It is a laughing matter: Here are the comedians’ comedians

Everywhere you turn the world is apparently going to hell in a handbasket, which is all the more reason for getting along to some of the shows in this year’s Sydney Comedy Festival (April 25 to May 22). Right now, we all need a good laugh.

We’ve picked a few of our favourite comics and then asked them who is on their must-see list.

Luke Heggie doesn’t suffer fools.Credit:Anneliese Nappa

Luke Heggie, Your Stupid, Enmore Theatre, May 14

Last year, Heggie claimed the festival’s top gong for his singular, deliciously caustic Lowbreed. He isn’t changing what ain’t broken – Your Stupid will again focus on “idiots”, he says. “It’s just things that have annoyed me the last two years. I’ve written them down, and here they are.”

Having hilariously skewered all manner of “tiprats” on stage, Heggie is also concerned about keeping them out of his audience and has even slapped an “M30+ limit” on his show to discourage youthful malcontents. “If you want to take everything literally, probably don’t come,” he warns. “There’s something for everyone, provided everyone is exactly like me.”

Luke recommends:

  • Chris Ryan – Can’t Complain “There aren’t many middle-aged comedians; you need a lot of support from home as I have. Chris works really hard, and she’s got great stand-up experience and life experience.”
  • Cam Knight – Mid Life Catharsis “His show is unreal. He’s a 20-year veteran of stand-up, and he’s only doing a few nights this year.”
  • Daniel Connell – Gutless Wonder “He’s incredibly underrated, but then, he doesn’t really compromise; he just does his own thing. He’s very laconic. There’s no yelling or any of that sort of shit, just great jokes.”

Danielle Walker mines her own family for material.Credit:

Danielle Walker, Nostalgia, Factory Theatre, May 28-30

Townsville-born, Sydney-based Walker mines laughs from imaginative, often slightly warped Australiana. Her new show is coloured by the melancholy of being separated from family during the lockdowns. “I want to make the audience laugh but also feel the way about their family that I feel about (mine),” she says.

Walker’s storytelling nous and comic chops don’t mean she takes centre stage at family gatherings, however. “I don’t necessarily try and be funny around them,” she explains. “I’m constantly laughing, but I just defer and listen; they’re naturally funny, but they don’t know they’re funny.”

And what do they make of their role as her comedic muses? “My mum doesn’t care whether I’m saying good or bad things about her, as long as I’m talking about her.”

Danielle recommends:

  • Sam Campbell – Companion “He’s obviously an absurd comic, but his jokes are really well-written and crafted. I like people who don’t stick to the rules and who do whatever they think is funny.”
  • Dan Rath – Cockroach Party “I like the darkness in his work, and it’s fun to follow his train of thought. His joke-per-minute ratio is off the charts, and his persona is so much fun.”
  • Emma Holland – Dreamer in the Mist “I really like her joke-writing, but I also like comedy that uses different mediums, and she’s very inventive with that. She’s got a lot of visual gags that you can interact with.”

Madeleine Stewart’s deeply personal tale was a long time in the making.

Madeleine Stewart, So Brave, Factory Theatre, May 21-22

Billed as “your average one-handed girl looking for love in a two-handed world”, Stewart’s deeply personal tale was a long time in the making. “It seemed the perfect time to share this kind of story because it feels like, for the first time in years, disabled people have more of a voice than we’ve ever had,” she says.

A performer who describes comedy as “the love of my life”, the ebullient Stewart’s credits include an explainer on NDIS snafus for Tonightly, which typifies her approach of infusing advocacy with laughs. “You’ll never see me do comedy without trying to highlight injustice or something that’s messed up – and there’s plenty that’s weird about how people interact with disability.”

It’s cheeky, clever stuff that gives “inspiration porn” a wide berth. “It’s for anyone who’s a bit of a perve,” Stewart says.

Madeleine recommends:

  • Bec Melrose – Wildflower “She’s so eloquent, sharp and witty. She writes for Gruen, and her new show is all about current events – climate change, robots; it’s very now.”
  • Robyn Reynolds – Mermaid “Instantly, you feel like you’re her best friend and that she’s invited you into her house to hear about all of these embarrassing things that have happened to her.”
  • Jamal Abdul – It’s Not Me, It’s You “He’s an up-and-coming blind comedian from Wollongong. You’ll hear stories you’ll never hear from anyone else.”

Sam Taunton’s stand-up has a deceptively effortless feel.

Sam Taunton, Yoho Diabolo, Factory Theatre, May 18-22

Sam Taunton believes audiences have had enough COVID-19 angst. “I won’t be taking myself too seriously,” he says. “I think this year we all need a fun, silly show … comedy should be a joyous thing.”

Familiar to many from his work on The Project, Taunton’s stand-up has an effortless feel that belies its sterling craftsmanship. His particular niche is for tales casting him as the striving underdog.

“There’s a million different ways to do comedy, but the comedian is in such a dominant position on stage, so there’s humility in sometimes being the victim,” he explains. “I’m constantly losing in my stories – my life is me slipping on a banana peel, then writing it down and doing it as comedy.”

Sam recommends:

  • Chris Ryan – Can’t Complain “When I was growing up (in Nowra), she was a journo at the local paper. Now we’re both doing stand-up – life is unpredictable! I’ve toured with her a lot and she’s really good.”
  • Sam Campbell – Companion “He’s the funniest guy in the country. We try to write jokes together sometimes, and I’m like ‘What about this?’ and he’ll say ‘What about that, but you’re on another planet, and you’ve covered yourself in yoghurt?’ and I’ll think ‘Yeah, we’re not on the same level’.”
  • Cameron James – Electric Dreams “It’s one long story all the way through; he wanted to be a musician, and he plays songs from when he was a teenager trying to make it. I think there’s also pictures from when he was a pimply kid; it sounds hilarious.”

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