It’s easy to see comedians as somehow extraordinary. Melbourne, at least, seems to adopt that view for the duration of the festival. The Comedy Zone’s Sam Taunton put it best. “It’s the only time of year I feel like comedians are almost on par with AFL players for the most important people in Melbourne,” he explained to Beat in a recent interview.
Comedians earn every bit of adulation, too. The festival is their premiership season and it’s the one-percenters that count. Consider comedy duo Jennifer Byrne and Vicky Falconer-Pritchard, who have been flyering people, in costume – that is, as yetis, wearing five kilograms of mop yarn – the entire festival. That’s dedication and, as anyone who has ever flyered at the Town Hall will attest, it’s sheer resilience. Stories have filtered down through the festival season, detailing similar feats. Stuart Daulman’s computer crashed just minutes before showtime, compromising almost three-quarters of his performance. David O’Doherty, at one stage, lost his hat. It’s rough out there.
In all seriousness though, comedians are extraordinary. It extends far beyond the typical focal point of their courage. It’s about metamorphosis. The view on the ground makes it plain as day just how many hats performers are expected to wear on a daily basis. From all accounts, you have to see yourself as a business, from the requisite bureaucracy of festival registration to the ongoing chore of selling yourself to strangers (or, at the very least, organising others to do it for you). There seems to be so much at stake and the way that every day and night unfolds is of huge importance, whether it’s about the bottom line or stitching your ego back together. When you’re chatting with a comedian about how well tickets are moving for their show and neither of you are laughing, that pretty much says it all.
But here we are, at the end of the 30th Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Everyone has survived an eventful few weeks and finds themselves better or worse off for the experience. The 19th Annual Comedy Awards have come to a close, with Zoe Coombs Marr taking out the illustrious Barry Award. Her shows consistently received standing ovations throughout the Festival, and the award is well deserved.
Ultimately though, I think we can all agree that comedy has been the real winner. Honestly, if there’s one thing that this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival has taught me, it’s that whoever ends up winning whichever award will have truly earned it. And yet, how much it will separate them from their peers seems somewhat negligible. They all share one important quality. I feel I have a better idea now more than ever about what kind of person you have to be to pursue comedy. Put simply, you have to be extraordinary.
BY NICK MASON