Freelancing Gods 2015

23 Mar 2015

Pre-festival Recommendations for MICF 2015

I wrote a post last year listing excellent comedians to catch at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – and now I’ve got friends pestering me for this year’s list. Perhaps this will become a regular missive, perhaps not. Either way, here’s some tips for this year.

Please note, the festival hasn’t started yet, so this is purely based on previous quality, not this year’s shows!

From last year’s list, the following performers are returning: Celia Pacquola, Hannah Gadsby, Justin Hamilton, Michael Workman, Sammy J & Randy and Wil Anderson.

My favourites from last year include Celia Pacquola (nominated for the Barry – aka the best show) and Michael Workman (who should have been nominated!).

Celia Pacquola is actually repeating her 2014 show, so that’s a solid gold pick right there.

Additionally, I can vouch for the following:

  • Adam Hills – one of Australia’s best comedians, who regularly warms the heart as well as many laughs. The video below also includes the Swedish Chef, because he’s also excellent (and relevant to Adam’s skit).

  • Daniel Kitson – His show this year is not stand-up, but something rather different (at least by the sounds of things). One of my most favourite performers ever, but certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. A master of the English language, and a brilliant storyteller.

  • Doctor Brown – utterly odd physical comedy, though I’d recommend avoiding aisles and front-row seats. I’ve also heard great things about his kids show (from adults!). This video should give you some idea of his style:

  • Mark Watson – reliably loveable and funny with a touch of whimsy. Perhaps the English equivalent of Adam Hills.

  • Pajama Men – sometimes a little crude, regularly odd, and always hysterically funny.

  • Tripod – the musical comedy trio are still rocking the festival scene, this year with a show about gaming (and featuring the MSO!)

  • Trygve Wakenshaw – another physical comedian/clown, last year’s show Kraken was daring and hilarious and deserved its Barry Award nomination. No videos online do him justice.
  • Watson – consistently chaotic fun, I was heartbroken when they didn’t have a show last year, and in turn thrilled that they’re back this year (with Liam Ryan now an official member of the group). Videos are far and few between (and don’t really communicate their style), but here’s an intro to perhaps my favourite show of theirs:

I would love to hear of others’ recommendations, but my credit card doesn’t have quite the same level of enthusiasm.

24 Mar 2014

MICF 2014 Recommendations

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is about to kick off this year – and I can’t wait! It truly is the best time to be in Melbourne.

Because I often see more than my fair share of comedy shows, I’m often asked for recommendations… and while it’s hard to be super sure what’s good this year before any performances have happened, I’ve scanned through the program to put together a list of performers I regularly enjoy. In alphabetical order…

  • Bane Trilogy – I was lucky enough to catch all three parts of this in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, and they’re all excellent. Mobster-style storytelling, with all roles performed by one man, Joe Bone. Start with part one (on Tuesday and Friday nights), and if it takes your fancy, see the other two as well.
  • The Boy with Tape on his Face – silent comedy, but it’s a tonne of fun, even if you do get called up on stage as part of the audience participation. I’ll put money on him being big this year in Melbourne.
  • Celia Pacquola – Regularly hilarious, clever, and with a bit of heart too (perhaps my favourite comedy recipe).
  • David O’Doherty – All his shows feel kinda the same – but that’s not a bad thing at all. Music and comedy that’s both charming and funny.
  • Felicity Ward – her show in 2012 was nominated for the Barry Award (best show of the festival), and would have been a deserving winner. Hilarious even while sometimes being extremely personal.
  • Hannah Gadsby – last year’s show was very brave and very funny and I wish I could see it again. I’ve already got tickets to see this year’s show.
  • Justin Hamilton – he’s a stalwart of the Australian comedy scene, and yet I only saw his show for the first time in 2012, and it was a clever mix of laughs and storytelling. Cue much regret for missing him in previous years. Odds of me making that mistake again this year are slim.
  • Michael Workman – his show last year, Ave Loretta, was one of the most wonderful and beautiful shows I’ve ever seen. Don’t expect comedy, even though you will laugh, because the storytelling is the highlight. I was wiping tears of sadness from my eyes at the end of Ave Loretta, for Michael Workman brings both the laughs and the feels.
  • Sammy J & Randy – the description on the site sums them up perfectly: catchy songs with chaotic tomfoolery and outbursts of filth. Rarely clean, often very, very funny.
  • Tegan Higginbotham – Tegan’s recent solo shows been great narrative stand-up shows, and she doesn’t get the attention she deserves. Given she’s not performing in the duo of chaotically hilarious Watson this year, I’ll be making an extra effort to see this show.
  • Tim Key – some people hate his odd, dry style, but I’ve loved his shows (at least, the two I’ve had the great pleasure of catching). His last show involved him having a bath on stage. Not your average comedy, but all the more enjoyable if it does float your boat.
  • Wil Anderson – I think Wil’s stand-up shows are better than anything he’s done on television… last year’s Goodwil was an excellent mix of intelligence and wit.
  • And for bonus points, my good friend Ben Hopper is performing in The Law Revue – this is Ben’s first festival performing, so there’s no past performances to judge by. Ben’s a funny guy though, so I’m expecting a top show!

