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From kid-friendly to risque: Our top picks for Comedy Festival 2019

That nice comedian you saw on The Project? While they kept it clean for TV, there’s no guarantee they’ll do the same on stage – and of course, live comedy should be unpredictable. But if you want a show that’s family-friendly (or something a little spicier) our guide to this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a good place to start. And remember: it’s worth taking a punt on an unknown performer – in one of those tiny venues is our next comic superstar.

UK double act The Kagools: Claire Ford (left) and Nicola Wilkinson.

Cho Kairin: Already famous in China, Kairin brings his death-defying acrobatics to Melbourne.
The Kagools: They never speak, but the physical comedy of these two UK women is far from silent.
Comedy Club for Kids: A mix of stand-up, sketch comedy and circus acts for kids aged six to 12.

The next big things

It’s only a matter of time before these rising stars pack out Hamer Hall.

Geraldine Hickey.Credit:JAMES PENLIDIS PHOTOGRAPHY

John Hastings: He's had a tough time since he was last here; he got hit by a car and broke his arm, became homeless, and had a long-distance relationship. At last, this comic genius – who also features in the Best of Edinburgh Fest line-up – is doing his own show.
Geraldine Hickey: Triple R’s long-running Breakfasters program has launched many sterling careers – and current co-host Hickey is next in line. Her show is called Things Are Going Well which means, of course, they are not.
Nath Valvo: He made his name with an explicit show about Grindr; now, he finds the funny in long-term relationships, successful friends and his mother’s dark new habit.
Khaled Khalafalla: He’s appeared in Upper Middle Bogan, Ali’s Wedding and Utopia. As The Age noted upon his 2013 debut, he already had the confidence of a seasoned veteran. (And he's especially good at accents and impressions.)

You’ve been warned

Some are crude, others are controversial – and all are hilarious. Easily-offended types need not apply.

Michelle Wolf.Credit:AP

Michelle Wolf (16+): She earned the wrath of Donald Trump and liberal media after roasting both at this year's Whitehouse Correspondents' Dinner. In refusing to pander to audiences' preconceptions, she's fast becoming one of America’s best comics.
Fin Taylor (16+): Having tackled race and left-wing tribalism, this UK performer turns his attention to post-#MeToo gender politics.
Dolly Diamond (18+): Melbourne’s reigning queen of cabaret puts her own spin on the classic TV game show, Blankety Blanks, including a roster of celebrity guests.
Rhys Nicholson (16+): His sharp comic instincts means he can (and will) mine almost anything for laughs. Last year, for instance, he looked at anti-vaxxers, cruise ships and the unique agony that is a parent driving their teenager home from a party.

International

Our Comedy Festival attracts the world's best – including these performers.

Stephen K Amos.

Aliya Kanani: She attended 10 schools in different countries and speaks six languages. Her show is called Where Are You From? But even she's not sure of the answer. How does one find a place of belonging, she asks, in a place they don't fit into?
Urzila Carlson: Born in South Africa and now living in New Zealand, her appearances on local panel shows have earned her a big Australian fanbase. Having lost her keys, her money, her dignity and a relative, she's keen to find the positives in, well, being a loser.
Stephen K Amos: Quite simply, one of the best in the business. After this show, in which Amos reflects on the past decade (let's hope he re-examines Australian's peculiar obsession with the price of bananas), he's likely to take a break from touring.
Larry Dean: This year, Dean takes a closer look at Scottishness, sodomites and self-esteem. Six years after being named Scottish Comedian of the Year, he’s better than ever.

Local favourites

A few homegrown heroes.

Nazeem Hussain.Credit:Louie Douvis

Nazeem Hussain: Over the past year, Hussain created a Channel Seven series, a Netflix special and a child – all of which he’ll explore in his new show Basic Idiot.
Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor: They’re the creators and stars of ABC’s Rosehaven; off screen, they’re best mates. Together, they talk about friendship, comedy and television in these “in conversation” special events.
Anne Edmonds: Attempting to explain Edmonds’ comic skill is a fool’s errand; all we can say is that no one has a sharper eye for the small peculiarities of Australian life.
Ronny Chieng: He’s cracked Hollywood (Crazy Rich Asians) and US late-night TV (The Daily Show), and he landed the cover of American fashion bible GQ. Not that he’s great at blowing his own trumpet – as he admits in Tone Issues, everything he says sounds sarcastic.

Tickets: comedyfestival.com.au

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