There’s nothing like a good story, and this year’s festival was teeming with them. While the big rooms were populated with established comedians giving out their observations about the world in general, the smaller rooms were filled with comedians who wanted to share their own personal worlds with their audiences. There’s not so many dick jokes here, and the stereotypical differences between men and women don’t seem nearly as important as they did before – These comedians are here to bare their souls, and they’re not afraid to make you laugh while they do so.
Established performers seemed to have brought a lot more of themselves to their festival shows this year. Lawrence Leung has gathered a reputation over the past few years for his highly enthusiastic and powerpoint-heavy comedy. His new show, “The Marvellous Misadventures of Puzzle Boy” toned down on the theatrics for an autobiographical story of his failed childhood romances that is at once laugh out loud funny and touchingly familiar (and yet still providing arguably the best powerpoint of the festival). Charlie Pickering also made a more personal effort with his new show “Auto”, including some absolutely brilliant tales of his schooling. Damian Callinan scored himself the Piece of Wood award (voted by comedians) for his show exploring the seemingly unamusing topic of his infertility in possibly the most impressive and personal show on offer at the festival this year. His ability to explore his pain and feelings of guilt in such a hilarious and moving way showed everybody how it’s done.
Some festival newcomers also introduced themselves with formidable personal shows. Claire Hooper pushed the boundaries of comedy and storytelling with her brilliantly executed show “Oh”. Exploring her fears of facing throat surgery with the possibility of permanently losing her voice, she performed the entire show without speaking through the use of prerecorded audio and video material. Former Big Brother housemate Christina Davis showed herself to be an extremely skilled comedian by putting together an impressive debut with a highly autobiographical tale centered around readings from her diaries.
One problem with a personal story is that it can be so hard to promote in isolation. Geraldine Hickey’s debut solo comedy festival show, “One Week in Paradise”, about a brief stay in a mental institution, is a prime example of this. Her show is fantastic, winning the praise of Daniel Kitson who seemed to be recommending it at every possible occasion – however, when performing five minute spots in isolation at comedy nights around town, her material can often fall flat on audiences that can see it as too dark and lacking in obvious jokes. It’s only when experiencing the whole that you can’t help but be drawn by her fascinating story and laugh along her as she recreates a world that many of us thankfully don’t get to see. Its shows like this that really make use of the full sixty minutes that a festival show offers.
Sometimes the laughs aren’t as strong as those you’d get with a straight standup show, but there’s more than just the laughs to be had here. These are the shows that will make you think about the world around you, and realise that it is filled with more amazing people and more interesting stories than you could imagine. These shows will stay with you for years to come and make you want to come back and share more with these comedians that have opened themselves up to you. The storytellers are here, and I hope they’re here to stay