These are just a dozen shows that I feel super happy with recommending to all and sundry. There are a few hundred that are part of the festival, so you don’t lack for choices (or excuses) – make sure you catch a show or two before it all wraps up on April 20th.

14 Jun 2010

Laughtrack Review

So, it’s been a couple of months since the Melbourne International Comedy Festival wrapped up, and thus, a couple of months since LaughTrack went silent. I just want to write up a last batch of statistics, as well as some broader thoughts on how the site went in general.

I should have been doing this back when the festival actually finished, but some things got in the way of catching up on classifying all the tweets, and so I only actually got through the last of it yesterday.

The Leaderboard

A quick look at the top 10 (well, 11, given tied scores), going by quality:

Show Rating
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 93
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 93
Ross Noble: Things 91
Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs 91
Adam Hills: Mess Around 91
David O’Doherty: David O’Doh-party 91
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 91
Frank Woodley: Bewilderbeest 90
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 90
Josie Long: Be Honourable 90
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 90

Most of those are quite established, but it’s worth noting those who are relative newcomers to the comedy scene: Celia Pacquola and Melinda Buttle – and those who are relative newcomers to Australian shores: The Pajama Men and Jamie Kilstein.


Here’s who made the biggest gains by rating over the final two weeks of the festival (I’ve trimmed the list to 8 – there’s another 7 on the next score down):

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Poet Laureate Telia Nevile: While I’m Away 0 65 65
Smart Casual: Same Mother, Different Fathers 0 60 60
Spontaneous Broadway 27 84 57
Mark Butler: I’ve Been Watching You Australians 0 53 53
Good News Week 0 53 53
Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima 0 53 53
Terry North: Life’s A Joke 0 53 53
Die Roten Punkte: Kunst Rock 27 72 45

In most of those cases, it only took a handful of positive tweets to gain some serious quality points. So again, let’s go by tweets instead of rating – because this turns out to be a far better metric for who has been getting a lot of buzz.

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 43 77 34
Ross Noble: Things 29 62 33
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 26 54 28
Josh Thomas: Surprise 17 38 21
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 23 42 19
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 32 50 18
Adam Hills: Mess Around 26 44 18
Sam Simmons: Fail 15 31 16
Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs 15 30 15
Josie Long: Be Honourable 13 28 15

I’m not going to bother analyse the data from which shows were sold out – it’s far from complete.

What’s next?

LaughTrack was a fun experiment for the festival, but I’m not quite sure of its future.

It’s possibly useful for other festivals (especially those with repeat performances – so, Fringe festivals much more than Film festivals), but I don’t quite have the passion for those festivals compared to the MICF. In other words, I’m probably not going to commit the time to keep the site up-to-date for the Melbourne Fringe (for example) without some personal incentive.

The classification system also needs a lot of work. I spent many, many hours classifying tweets, because automating that kind of intelligence into a website is far from easy, and I couldn’t get it to a reliable state without human interaction. I could open the classification out to everyone who visits the site – and if I run this for next year’s MICF, that’s quite likely – but again, it’s additional work.

And it’s worth noting that most tweets that LaughTrack picked up were not reviews – there was a lot of noise, and very little signal (which is the main problem with automating classification).

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m definitely interested in reprising LaughTrack for next year’s Comedy Festival, and hopefully can get the people behind the festival to send some data on ticket sales through.

As for other festivals, I’m going to need some financial support to dedicate any time to adapting and maintaining the site. If you’re interested in sponsoring development on LaughTrack for a festival, then please do get in touch.

I would love to hear feedback on whether you found the site useful during the festival, and how it could improve. From a personal level, I know I found new shows to go see purely by reading the thousands of tweets that came through.

05 Apr 2010

LaughTrack: Week Two

Another week has passed, so time for some more LaughTrack statistics.

First up, acts with the best ratings improvements since the start of the Festival:

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 88 88
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 84 84
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 84 84
Adrian Calear: Code Grey 0 79 79
Asher Treleaven: Secret Door 0 79 79
Daniel Burt: Yes Man Syndrome 0 77 77
The Festival Club 0 75 75
Catherine Deveny: Gold is Bullshit 0 72 72
Peter Helliar: Dreamboat Tour 0 72 72
Nelly Thomas: I Coulda Been A Sailor 0 72 72

That list is almost identical (ignoring the order) to last week… essentially: those who did well to start with, have solidified their position.

So let’s look at the differences just in the last week instead.

