The Sydney Comedy Festival has been around for thirteen years and has amazingly grown from a festival with humble beginnings, into a force that itself has grown to a major arts festival in Australia.
Director of the festival for all that time, Jorge Menindis details the history while making some last minute plans prior to the opening of the festival, which opened a few days ago. “I think the first festival we ran, we had twenty-five shows. It was largely built around the reputation of four or five big names. Much of the festival was a by product of the rest of those names. Whereas now we are at 200 shows… I think we’ve come a long way”
While comparisons can be made with Melbourne’s behemoth of laughter, Menidis feels that the best approach to his Comedy Festival up north is curation. Making for quality control in the entertainment on offer. “It makes sense to get the bigger artists to play in the biggest markets in Australia. We work with Melbourne especially on those bigger international acts. It makes sense. We present stuff in our festival from there and vice versa. Fundamentally there are big differences between Sydney and Melbourne comedy festivals.”
“[Sydney Comedy Festival] is curated. That’s the most significant thing. In Melbourne and Adelaide there is an open slather kind of attitude to applicants. We send invites to artists and we would consider applicants as well. We are keen to have a balance of types of comedy and develop the headliners of the future as well too.”
With the growing festival numbers – beginning with 13,000 to 125,000 and Menidis forecasts 140,000 attendees this year – he’s also reflective on the contribution his festival to the unofficial ‘season of comedy’ that goes around this year, Starting with the Melbourne Fringe in September and going all the way to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that ends in May. “There’s a big circuit around the area for 5-6 months of a year, which is fantastic for the region,” Menidis says.
Menidis is also keen to point out that the festival has seen out to get performers from around the world. He points out comedians like Vir Das from India, German puppeteer Anne Klinge, and Canadian comedian Dashan, who will do his show in Cantonese as a path for audiences to discover talent from places that are not the UK and US markets.
“Cosmopolitanism for us is very important. We’ve always gone out of our way to get people from as diverse a range of voices as is feasible… there’s a great explosion in stand up and comedy in general and artists that are coming through that are sharing new experiences and giving new takes on what we all think. I think it’s amazing and we’re all better for it.”
Sydney Comedy Festival runs from this week until May 21st, with a range of comedy talent on offer. For more info, head here.