’re coming and we’re the best.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Dan Rath, both at the Airbnb we’re sharing and live on stage. The great thing about Dan is that he’s funny all the time, whether he’s standing on a stage or just in a regular Airbnb kitchen. He’s one of the funniest comedians in Australia, his show is called Bubble Bath and if you don’t go, I’ll be really upset.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
James Acaster, Maria Bamford and Ron Funches are all on the list. I hope I get to see them using my artist pass. Sam Campbell and Paul Williams’s show is sure to be a hoot and I saw Carey Marx do a small spot in Adelaide and he was very funny as well.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
Fran Middleton is doing a fantastic show called Fran Solo. I saw the show last year at the Sydney Fringe. It was amazing then and it’s probably even better now!

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
I’ll be dining at my aforementioned Airbnb pre-show this year because I’m only on a tennis coaches salary. But post-show you better believe I’ll be hitting the town. I’ll treat myself to a glass of sherry and possibly have a succulent bowl of ramen. That’s only if the show goes well though. If it goes poorly I’ll go back to the Airbnb and nibble on a dry piece of toast while I stand over the sink.

FERN BRADY

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Power and Chaos in one sentence.
Fern Brady: Raw bisexual energy.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Nath Valvo, because he supported Kevin Bridges on tour and he’s like Jesus to Scottish people. Also Geraldine Hickey because I saw her at Festival Club last year and love her delivery.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Eleanor Tiernan and Sarah Keyworth as I missed their shows in Edinburgh and both got a lot of buzz, and are acts I look up to.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
I don't know if they’re under the radar but I'm obsessed with Liza Treyger at the moment, and she’s on the Headliners show. Actually all the Americans this year are great.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
Proud Mary for coffee, EJ Fine Foods for dinner.

WIL ANDERSON

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show WIL-INFORMED in one sentence.
Will Anderson: It’s about 70 minutes of the funniest things I can think of, said in a row.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Justin Hamilton’s new three-part show, it’s his masterpiece.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Michelle Wolf is a genius, as is Maria Bamford.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
Dane Simpson will be the underground hit of the festival.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
During the festival I will be 90 per cent St Ali coffee. And beer and Pringles backstage.

JOEL CREASEY

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Drink. Slay. Repeat. in one sentence.
Joel Creasey: Drink. Slay. Repeat. is the name of my show and frankly it’s the only show worth seeing at the festival this year.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Kirsty Webeck. Brilliant new comedian. She makes me squeal with delight.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
I love catching up with my pals Stephen K Amos and Paul Foote each year.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
Okay, complete confession. I don’t follow a lot of stand up so I’m really not sure. I guess I’ll have to head along to some shows and let you know!

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
Drinks at Bar Tini. Dinner at Maha and Coda, always.

DANIELLE WALKER

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Myths and Legends in one sentence.
Danielle Walker: My show Myths and Legends is just a bunch of silly (sometimes very dark, so be prepared) fun.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
I think you mean acts*. I always love seeing Anne Edmonds’s and Bob Franklin’s shows. They’re the best. I just checked the MICF guide and Bob’s show clashes with mine so now I guess I’m gonna have to cancel one of my shows so I can go see his.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Again! It's acts*. I'm really looking forward to seeing Maria Bamford, Fern Brady and Finn Taylor.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
He’s not under the radar I don’t think, but I saw Tom Walker’s (no relation, this is a genuine plug) show in Brisbane and it was so so so great. If you want under the radar then go see Blake Freeman in his first ever solo show, it’s gonna be good.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
I'll probably be at Balding Older Brother (BOB), just off Little Collins and Swanston, it’s a pop-up bar directly opposite my venue (very handy). It opens on March 27 and is only open during comedy festival.

CHARITY WERK

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show The Comedy Zone in one sentence.
Charity Werk: Zone is a line-up show featuring five up-and-coming stand-ups from around Australia, handpicked by the festival. It’s gonna be one hell of a good time.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Judith Lucy vs Men. I’m obsessed with Judith, she’s one of my comedy idols.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
I’m really excited to see DeAnne Smith, I think she’s a legend.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
I think Melbourne’s Bella Green is one to look out for. I saw her show, Bella Green is Charging For It, at the Melbourne Fringe and was blown away.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
Auntie’s Dumplings in Carnegie. No question.

SAM TAUNTON

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show Straight from the Shoulder in one sentence.
Sam Taunton: [It’s] named after my dad’s 1988 country music album. I can’t go into more detail without risking legal action. Lol, jokes. The show is a collection of dumb stories and my obsession with the greatest television show of all time, Who Dares Wins. Please come!

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
There’s a bunch of great acts. I really want to see Tom Cashman and Cameron James but if I had to pick one – EDDO! Anne Edmonds. You gotta see her. She’s sooooo funny.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Eleanor Tiernan. I toured with her last year and can’t wait to see her full hour.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
Tim Hewitt! He’s spent the last year trying to become an Instagram influencer and it’s gone terribly!

JUSTIN HAMILTON

Broadsheet: Tell us about your show The Ballad of John Tilt Animus in one sentence.
John Hamilton: It’s a story in three parts that follows the fall and rise of a mostly forgotten comedian in the twilight of his career.

Which local act are you most looking forward to seeing?
I can’t wait to see Hannah Gadsby and her follow-up to Nanette, the show that was heard all around the world.

Which international act are you most looking forward to seeing?
Carl Donnelly is super smart and funny, with great jokes and an interesting and considered approach to the world.

Which curve ball act is on your agenda?
I gigged with Double Denim in Sydney recently and not only enjoyed their act but found their energy to be incredibly infectious.

Where are you drinking or dining, pre or post show this year?
I’ll be at Cookie eating all of the food before the show, and at the Toff in Town after the show, drinking and talking bollocks until the wee hours of the morning.