Did you know that Melbourne is the third funniest city in the world, at least for three and a half weeks each March/April. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is next only to Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival. And, this year it turns 30. That's three decades of LOL moments for Melburnians.
In celebration the Arts Centre is hosting a free exhibition, Humour Us 30 Years of Melbourne International Comedy Festival,
which brings together a host of memorbilia from the past three decades. As you enter Gallery 1 at the Arts Centre there is a video of the press conference at which Barry Humphries and Peter Cook launched the first festival back in 1987. Those of us lucky enough to have a sneak preview were told with some authoritiy, that of the inimitable Rod Quantok
who has performed in every festival to date, that Peter Cook was 'out of it'. So much so that Barry Humphries ended up speaking on behalf of them both, giving Peter Cook a gentle nudge every now and then to make sure he was 'still with us'.
Another much loved presence is Rod Quantok's Chook, now looking a little the worse for wear: 'He hasn't aged as well as I have' quipped Rod as he led the guests at the launch into the exhibition. The Chook once sat atop a pole carried by Rod as he led people on his famed 'BUS' show – 'I take a bus-load of people who don't know where they are going to visit people who don't know they are coming.'
The Chook now rests on a brown velvet cushion in front of the jacket covered in badges that Rod wore at the time.
Further into the exhibition you'll have the joy of viewing Denise Scott's nude body suit. Yes that's right, nude but for rhinestone pasties and painted-on pubic hair. Scottie retold the story at Friday's launch, saying that the costumes were designed to distract the audience from the bad jokes. They were a feature of Comedy is Still Not Pretty
(2003), created by the comedic trio of Lynda Gibson (Gibbo), Scottie and Judith Lucy (Jude). At the time Gibbo was suffering from ovarian cancer (she died in 2004) but insisted that their new show be about her funeral. She ignored Scottie's and Jude's insistance that jokes about death aren't funny – in the show the two argue over their right to deliver the eulogy for Gibbo. The end result was a show, described by Fiona Scott-Norman in her Age review, as 'A grade' and full of the trios 'deliriously pitch-black and honest' humour.
As always with a media launch there were acknowledgements to be made but Scottie and Rod successfully upstaged the speakers. I'm not sure whether it was planned or whether the two simply took advantage of the situation, but a typically wayward microphone was used to great comic effect. It was a treat to see these two great comedians in full flight.
So, if you plan to join in the fun of this year's Comedy Festival, why not get your funny bones into gear now. For those who can remember, what better way to get into the mood for a festival full of laughs than to take a fun-filled walk down memory lane. Or, if you are too young to have been there at the beginning, treat youself to an overview of all the fun of the past.Humour Us: 30 Years of Melbourne International Comedy Festival
– open daily until April 17 2016. Image credits:–Top right – Rod Quantock Bottom right – Greg Fleet, Denise Scott and Rod QuantockPhotos – Jim Lee