This is an article I wrote for my journalism class at uni last week. The assignment was to write an article in the form of hard news on a local event. Luckily the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a local for me.
I just want to thank Caitlin and Rob for taking the time to be interviewed. I really appreciate it. They are both clearly passionate about their work.
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival celebrated it’s 30th anniversary this year.
The festival had 500 shows and over 2000 performers participate over 4 weeks starting over the Easter Long Weekend.
The festival has grown since it first launched in 1987 and is now ranked in the top three comedy festivals in the world, alongside the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
It’s not easy creating a brand new show every year for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, especially when you’re competing against larger national and international comedy acts.
“The comedy festival has very specific expectations from the audience, the punters and the jokies (comedy groupies)” said Rob Lloyd, the brains behind the show The Mighty Little Puppet Show which debuted at the festival this year.
The audience expect “very hard hitting, fast comedy all the time. It has to be really hard hitting comedy whatever the format.”
The Mighty Little Puppet Show, is an improv comedy show that ran through the first two weeks of the festival.
The show featured The Ritas, faceless puppets who have detachable extremities, that came to life as different characters each night and the show featured different guest comedians each performance.
One of the challenges of doing a comedy show where the audience is expecting hard hitting comedy is that “if their not laughing, you automatically think that their not enjoying it. Somethings wrong,” Mr Lloyd explained. “With the puppets it’s not the same, the crowd are supportive but very quiet.”
Caitlin Yolland, one of the regular performers in the show found that this was because the audience were “completely enthralled and mesmerised” with the puppets.
“Even just having the puppets having a hand rest on an audience members shoulders” was enough to engage the audience and keep them quiet. The audience had never seen puppets interact with people in the same way before.
“I thought it was just us that’s responding that way ‘this is cool!’ but the audience were loving it.”
“What’s really nice is the audience are interested. They are engaged the whole time.”
Ms Yolland reflected that having a show that was different was useful when competing against the larger standup acts, “Having a point of difference is a benefit in a festival given that there is so much same sort of stock standard standup happening.”
The Melbourne International Comedy Festival closes this weekend on Sunday.
You can find out more about The Mighty Little Puppet Show here. I suggest watching the video Introducing The Ritas. Watching Rob and Caitlin working with the puppets is such a pleasure.