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
List Operators For Kids: More Fun Than a Wii 0 60 60
Puppy Fight Social Club 0 53 53
And The Little One Said… 0 53 53
Jack Druce: Wild Druce Chase 0 53 53
Peter Helliar: Dreamboat Tour 27 72 45
Simon Keck: Dead Under Fluorescent Lights 0 43 43
Sadie Hasler: Her Lady Bones 0 43 43
I Heart Frankston: The Musical 0 43 43
Matthew Kenneally Flips the Bird at the Finger Pointers 0 43 43
Bart Freebairn: A Breathtakingly Magical Journey into the Ordinary 0 43 43
Greg Fleet: Big Love 0 43 43
Supermanchild 0 43 43
Metrosketchuals 0 43 43
Nick Cody: Lust Actually 0 43 43

This list could be considered shows with potential: towards the end, it only took two positive tweets to get them onto the list.

So, let’s now look at who has garnered the most positive tweets. Again, since the start of the festival:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 11 42 31
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 23 43 20
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 19 19
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 7 26 19
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 5 23 18
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 13 30 17
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 14 14
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 14 14
Tom Green: World Standup Comedy Tour 8 22 14
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 19 32 13
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 4 17 13

Some big names there, though good to see some relative newcomers appearing too (Ursula Martinez, Melinda Buttle and Celia Pacquola).

As for the increases over just the last week:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 17 42 25
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 25 43 18
Tom Green: World Standup Comedy Tour 8 22 14
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 9 19 10
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 5 14 9
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 17 26 9
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 21 30 9
Frank Woodley: Bewilderbeest 19 27 8
Sammy J and Randy: Ricketts Lane 6 14 8
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 9 17 8

Not much difference in the names this time around…

But what can you take away from this?

  • Ursula Martinez was an unknown before this festival. She’s just added three extra shows, which matches the buzz she’s received.
  • Melinda Buttle is another festival newcomer who has been getting a lot of buzz.
  • The big names draw the tweets – but Wil Anderson and Tom Green have both finished their festival runs.
  • The Pajama Men won the Barry Award for the best show last year in their first festival, and they’ve followed it up with another fine offering, going by numbers (and reviews).

I’ve also started tracking which performances are sold out – but there’s no point offering stats on that, because my data is far from complete. However, some of the smaller names regularly selling out:

Nick Cody, Daniel Burt, Vigilantelope and Clodhopper: Miami all sold quite well too – but they’ve finished their runs.

29 Mar 2010

LaughTrack: Week One

Last week, I launched a website I’ve been working on in my own time: LaughTrack. It follows what people are saying on Twitter about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and provides ratings on whether the crowd thinks a show is good or not.

I’m not going to get too caught up in the site itself right now – that deserves a separate blog post, and I’ve not found time for that.

However, I just wanted to report on the acts that have had the most buzz over the course of the opening week:

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 74 74
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 65 65
Catherine Deveny: Gold is Bullshit 0 65 65
Geraldine Quinn: Shut Up and Sing 0 65 65
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 65 65
Asher Treleaven: Secret Door 0 65 65
The Festival Club 0 65 65
Daniel Burt: Yes Man Syndrome 0 60 60
Adrian Calear: Code Grey 0 53 53
Dave Jory: Men Are From Mars 0 53 53
Donna & Damo: An Asexual Love Story 0 53 53
Fear of a Brown Planet Returns 0 53 53
Nelly Thomas: I Coulda Been a Sailor 0 53 53

I chose the top ten, but there’s quite a few that jumped up to 53, so you get a few extra.

It’s worth noting that those last five gained just three positive tweets. So, at this point it doesn’t take too many tweets to get someone jumping up the board. However, the higher the rating is, though, the slower the rating increases, so let’s look at who got the most positive tweets as a comparison:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 5 16 11
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 7 17 10
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 8 8
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 19 27 8
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 13 21 8
David O’Doherty: David O’Doh-party 7 14 7
Russell Kane: Human Dressage 7 13 6
Tokyo Shock Boys 6 12 6
Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night 1 7 6
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 11 17 6
Fiona O’Loughlin: On a Wing and a Prayer 6 12 6

Again, a top ten, with one extra because of the same increase.

It’s interesting that almost all on the first list are comedians still making their stamp on the comedy scene. The second list has several more established acts. Only Celia Pacquola made it into both.

Of course, the older tweets were from other festivals – in particular, the Adelaide Fringe and the Brisbane Comedy Festival, which both happened in the lead-up to Melbourne’s Comedy Festival. So these numbers are far from perfect (but then, divining quality from Twitter isn’t a science anyway).

Hopefully you’ve found this somewhat interesting (well, if you’re a comedy buff) – expect more reports as the festival progresses. If you’re in Melbourne, I hope you’re making the most of this fabulous time of year!

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