Sydney Comedy Festival Gala Review: International comedy is back and it’s frenetic

The Sydney Comedy Festival has finally rolled around and it’s time for four weeks of comedy to take over a multitude of venues in the city, but first, the fabulous Sydney Opera House gets to host one of the opening week galas that showcase a selection of artists to be found on the programme.

A packed concert hall was the perfect place to appreciate a range of world class comedians, but we were treated to a little cabaret performance from Reuben Kaye, who lounged over audience members, dished out irreverent jokes and dropped the first of many c bombs for the evening, which would test out the decidedly mature crowd.

Her rendition of ‘Sailor Boys’ by French lyricist Charles Aznavour, was a bold choice for the big stage and she absolutely nailed it, delivering a powerful and hilarious performance of the – at times – confusing tale!

The host for the evening was English Actress and new presenter of the UK’s ‘Great British Sewing Bee’, Sara Pascoe. Her opening monologue was excellent as she took us through her ‘sea witch years’, and her hosting of the evening was entertaining, especially given her sleepless travel and pregnancy!

Part of the anticipation of the night is the unknown range of comedians to take to the stage and it was the Scottish Larry Dean who kicked things off. His Australian accent was as great as his set and really kicked things into the right gear for the night.

Only a few local comedians were given the chance to show their wares and Sydney’s own Becky Lucas, gave her short but sweet set to a crowd that probably wasn’t ready for her bit about ‘The Gladdy’s’ (beloved local watering hole) female toilets or suicide, but she has never been one to stick to the mainstream.

American Moses Storm may look stereotypical, “I look like I have a YouTube prank channel” but he was bang on the mark with his jokes, particularly his anecdotes about attending cheerleading camp as a youngster.

Michelle Brasier is not only an outstandingly funny actor (Aunty Donna) and stand-up comic, but she has a top set of pipes and showed them off with a parody song about the battle between Millennials and Gen-Z’s. I mean, she’ll do whatever she can to protect high-waisted jeans.

The silk robe and pencil moustache of Troy Hawke seemed to portray a suave, privileged 1930’s snob, and maybe that’s the look he’s going for, but his bit about the misogyny behind Mr. Men books was as clever as it was spot-on, quite incongruous to his image.

Perhaps stuck in his own time period, Joe Avati’s comedy was unapologetically un-politically correct and it seemed to strike a chord with the Opera House’s demographic. His observational humour targeted some stereotypical areas that felt a bit obvious, but his nostalgic takes were worth a chuckle.

The freneticism of the UK’s Mark Watson wrapped up the first half of the gala. His welcome return to Australia has seen him drawing great crowds and there’s little reason why. He may be fast and quick off the mark but particularly witty about divorce, his family and how he manages What’s App groups!

Following a short break, Pascoe again gave us some very funny stories of her travel experiences before introducing Nemr, a Lebanese/American comic that delivered comedy from the angle of his culture. Hearing stories of him losing a ‘God of War’ save file due to a bombing of Beirut was as funny as it was scary, but we can all certainly relate to their cucumbers!

Chris Ryan delivered comedy in her straightforward approach which was endearing and relatable, even if we haven’t all been into Mecca Cosmetics or had ‘talons’ (long nails), her delivery was exceptional and elicited knowing chuckles from many.

One of the youngest in the room was Britain’s Leo Reich and it was refreshing for a night that seemed to be aimed at the older crowd, to have someone talking about Gen Z from their own perspective. His anecdotes on sex and generations were spot on and his shows, ‘Literally Who Care!?’ promises to continue on the theme of Gen Z, queerness and making fun of old people!

From one of the youngest to one of the oldest, Stephen K Amos is no stranger to our shores (or a gala!) and his jokes about Adelaide, The Queen (a story that’s worth hearing!) and Vegemite, were spot on and enduring. There’s something to be said about a comedian that can stay fresh after all these years.

South African, Schalk Bezuidenhout is a funny looking fella, it has to be said, but he matched his quirky looks with some quirky bits, including throwing back to when the Internet made noise and wrestling moves and retro references. There were certainly some sneak peeks at some unique perspectives.

Finnish comedian, Ismo, was a surprise packet. Yeah, his accent added to the entertainment of his set, but his observation and quirky humour about the intricacies of the English language and whether he needs an adapter to have sex in Australia were particularly clever!

Festival circuit stalwart, Ed Byrne, wrapped up the night with a solid set that combined relationships, family and pretty spot-on, but safe observations of raising children. The self-degradation was done with cleverness and highlighted why he’s a favourite with Australian audiences.

The gala was an exciting and diverse smorgasbord of quality comedians gracing our shores, including a great range of internationals who may not have been here in some time. The frenetic nature of the gala doesn’t always show the best of the comedians that build a narrative, but it certainly whets the appetite for the coming month of shows around Sydney as the comedy festival gets started and gives us all a much needed laugh!


The Sydney Comedy Festival runs from the 24th of April till the 21st of May. Find all of the shows at their website.

Mick Radojkovic

I like to consume stuff. Music, comedy, TV, films. Also, nachos and doughnuts. Thank you for your time.