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My First Festival

It’s that time of year! Registrations have closed for the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, so it’s time for artists to get that show idea off the ground and for audiences to start revving up for what’s to come.  While registration time may strike fear in the heart and a bit of a pit-in-the-belly for some, it’s also a time to get excited about the creative process and for punters to look forward to the comedy gold that comes to fruition. We asked Festival performers Judith Lucy, Rhys Nicholson, Urzila CarlsonDaniel Connell, Josh Glanc, Danielle WalkerAndy Saunders, Steph Tisdell and Guy Montgomery for the lowdown on their first Festival, the process of committing to shows for March and April and what they look back on fondly (and fearfully).


How was it doing your first show in the Festival?

Judith Lucy: Busy. From memory I was supporting Canadian group ‘Corky and the Juice Pigs’ as well as doing my own show at La Mama. And I still had to fit in a lot of drinking and bad sex with comedians.

Steph Tisdell: It was the most daunting, terrifying, exciting and exhausting thing I have ever done. No two shows felt the same and that contributed heavily to all of those feelings.

Rhys Nicholson: Oh, it was absolutely terrifying. Is that the wrong thing to say? Well I’m trying to be honest. In fact, it was terrifying for the first three years. Actually, it’s still terrifying. But in a good way, you know? It should be scary. It feels good in a weird way. Like pushing a bruise or wobbling a tooth.

Guy Montgomery: You're not going to believe this but it was simultaneously incredibly nerve wracking and incredibly exciting. It was easily the biggest Festival I'd been a part of to that point, so the first time it felt like I was really right in the mixer of a large-scale comedy festival, competing to sell tickets against some of my icons. I don't think my efforts that year had a huge impact on how many people decided to attend Daniel Kitson. 


What comes first – the show name or the contents?

Josh Glanc: Definitely the name – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably change that 5 times before registration closes. And if you’re even more like me, you’ll probably plead with the Festival to allow you to change it one more time the day before the guide goes to print. And if you’re even more like me, you’ve probably got a weird freckle above your belly button.  

Rhys Nicholson: For me it’s always the name. This is because I have to register the show about 6 months before I start frantically scribbling down jokes ideas on napkins and crying in public bathrooms. Hooray! 

Steph Tisdell: Content, but the show name shapes it because it's the ultimate simplification. It sets a theme that the content should continue to come back to.

Urzila Carlson: In my case it’s always the idea, then the name of the show and then I write around that, out of that hour I then try and get a tight 20 minutes for the rest of the year to tour through pubs and comedy clubs.

Judith Lucy: Two of my show names were actually ‘The Show’ and ‘The Show 2’ so obviously it’s the content every time.

Josh Glanc's 2018 show was called 'Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian'.

What was your first Festival show called? Did it mean anything?

Andy Saunders: It was called 'The Bald and The Beautiful'. My friend Kevin Kropinyeri and I split the bill on it and it was so fun. I guess it meant I could do this and that I was a big boy now.

Guy Montgomery: My first show was a split bill with Rose Matafeo (who I think is still doing comedy?) called ‘Rose Matafeo and Guy Montgomery are Friends’. It was the first public confirmation Rose had given me that she considered me a peer so it meant a hell of a lot.

Danielle Walker: It was called 'Bushrat', which is the nickname my Grandad gave me. 

Daniel Connell: My first show was called 'Likeable Enough', it was because I'd received a review in a group show the year before where I'd been described as 'likeable enough' by the reviewer. It made myself and the others in the show laugh a lot and we all agreed that had to be the name of my first show.

Steph Tisdell: ‘Identity Steft’. It meant a lot. The show was, simply, about identity. It tracked my process of accepting and learning to be proud of my heritage.

Josh Glanc: My first festival show was called ‘99 Schnitzels (Veal Ain’t One)’.  The title had nothing to do with the show. I chose it because I thought it was stupid. It also really tickled me that people might come to see the show because they thought it might be about rap music, or something to do with schnitzels, but really it was just me dancing shirtless for an hour.

What’s your top tip for people embarking on their first Festival?

Daniel Connell: Set your bar low. Don't expect to be on TV by the end of the festival. You might have a great festival but at least if your expectations are low you won't be disappointed when it goes just OK. You'll have ordinary shows, you'll have great shows, low numbers, good numbers, great reviews, bad reviews, it's all part of the rollercoaster. But it's still very addictive and a lot of fun.

Urzila Carlson: Try and enjoy it! Try and remember it! It will be great looking back at it and above all, you CANNOT give away enough flyers! Hit the streets! If you’re not flyering at least 5 hours a day, you’re not flyering!

Danielle Walker: Have fun, look after yourself and your voice, eat vegetables, get sleep, don't drink too much (Alcohol), DO drink plenty of water. (But I am not cool, so if you want to do those things feel free, but be warned I will have much better skin than you at the end of the festival)

Andy Saunders: Be open and see as many shows as you can, comedy can only make comedy better. Be original and don't be afraid to be yourself. Don't forget to rest as it is easy to burn out half way through from over indulging but I'm a dad so don't listen to me.

Guy Montgomery: Have fun! The thing you want the most as a comedian is stage time and there is no greater opportunity than performing every night! Whether it's for 2 people or 200, you will come out of the festival with a much stronger performer with a much clearer idea of your personality on stage. The festival isn't the destination, it's part of the journey on your way to the top baby! ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP. YOU GOTTA DO IT FOR THE MONEY AND THE FAME OR GET OUTTA THE GAME. But seriously, have fun.

Judith Lucy: Don’t expect to make any money, leave your dignity and self-esteem at the door, buy some Vitamin B supplements and some condoms.

Daniel Connell performed at the Gala for the first time in 2017.

Random show name generator – you've got to include the name of your first pet, a number, and one of your favourite foods. What’s your show called?

Danielle Walker: 'Andre Enchilada 3000'

Josh Glanc: ‘Toshi’s Lament’ (or ‘Spaghetti Bolognaise No.7’)

Rhys Nicholson: ‘Rhys Nicholson: Tiger 2 Mousse’

Andy Saunders: 'Oosh 1 Butter Chicken'

Daniel Connell: ‘BJ Three Dumplings’ (I don't know why Mum named that dog BJ)


Your first Festival show – Love it, Leave it (in the past where it belongs) or Loathe it?

Rhys Nicholson: Leave it. It sure ain’t my best work and I don’t want anyone to know about what I said in it, but you have to start somewhere right? 

Urzila Carlson: I still love it! I love all my shows the same! They’re like my children. I have 11 one hour shows and they all have something special that makes me love them.

Andy Saunders: Love it, it's a part of me.

Judith Lucy: My first show was a series of monologues really and I remember it pretty fondly. Part of it involved me sitting on a male audience member’s lap as part of a routine about trying to pick someone up whilst drunk. One night it was a very attractive man and he actually hung around after the show. I hid until he left. If he is reading this now and is available, please make contact. Sure it’s 27 years later but what a great story! So I didn’t love it, I didn’t loathe it and I think I probably want to leave it in the past where it belongs – apart from that guy.

Guy Montgomery: Love it! I wouldn't be where I am today without having taken the leap and flying over from New Zealand to do Melbourne. I had some of the best and worst shows of my life during that month and I wouldn't change any of them. Now I'm gonna Google Rose Matafeo to see what became of her. I always thought she was quite funny.

The full Festival Program 1991, featuring Judith Lucy's 'No Waiter, I Ordered The Avocado'.