Have a laugh - or 60 - at the Canberra Comedy Festival
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Have a laugh - or 60 - at the Canberra Comedy Festival

The Canberra Comedy Festival 2019. March 18 to 24. Various venues. Adults only except where indicated. canberracomedyfestival.com.au.

Comedy musical group Baby Wants Candy

Comedy musical group Baby Wants Candy

With everything that goes on here, Canberrans need to laugh. And more than 60 comedy acts are soon coming to help people in the ACT do just that.

This year's Canberra Comedy Festival is the seventh, its associate director James Stevenson says. It's now a well-established event in the ACT and Stevenson believes this is, in part, because Canberrans are sick of being passed over when big names and international acts tour Australia.

Each year, he says, the festival books Australian and international acts that are touring the comedy circuit and brings them to the nation's capital. Canberra comedians also perform.

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Canberrans have responded enthusiastically since it began, he says, with many events sold out.

There was a 2019 taster late last year with A Very Canberra Comedy Festival Christmas but the main event will take place in March across a wider range of venues than ever.

A scene from Baby Wants Candy's <i>Thrones! the Musical Parody</i>  with a White Walker and Bodies 

A scene from Baby Wants Candy's Thrones! the Musical Parody with a White Walker and Bodies 

These include all three theatres in the Canberra Theatre Centre, the Street Theatre, the Civic Pub and Novotel Canberra.

In addition there will once again be a Festival Square in front of the Canberra Theatre Centre.

"People can come there before and after the late show," Stevenson says.

But it's expanded - as well as food and drink for sale, on some nights there will be additional five to 10 minute late-night performances by some of the festival's acts in a separate section.

"They're free to people with any ticket to any show they've seen that night," Stevenson says.

So what are the shows that will be coming? It's impossible to cover them all so here are some of the highlights, with a particular emphasis on new-to-Canberra and international acts.

American comedy ensemble Baby Wants Candy will present two shows. Thrones! the Musical is, as the title suggests, is a musical comedy parody of the popular TV series Game of Thrones, complete with gore and sexiness.

"It's one of the biggest shows that's ever played at the Edinburgh Fringe - it's sold out for the last five years," Stevenson says.

The other, eponymous show is "a completely improvised musical with a full band," Stevenson says.

They choose a title from audience suggestions, then every note, lyric, line and movement is improvised on the spot.

"It's unbelievable."

The festival has a significant British component. Daniel Sloss - "dark and witty" - is appearing after two Netflix specials. His fellow Scots Larry Dean - bringing the intriguingly titled show Bampot in which he discusses such subjects as breaking up with his Australian boyfriend - and Fern Brady - "she does incisive comedy that's close to the bone" - are also coming. Paul Foot, "a master of the absurd", will be here too

British company Shit-faced Shakespeare returns after last year's Romeo and Juliet with a new production, the comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. The humour wiol be enhanced by the show's gimmick: before every performance, one member of the cast gets very, very drunk.

Shit-faced Shakespeare is presenting <i>A Midsummer Night's Dream</i> with a twist.

Shit-faced Shakespeare is presenting A Midsummer Night's Dream with a twist.

While technically British, Jimeoin might be considered almost Australian by now, given his longstanding presence in this country. He'll be returning to Canberra after a few years away, as will Egyptian-born Australian Akmal.

And in Best of the Edinburgh Festival, two comedians - Briton Jimmy McGhie and Canadian John Hastings - will get to show why they deserve that appellation.

There's even a New Zealander: Guy Montgomery.

Then there's the Australian contingent. The Chaser's War On History will present "the least reliable but most hilarious account of Australian history" and in John Safran - Jew Detective: Sarcasm is not a Crime, the comedian talks about his adventures infiltrating Australian Nazi and Jihadist groups.

Damian Callilan's The Merger is a one-man show - that was adapted into a movie - about the dysfunctional Bodgy Creek Roosters Footy Club, facing the prospect of folding or merging with their arch rivals, unless a solution can be found. Other touring Aussies include Dave Hughes, Anne Edmonds (who hosted the Christmas show) and Charlie Pickering.

Anne Edmonds will present her new show.

Anne Edmonds will present her new show.

Two other big events are the 2019 Canberra Comedy Festival Gala and the return of the family-friendly Clean Comedy Spectacular.

Local and emerging talent includes Chris Ryan, Tom Gibson, Anthony Tomic, Andrew and Danny Bensley, Maddy Weeks, Emma Holland, Harris Stuckey, Simon Bower, Koori Showcase, Frankie McNair, Sweaty Pits, Unedjamacated, Bill Makin and Whet Brekkie.

And Stevenson will team up with his identical twin brother Benjamin for their new show, Takes One To Know One.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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