Greetings comedic traveller! Are you one for adventure? Do you like being surrounded by people who speak a language not unlike your own, but with its own added quirkiness? Do you often think about how funny you’d be if only you were able to demonstrate your comedic arts in the southern hemisphere? Well then an Australian tour might be worth considering.
Please note that going to the other side of the planet will not improve your act in any way. It is strongly advised that along with toothpaste and sunscreen, you also pack a solid hour performance with you before embarking on your trip.
Many comedians feel that North America is it. Yet the simple fact is between Australia, the UK, and Ex-Pat shows throughout the rest of the world, you could have an accomplished career in comedy and never once set foot on a North American stage. Now I’m not saying you should rush up to your local comedy club owner, saying, “Forget you. I’m off to entertain the world,” but it’s good to know that there is more out there than you think.
Sources of Inspiration
One thing that hit me immediately is the variety of methods people use to entertain people for one hour. There are plenty of amazing comedians here (Wil Anderson, Hannah Gadsby, Charlie Pickering) whose style mirrors the conventional set-up/ punch-line and storytelling you would find in any club. Then you’ll see an act come out and do something so different, hilarious and impossible to categorize that it helps crack open your mind a bit to what’s possible, acts like Doctor Brown (the first half of his one-hour show he didn’t say a word, and all of it was hilarious), Jason Chong (this year he’s got a show featuring him separately onscreen and onstage), and Sam Simmons (a hugely popular act who defies description, but incorporates everything from dressing up pinecones, fifteen-second musical numbers, and smashing taco shells against his naked chest).
Clubs/ One -Nighters
In Adelaide there’s a club called the Rhino Room that has comedy Thursday and Friday outside of the festival and is operated by a very friendly guy called Craig Egan. During the Adelaide Fringe he runs a late show, which is a great way to crush a ten-minute spot and then flyer your show afterwards. On top of that there are plenty of late-night comedy shows that pop up every year. It’s important to check out festival guides for the late shows and contact the producers beforehand. Getting on these shows is one of the best ways to promote your own.
I’m sure there are dozens more, but so far in Melbourne I’ve come across a great show on Mondays at a pub called The Local, run by the Melbourne comedy matriarch Janet McLeod. There’s a more alternative room called Death Star Comedy run by a guy named Travis Nash on Wednesdays, and every Thursday in downtown Melbourne there’s a comedy night at the Exford Hotel. This is what I’ve found with very little effort. Of course one-nighters are fragile animals, so they may not be alive by the time you’re here. You can guarantee there will be plenty of them around if you search for them. You know how Google works.
You are going to be spending anywhere between $1500 and $2000 roundtrip for the plane ticket, if you’re coming from North America. When you factor in accommodations, festival registration fees, venues and posters, the bill does run up heavy, and due to the plane ticket your first venture to Oz will most likely be a break-even type of trip. But when you consider that to do a show in the Edinburgh Fringe it is standard to expect to lose roughly $10K to $15K your first show, it puts things in perspective.
Festivals in Oz
Festival season generally kicks off mid-February through mid-March with the Adelaide Fringe Festival . This is a completely “open” festival, meaning all you have to do is apply and pay the registration on time, and you’re in. Now it’s up to you to find a venue, and get posters and flyers made. I found the staff here very helpful with any questions I had about venues and lodging.
Next up is the Brisbane Comedy Festival March 1st to 27th. This one is more selective. I didn’t even know about it before coming here, but they’re worth contacting.
The big one in Australia, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, is also open…well, sort of. Technically they want to approve international acts. Once approved you still pay $650 to have your name in the program, and like Adelaide, find your venue, PR, etc. This is by far the biggest comedy festival Australia has to offer, and is chock full of amazing North American acts as well (this year they have Maria Bamford, Hannibal Buress, Paul F. Thompkins, and Marc Maron to name a few). So your first year out, it’s important to be realistic and consider that you might not be coming home rich, but if you bust your ass and have a good show behind you, you should be breaking even.
Then there’s the Sydney Comedy Festival, April 11th to May 8th. You have to submit in order to be invited to this one, so check out the website and cross your fingers.
There’s also the Wild West Comedy Festival in Perth, Western Australia. May 18th to 29th; another hand-selected festival.
Another bonus, although this can also be achieved through fringe festivals within North America, is the stage time. Performing an hour show 22 times in one month can really expedite your growth as a performer if you take advantage of it. Depending on where you are in your career, it could take years to get the same amount of stage time anywhere else.
Coming all the way over here is a huge investment, and without two or three of these festivals guaranteeing you a spot, it might not be worth it. With just Adelaide and Melbourne alone, however, you might not be striking it rich, but you are meeting up with performers and producers from all over the world, who are ideally going to open doors for you in places outside of North America. The next stop for me is Edinburgh, then the UK, all of which would have been much more of a hassle were it not for the people I’ve already met here in Oz.
There are a lot details I’ve left out, like the submission processes (because it’s boring), and living in Australia (because that would take another article). But hopefully this breaks down some of the info for you if you’re interested in taking a look at your comedy career from a global perspective. If you happen to be reading this in Melbourne or know people who live there, here’s a link to my event on BPT, running April 19-23.