Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s special events: Six one off, unique shows to catch this year

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Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s special events: Six one off, unique shows to catch this year

We dive beyond the headliners at this year's Comedy Festival to spotlight six events that each have their own unique drawcard.

Class Clowns National Grand Final

  • Wed 5 Apr: 1pm
  • Forum Melbourne – Downstairs, 154 Flinders St, Melbourne

Class Clowns is the Comedy Festival’s national development program for teens, which sends professional comedians into schools to teach kids comedy. Excitingly, it runs a national competition for school-aged stand-ups to refine and deliver their best material, like a junior version of the festival’s famous RAW Comedy competition. Heats are judged in every Australian state and territory and the state finalists compete in the National Grand Final.

Unsurprisingly, it’s unearthed some of Australia’s best contemporary stand-ups over the years, with Joel Creasey, Rhys Nicholson, Annie Louey, Aaron Chen and William McKenna among past competitors, so this is your chance to see the next big names in Australian comedy at the very beginning of their careers. Buy tickets here.

The 33rd Annual Great Debate

  • Sun 9 Apr: 4pm
  • Melb Town Hall – Main Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne

You only have to take a cursory glance over previous Great Debate topics; cancel culture, fake news, turning off the internet and of course, food versus sex, to know that this event is among the most fertile comedy soil known to humanity.

Six comedians split into two teams argue over an annual issue that ranges from everyday philosophy to hard-hitting political issues. The result is always hilarious, but it can also deliver biting social commentary through a cathartic comedic lense, which is really special. Grab tickets here.

Deadly Funny National Grand Final

  • Sat 15 Apr: 3pm
  • Forum Melbourne – Downstairs, 154 Flinders St, Melbourne

What could be a better selling point than watching the freshest, fiercest, funniest comedians and yarn-spinners from the oldest culture on earth? Deadly Funny is the Comedy Festival’s national stand-up competition for First Peoples, bringing a unique perspective to Australia’s comedy calendar.

Expect a diverse range of artistic mediums on display, with the 2023 event set to be hosted by Sean Choolburra. Exceptional previous winners include Kevin Kropinyeri, Steph Tisdell, Ghenoa Gela, Jalen Sutcliffe and Shiralee Hood. Buy tickets here.

Light The Way Home: A Fundraiser

  • Wed 12 Apr: 11.15pm
  • Max Watt’s, 125 Swanston St (opp Town Hall), Melbourne

Rhys Nicholson, Rosie Jones (UK), Laura Davis, Aurelia St. Clair, Charlie Lewin, Han Arbuthnott, Bea Barbeau-Scurla and host Lauren Bok combine for one of the festival’s most exciting lineups, an all-star cast of Australian and international female, non-binary and queer comics.

$5 from every ticket sold for the event will be donated to Light The Way Home – a program designed to provide women, non-binary and other vulnerable performers with a safe way home from comedy venues in or around the Melbourne CBD. You can donate directly to the fund here. Buy tickets to the show here.

Raw Comedy National Grand Final

  • Sun 16 Apr: 5pm
  • Melb Town Hall – Main Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne

The Raw Comedy National Grand Final is the best place to catch the future of Australian comedy, just look at some of the names who’ve come through this competition (and try to think of anyone who hasn’t): Hannah Gadsby, Ronny Chieng, Matt Okine, Becky Lucas, Aaron Chen, Sarah Kendall, Sam Simmons, Celia Pacquola, Luke McGregor, Rhys Nicholson, Tom Ballard, Anne Edmonds, Sam Campbell, Georgie Carroll, David Woodhead, Cassie Workman and more.

By the time Australia’s best-emerging comedians reach the national final, they’ve perfected their sets, so expect nothing but side-splitting laughs on April 16. In 2023, Dilruk Jayasinha will be your host, buy tickets here.


  • Mon 10 Apr: 7pm
  • Melb Town Hall – Main Hall, 100 Swanston St, Melbourne

One of the biggest shows of the festival, which always boasts one of its most talented lineups, Upfront is a one-night-only show that’s long been a pivotal part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The show features some of the best female comics plucked from the festival at large and put into one stellar lineup to bring the house to tears. As usual, Geraldine Hickey described it best: “It’s a celebration of us all being women but it’s also a celebration of us just being fucking good at our jobs.”

Buy tickets here.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs from March 29 to April 23. Check out the full program here.