"We might not have leggy models in bikinis, we might be missing 400hp engines, we might not be able to whip you up an organic horse carpaccio, but we sure can make you laugh…"

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival launch was a relatively small affair, a group of media attendees plied with free wine and champagne (at 11 in the morning no less!), a few comedians, a pair of Festival heavyweights, and Melbourne's Lord Mayor, all packed into the Arts Centre's fantastic Spiegeltent.

MC Hannah Gadsby opened the launch with her typical dry wit, jumping straight into MC Hannah (Hammer, I should say) jokes and introducing the first of the preview performances to grace the stage. – "99.9% of the shows in the festival guide are funny" – quipped Gadsby – the one quote I could work out of Hannah Gadsby that wasn't about her own show….

Moosehead (an Australian comedy award) recipients Kate McLennan and Wes Snelling previewed their site-specific show show 'Standard Double', performance at The Blackman hotel, about what people get up to in hotels on holidays. Also on display was Windmill Theatre's 'School Dance', a preview which included loud 80s music, synchronised bicycle riding, and an invisible man. Highly intriguing.

In amongst all the laughs came the not-so-hilarious….festival Board Chairman Bill Shannon quite seriously promised us more than one million laughs across the Festival season (though I suspect there will be quite a few more than that given the line-up) from more than 1000 performers giving 5860 performances across 119 venues supplying all of this to over half a million lovers of comedy.

Festival Director Susan Provan spoke about the Festival's roadshow, which travels not only across Australia but to Singapore, Hong Kong, and even India, bringing the Festival to people who may not be able to attend the main affair.  “We may be in the longest election campaign ever but we have the largest Melbourne Comedy Festival ever, offering distractions, diversions and opinions on everything aid Provan. "Our 2013 program is filled with treats and I urge every person who already loves comedy or who thinks that they could, to investigate it thoroughly.”

She also made mention of the Festival's free outdoor program, which includes international and local performers, and is allegedly a hit with school kids across the holidays. The Lord Mayor Robert Doyle rounded off the morning with a promise that there is no other event like the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which changes the city itself throughout its runtime.

Australia’s finest home-grown talent will take to the many stages of the Festival, among them Tom Gleeson, Rod Quantock, Sean Choolburra, Denise Scott, Judith Lucy, Asher Treleavan, Josh Thomas, Wil Anderson, Kitty Flanagan and more.

Comedy royalty and Festival guests from the greater globe include Ruby Wax, Loretta Maine, The Rubberbandits, Rich Fulcher, Mike Birbiglia, Jack Dee, Pajama Men, Nina Conti and many more.

As we were all provided with a Festival guide (earlier than the general public!), I've already made my list of shows I plan to attend this year. Get yours tomorrow (Sunday the 23rd) and get planning!

Image credit: Jim Lee