Review: Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2024 Gala @ Palais Theatre

Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala
National Arts and Comedy Editor. Based in Melbourne.
Pop culture, pop music and gaming are three of Jesse’s biggest passions. Lady Gaga, Real Housewives and The Sims can almost sum him up – but he also adores a night at the cinema or a trip to the theatre.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is back once more – featuring a line-up stacked with talent from here, there and everywhere.

The iconic Oxfam Gala kicked everything off, full of new and beloved comedians and in a room of almost 3,000 comedy fans there for one main reason: to have a good laugh.

Showbiz is hard work – naturally, as a recorded and broadcast affair, the audience had a part to play in the proceedings, too. Once we had done our best ‘staged’ hearty laughs and rapturous applause (welcome to television!) it was time to kick things off for real.

The Palais Theatre crowd was treated to tales of love, family, embarrassment, joy, sadness and more from such humour connoisseurs as Felicity Ward, Celia Pacquola, Rhys Nicholson, Fern Brady, Nazeem Hussain and Mel Buttle. Newer acts like Emma Holland and He Huang were so much fun to watch – a few acts enjoying their Gala debut and clearly buzzing with the joy of being part of such an event.

Lizzy Hoo took on the responsibility of host with ease, appearing on stage every few acts to tell a few stories of her own – sometimes her voice would echo hilariously through the Palais out of no where as a musical set (such as Reuben Kaye or Gillian Cosgriff) set up equipment for their performance. Her comic timing and presence were a perfect match for the huge crowd, and she handled it fabulously.

Highlights were a hysterical, almost uncomfortably deadpan pondering about mattress protectors from NZ’s Ray O’Leary, a hilariously unhinged bit about ‘gentle parenting’ from Felicity Ward, a breakdown of whether to tap or not to tap your Myki card from Japan’s Takashi Wakasugi, and an ear worm for the ages about Cameron James’ perfectly regular-sized appendage.

A brief pause in the laughs to pay tribute to the one and only Cal Wilson was a somber yet completely necessary addition to this extravagant occasion – her missed presence was felt, incredibly strongly, from front row to back. She was one of this reviewer's favourites of all time, and comedy season will always have something missing without the sheer sunshine she brought to it year upon year. Vale, Cal. 

The Gala was a night diverse and rich in comedy style and comedian alike. Acts from all over the place with all different approaches to the art form meant there was truly something for everyone – which was the perfect entree to Melbourne International Comedy Festival on the whole: an event where there’s so much to choose from it’s genuinely impossible to be left feeling like you’re not being catered to in its offering!

Check out the festival’s offering and make a plan – all your faves are there plus some fresh acts jumping into the event, perhaps for the very first time!

If you’re reading this and wishing you’d snagged Gala tickets for you and your comedy crew, do not despair! The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala will air on ABC on 27 March at 9pm.

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