It’s the up-and-comers that make the Melbourne International Comedy Festival so incredible

It’s the up-and-comers that make the Melbourne International Comedy Festival so incredible

Alex Keen and Tess Birch
Words By Kyra Gillespie

Tess Birch and Alex Keen’s show, Smart Casual, was proof there are plenty of diamonds in the rough when Melbourne International Comedy Festival rolls around every year.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, some may argue, is defined not by the big headliners, but the up-and-coming acts that take you pleasantly by surprise. One such act was Smart Casual by Tess Birch and Alex Keen.

Upstairs at Melbourne’s Campari House, Birch talked about how in school, her mum would always lecture her about her social media intake, yet now it’s her mum who spends hours on Facebook, sending her videos of unlikely animal friendships, captured by the endless social worm-hole.

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Honestly, this has been living rent-free in my head for the whole week after seeing the show and it gets funnier the more I realise how on-point this observation is. Of course Birch tells the joke better, but it’s this kind of humour that had audiences laughing the whole show through; stories and anecdotes that have you in stitches with how relatable it is, while taking delightfully unexpected twists and turns.

They describe themselves as Melbourne’s funniest ageing millennials, who used the pandemic as an opportunity to “get it together” (i.e. move back home).

Birch is the girl from Brighton – the self-described living embodiment of Chris Lilley’s private school girl character Ja’mie, where the cavoodle population is threatening to overtake the human one and baristas in the school canteen aren’t a widely-shared phenomenon outside the suburb (she now realises).

Keen is the guy from Bundaberg, where people think global warming “is a brand of microwave”, who now lives in Melbourne’s inner north where forgetting a keep cup is up there with having a criminal record.

They have some differing and hilarious perspectives on the world.

Following on from their sold-out 2020 Adelaide Fringe show, Corporate Social Irresponsibility, Smart Casual details their trials and tribulations of climbing the corporate and social ladders of your 20s and 30s while trying to keep it real.

The pair met on the Melbourne comedy scene (not dating and not siblings they assure the crowd) and their effortless connection onstage is palpable and warming. Their humour is wry and self-deprecating at times, poking fun at all the things that come with adulting, all while never taking themselves too seriously.

Tess and Alex are regulars on the Melbourne comedy scene and certainly ones to watch. You can catch them doing gigs around the city most weeks.


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A post shared by Tess Birch (@tessofthebirchervilles)

For more on Tess Birch and Alex Keen, head to their respective Facebook pages.