The Comedy Zone

Get the latest from Beat

The Comedy Zone


The Comedy Zone is the Festival’s own showcase of emerging talents. Each of the five performers experienced outstanding success in last year’s Raw Comedy competition, making it to the state finals and beyond. “Angus [Gordon] won Raw last year, Jess [Perkins] was in the final with me,” explains Taunton, one of two Victorians in this year’s line-up. “Andrew Wolfe is fantastic, he’s an absolute ball of energy. Pat does topical stand-up and a lot of politics gear and it’s really good. It’s a great show. I MC the show which is frightening to think, that I’m in charge of anything, let alone a comedy show that people pay money to see.”

The one thing so far that’s great is how well everyone gets along,” says McCaffrie, acknowledging that the young comics will continue to live in each other’s pockets as the Festival unfolds. “We spend a lot of time together, because we’re flyering together, doing the show and then seeing other shows together. It’s been so much fun so far.”


Each of the participants were hand-picked by the festival – a glowing endorsement from the industry bigwigs that live and breathe comedy. Taunton very much values the opportunity to perform as part of The Comedy Zone, as well as everything it stands for. “It’s a really overwhelmingly validating thing,” he says.”Like most comedians, I’m plagued by self-doubt and constant anxiety about how good or funny I am. It is very validating for them to say, ‘Look, we think you guys are great emerging comedians and we’d love for you to do the show.’ And it’s nice when you look at the honour roll of the people who have come through Comedy Zone: you’ve got guys like Ronny Chieng, Celia Pacquola, Tom Ballard and Hannah Gadsby. It’s actually ridiculous when you look at some of the names that have come through. It’s very validating.”


According to McCaffrie, it’s nice to have something to hang your hat on. “You’re always doing that thing where, as a performer, you think, ‘Oh, that gig went well.’ But if you think that gig went well and the audience didn’t laugh, that’s only half the equation,” the South-Australian comic explains. “This is one of those things where it’s very easy for me to say, ‘Well someone else thinks I’m good at comedy.’ So I’m probably doing something right.”


Taunton and McCaffrie were privileged to be under the tutelage of comedy great Bob Franklin, this year’s director of The Comedy Zone. According to both performers, it was a terrific experience. “We all ran through our material, workshopping ideas and working out what order we would go in,” explains McCaffrie.


We spent a week with him in the first week of the festival,” adds Taunton. “It was an amazing. He’s such a genius, a legend of Australian comedy. It was great just hang out with him and rack his brains about the industry and the experiences that he’s had. Just chatting to him and getting his advice on some of our jokes, hearing him talk about the industry and about how he started and getting advice on how to do certain gigs and how to handle certain crowds was fascinating.”


And he’s just a lovely guy, too,” confirms McCaffrie. “It was really great that not only was he very helpful, he was a real gentleman and a real lovely guy to get along with.”


In working with such a big name, The Comedy Zone performers could not have asked for a better lead-up to the festival. As for their season, it’s off to a great start. “Everyone’s said lots of positive things,” says Taunton. “People are still always a bit dubious if they haven’t seen you on the TV too much or if they haven’t heard you on the radio. But that’s the beauty of the comedy festival in general: there’s so many great acts and the best comedian you’ve never heard of is out there doing a show. You’ve just got to go and see it.”