• Punchline Magazine’s dispatch from Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival, part 1

    Melbourne International Comedy FestivalHello, Punchline Magazine Readers!

    My name is Kambri Crews, Executive Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the New York comedy nightclub Comix. I’m in Melbourne, Australia for the International Comedy Festival where there are hundreds of amazing comedians performing, however, all I really want to see is toilet water flushing anti-clockwise.

    Unfortunately, the world is all eco-friendly now, so modern toilets are everywhere offering half or full flushes that go straight down rather than swirl. The hunt is on for an old school toilet that will give me the “reverse swirl” pleasure I seek.

    Our modern toilet failing to demonstrate the phenomenon:

    After testing the toilet, I took a quick tour of the one bedroom apartment we’ll call home for two weeks. In the States, it is customary for chocolates to be left on pillows. These Aussies have a different idea of sweet treats. Make sure you watch until the very end.

    Moments after checking in, we ran into fellow Americans John Mulaney, Todd Barry, Arj Barker and Nick Thune. Arj advised us to muscle through the day without napping to ensure a jet-lag free stay and pleasant night sleep. Seeing as how he’s a regular Oz visitor, I took his advice.

    The first comedy show I saw was Nina Conti’s “Talk to the Hand.” A ventriloquist isn’t my cup o’ tea (Wait, tell me again? Why does a grown-up need a doll to get their point of view across?) but I didn’t fly halfway around the world to NOT see different things. I’m here to explore the nether regions of comedy. Nina is a lovely, young lass whose first puppet “Monkey” talked like a sailor. A pretty girl saying overtly foul things –even if only through the mouth of a puppet– is a tired gag. So the first few minutes were spent mainly being awestruck at the sheer skill it takes to quickly banter back and forth with a hand puppet.

    And skilled she is, not just at accents, characterizations, talking with her mouth shut and while drinking water, but also at improv, word association and audience interaction. A prank call to a hotel desk clerk didn’t go over as planned (you know the comedian is disappointed when they end the call by muttering, “Thanks anyway.”), but I got the sense that it’s usually one of the show’s highlights.

    I find ventriloquism to be a bit cheesy but Miss Conti is clever enough to weave in a few meta jokes about how the puppet is actually an extension of herself. A split off personality of sorts. Importantly, if you took away her monkey, you would have Nina telling smart jokes. Those things combined made me quickly settle in to enjoy the rest of the show rather than dwell on the warmth of the room and nearly 36 hours without sleep.

    I won’t spoil her best gag, but it involves two different audience members serving as her human puppets. I was quite literally slapping my knee and losing my breath from laughing so hard. Imaginative and smart, it’s no wonder when you see a line streaming down the block wrapping around Town Hall they’re waiting to see Nina Conti’s “Talk to the Hand.” I wouldn’t be surprised if she once again takes home a Barry Award – the festival’s top prize and one she shared with Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal in 2008.

    Random fact: In Australia, Burger Kings are known as Hungry Jacks.

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