The RAW Comedy events are a real opportunity to support growing comedians in Australia, and the Grand Final Event as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival is no different.  12 comedians made it through, with 1197 entrants, 56 events and heats across Australia. With previous competitors including Chris Lilley, Josh Thomas, Hannah Gadsby, Peter Helliar, Claire Hooper, Ronny Chieng, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor all making waves, RAW Comedy really is the springboard to success. The winner of this colossal comedy cup will take away a trip to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, setting them on the journey into international waters.

This is a huge opportunity for the next generation of Australian comedians to get exposure and launch their careers, with the National Grand Final also being filmed and televised. It’s specifically for non-professional comedians, so those who have made less than $500 bucks making people laugh, and embraces all types of comedy: sketch, stand up, using music, etc.

It’s a full house at Melbourne Town Hall to support the 2017 finalists: Andrew Bensley (ACT), Bonnie Tangey (NSW), Jason Williams (NT), Oliver Twist (QLD), Brad Hollis (SA), Isabella Roldan (TAS), Zack Dyer (VIC), Shaquille Blackley (WA), Sharon Andrews (VIC), Carla Wills (SA), Billy D’Arcy (NSW), Josh Webb (VIC).

Hosting the evening is Susie Youssef, seasoned sketch and stand-up star and one of the hilarious cast members of Whose Line Is It Anyway? Australia.  Her humour and easy going nature, as well as her diverse perspective and relatability as a young woman makes her a fantastic host of the event, who comes out to share jokes and stories between groups of finalists,   warm the audience up, and keep the applause and support going in the room. She tells tales of being one of six girls, and being the second youngest, watching her youngest sister get married before her, as well as coming from a Lebanese family and the fun and quirks that come from that.

The winner of the coveted prize was Zack Dyer from Victoria, and his unforgettable moustache/ mullet combination. He talks about his city and its love of not one, but three 24 hour Kmarts- what other reason would Melbourne continue to win most liveable city! He’s originally a Queenslander and relates Pauline Hanson to a seagull, swooping for chips (well she does own a fish and chip shop), or the summoning of the red dragon. He also does a mean seagull impression. He’s comfortable, confident, fits into a traditional stand up format, and knows how to time his jokes, and now he’ll get to go try them out as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Raw comedy - Zack Dyer

Bonnie Tangey from NSW took out 1st Runner Up, complete with props and a fantastic gag about not judging a book by its cover. She plays up being a dorky, awkward young woman, who claims to be single and boring. She’s dead pan and completely without sarcasm, taking on hipsters and read heads and completes the show with shit haikus she has written. Her act is completely different from any of the other finalists, making it stand out against the more traditional stand up approaches.

Raw Comedy - Bonne Tangey

Shaquille Blackley from WA was 2nd Runner Up, making fun immediately of his name and the potential racist notions that come with it- he likened it to becoming an adjective, Blackley becoming the way to describe how he does things. His humour is straight up train of thought, sharing things he isn’t a fan off, and putting phrases into their literally context. He’s at ease on stage and very relaxed, and his material stands out from the other comedians.

Raw comedy - Shaquille Blackley

Mae Martin from Canada entertains the audience while the judges confer, sharing witty anecdotes from her childhood and how she broke into the comedy scene in Canada. She describes herself as a “weird gay spider monkey”, entering comedy when she was 14 and mid puberty. She’s obsessed with Bette Midler, people think she “lied with her short hair” about being gay (she’s bi, and refuses to accept stereotypes), and is an all round energetic ball of energy, sharing personal stories about being raised in a gender neutral household, her mum’s magnificent explanation of an orgasm (it involved rainbows), and her nudist dad. She’s a wonderfully progressive comic, and presented her own show Dope at the festival, following her debut at MICF in 2016.

Other stand out acts for me this event were Oliver Twist (yes, that is his real name), and his take on the racism of Australia, which both amuses and makes the audience groan; Carla Wills and her take on gender norms, flipping stereotypes and becoming a ‘female pervert’- it stands out for being intelligent, well thought out humour which is a bit rude and a bit rough, but that’s what happens when you flip gender stereotypes, it gets a bit hard to hear! Sharon Andrews from Torquay is brutally honest and at home on stage, comparing farmers wives and lesbians, sharing tales of her really dumb friend and being 47, a lesbian and a late bloomer. She’d like to know “Where the flap snaps at?”

For me these guys stood out from their confidence on stage, their relevant topics of content, being current, topical, a bit left of centre or being brutally honest, and they way they stand out from the plethora of shows I’ve seen on across the festival.

Every finalist on the night had something different to offer and got a lot of laughs and support from the audience, and I highly encourage everyone to get out there and support these events across the next year of heats and events. It’s a great opportunity for aspiring comedians to get exposure, practice their material, hone their craft and share their humour with audiences, and a great opportunity for audiences to be a part of this journey. Maybe one day, you can say “I saw “insert next big name comedian here” right when they were starting out.

Raw comedy finalists

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