Dave Anthony.

Dave Anthony.

Like all good underground movements, The Cult of the Independent Comedian is a broad, lovable coalition of misfits, ragamuffins and eccentrics.

This community, more connected than ever by a network of podcasts and social media, is a gypsy tribe of ne’er-do-wells and chancers relying on shares and word of mouth to pin down the next hot thing ahead of the herd. These lifers are destined to escape the Melbourne International Comedy Festival by the skin of their teeth, finances and physical/mental health barely intact from running a month long gauntlet of late shows and constant venue hopping.

This year, I have vowed to embrace the madness and sweatbox fifty seaters to do the Festival properly.

Getting back into Melbourne a week or so into MICF, I’ve already missed cracking nights like Justin Hamilton‘s pop up podcast Can You take This Photo Please? at the Imperial, guest starring the legendary Tony Martin, and, by all reports, yet another reliably barnstorming season premiere for The Shelf.

Becky Lucas’ High Tide

Resolving not to miss any more of these cracking festival opportunities, I hit the Portland Hotel’s Pool Room with Melbourne Comedy good luck charm Reid Parker on Wednesday evening to check out the much feted Becky Lucas‘ Festival debut, High Tide.

With a single pint perched, totem-like, on a stool, Sydney based Lucas — a tad on the nervy side — gallops through a set of coming of age observations, the raw stuff of the transition into adulthood, coming to terms with the fickle nature of friendship, bad tattoo choices and generally dodgy life decisions.

Earnest and wincingly self deprecating at times, Lucas’ show is a lean sprint to the finish line. One imagines that as the Festival progresses its rhythms will relax and breathe a bit as Lucas finds its meter.

She never even touched that beer.

Dave Anthony’s Hot Head

Flash forward twenty four, and we’re at The Greek Centre’s Mykonos Room for the third night of US comic Dave Anthony‘s (Maron, The Dollop) much anticipated Aussie solo debut, Hot Head.

It’s Media Night and the crowd’s a touch threadbare. But Anthony, still suffering from his long haul Monday arrival, delivers a barnstorming set, strong on autobiographical detail, weaving narrative threads (perhaps familiar to die hard Walking the Room listeners) into a rip snorting exegesis on ancestry, parenthood and seething rage.

Renowned temper in check, Anthony is an affable, expressive performer with a heavy streak of melancholy; his insights into his father’s alcoholism and life as a forty-something dad whose career had potentially stalled, have been honed and polished into precision bits via years of exploration on myriad podcast appearances.

With the consistently brilliant US history podcast The Dollop (with Gareth Reynolds, arriving at the Festival next week) on the resumé, one would think Anthony’s hour might embrace his lurid genealogical musings. That being said, we’re also given brief insights into the frustrations of working on a show about a show (The Talking Dead), and there are undoubtedly vast seams of material to be mined from the man’s adventures in the screen trade.

It’ll be compelling to see where Anthony takes his work next, having purged his proverbial first album and now heading into difficult sophomore territory. Make it your business to check out Anthony while the opportunity permits, or forever regret your questionable life decisions and priorities.

Anne Edmonds’ You Know What I’m Like

Knifing through a few laneways to make Anne Edmonds‘ half eight start at the Town Hall’s Portico Room, I’m miraculously afforded a vantage point three rows back, centre, for the Essendon spawned comic’s new set, You Know What I’m Like.

Having previously encountered Edmonds in five-to-ten minute chunks of The Shelf, I was curious to see what shape an hour of Eddoes’ expressive, character-rich lunacy might take.

Pulling from a seemingly inexhaustible bag of observations of suburban quirk, Edmonds’ cast of messy single mums, Pony Club Jacinta’s, racist spinsters, Cheryl’s (with a hard ‘CH’) and so on, are concocted into a breathless tapestry redolent of the corrosive, Noeline Donaher inspired roastings of Jane TurnerMagda Szubanski et al.

Edmonds also turns an unforgiving blowtorch on her own foibles, offering some catharsis in the shape of proper, well earned brio on the lady comic front and the ongoing issue of what it means to be a lady comic.

A versatile actress and angelic songstress, Edmonds closes with a bit that is moving, unsettling and downright harrowing.

You’d best see You Know What I’m Like so you can get in on the act, right?

Walking the Room

Closing out my first two day MICF bracket, I hit the Supper Room for a late, sold out taping of the final ever Walking the Room podcast.

That beloved, ragged open wound of podcasting — the WtR format hinges on the fractious relationship between co-hosts Greg Behrendt (all-Californian Ritalin puppy) and Dave Anthony (curmudgeonly grump and hot head — see above). Devised as ad hoc therapy when both comedians’ careers were at their nadir, WtR has traversed two hundred or so chaotic episodes, exploring career disappointment, addictions, mid-life crises, parenthood and this odd couple’s evolving, begrudging love (and maybe even respect) for one another.

We’re here to wrap all that up and pay joyous tribute — treated to almost two hours of free form lunacy, ably abetted by the ever sharp Jen Kirkman and an initially mute Wyatt Cenac, whose eventual, pitch perfect lapse into uncanny Cosby impersonations adds an incendiary frisson to proceedings.

Tonight’s recording is a triumphant denouement for a ragtag community (or ‘Cuddlers’, to the initiated), and a testament to the global reach of the form, as the two key performers command an audience, leagues above their individual local profiles, to rapturous effect.

Subscribe to Walking the Room via your preferred pod organ, and perhaps even treat yourself to the preceding two hundred plus episodes.

These four shows, then, bear testament to the breadth of talent you’ll discover when scratching the surface of this year’s Festival. Wander into pretty much any bar in the CBD and surrounds and you’ll encounter some new talent hungry to tear the scene a new one.

If you’re in the market for much needed ha-ha catharsis then there’s no excuse not to get amongst the myriad delights of 2015’s lineup.

Right, I’m off to The Shelf podcast live recording: more, much more, soon.