The Melbourne International Comedy Festival wrapped its 34th year of laughs on Sunday 18 April with an absolutely bumper run. 390 shows across 3,822 performances returned laughter to Melbourne and an unmistakable buzz to city streets.
After 10 months of planning various COVIDSafe scenarios ranging from no-in-person events to a full no-holds-barred month of live performance, the Festival program returned at about half its usual size – with fewer venues, a mandated 75 per cent audience capacity cap and of course very few international comedians.
Artists and audiences were overjoyed on day 17 of the Festival, with some venues able to increase capacity to 100%. This meant many previously sold out shows could offer happy punters an extra 25% seating for their remaining shows. Even with the increase in capacity, the majority of shows in the final week of the Festival were completely sold out and more than 200 extra sessions were added due to popular demand.
In the final week of the Festival, pedestrian numbers in the Melbourne CBD hit their highest for a weekday since the pandemic began. City of Melbourne data at the Melbourne Town Hall, where many Festival shows were hosted, showed pedestrian activity had returned to 92 per cent of 2019 levels.
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Director Susan Provan AO, said, "We are all so incredibly grateful that the Festival ran without a hitch – there were thankfully only a few cancelled performances due to the Brisbane lockdown and we enjoyed an otherwise dream run with many artists playing to full houses. Audiences came out in increasing numbers as the Festival progressed and confidence grew. There was a great sense of camaraderie and joy on the streets and in venues around town as artists from all over Australia got together again and shared their work with crowds eager for live entertainment. We are very grateful to Melburnians for embracing the Festival so enthusiastically."
Neil Hamblen from Meatmaiden, said, "It really felt like the CBD came alive again over the last few weeks with everyone out enjoying comedy."
Jeremy Panuele from The Toff in Town, said, "We hosted 4 to 5 shows a day, mostly sold out. The energy in the whole Curtin House building was fantastic. Audiences enjoying what other venues had on offer throughout the Festival. From a pre-gig dinner at Cookie, a beer on the rooftop, a margarita at Mesa Verde and some late night vibe at The Toff In Town."
Casey Andison from Australian Venue Company, said, "Our CBD venues – Imperial, European Bier Cafe and the Duke – have been absolutely chockers the last month."
Melbourne International Comedy Festival ran from 24 March – 18 April 2021. The Festival’s online program of shows are still available to stream until the end of April. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow has also kicked off and from April to July will home deliver the Melbourne Comedy Festival vibe to regional towns and cities. From Ballarat to Broome, Townsville to Traralgon, Roadshow performances will visit more than 80 destinations across Australia.
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