AS Newcastle venues get large audiences for local and touring comedy shows, it is not surprising that Andrew Milos, the head of the city's popular comedy team Big Dog Comedy, has established the Newcastle International Comedy Festival.
The festival, which will be staged from May 23 to 26, will include 18 comedy shows featuring local, national and international performers at five, and possibly six, venues. One of the shows is promoted as being at a secret location that audience members will learn after buying tickets.
Sydney-raised Andrew Milos had an uncle, Richard Kaminski, who was a popular stand-up comedian known as "The Dickster", and he decided to follow in his uncle's footsteps. The audience reception at gigs he performed and saw in Newcastle led him to establish Big Dog Comedy in 2016.
The festival will have its official launch, listed as the "opening gala", at the Civic Theatre on Friday, May 24, at 8pm, with 11 comedians doing bright and lively comedy routines. Two of the comedians, the show's compere, Tommy Little, and Triple J radio station presenter Gen Fricker, will only perform at that event.
One of the gala team is Sarah Gaul, a comedienne who grew up in Muswellbrook, then spent her first post-school year in Newcastle with her parents, who had moved there, and did shows with a youth theatre company, Tantrum. Subsequent training in a Melbourne acting course led her to focus on comedy and appearing in capital city comedy festivals. She recently returned from New York, where she spent a year doing stand-up comedy and won rave reviews.
She will perform her Newcastle comedy festival show, Sarah Gaul is Hysterical, at The Happy Wombat bar/restaurant, 575 Hunter Street, Newcastle West, at 4pm on Sunday, May 26. Like most of the other festival shows, it will run for an hour.
The other venues are: 5 Sawyers, 115 Darby Street, Cooks Hill; Civic Theatre; Clarendon Hotel, 347 Hunter Street; The Family Hotel, 635 Hunter St.
The show program follows.
Thursday, May 23
Newcastle Comedy Festival Launch Party. 5 Sawyers, 8pm.
Friday, May 24
Newcastle Comedy Festival Opening Gala. Civic Theatre, 8pm.
Tommy Little (compere), Gen Fricker, Al Del Bene, Luke Heggie, Cameron James, Nikki Britton, Neel Kolhatkar, Cam Knight, Aaron Gocs, Sarah Gaul, Nick Capper.
Saturday, May 25
Newcastle Comedy Showcase. The Happy Wombat, 3pm. Home-grown comedians look at Newcastle people and places.
What She Said. Clarendon Hotel, 4pm. Sydney women comics show through stand up, sketch and songs how to create communities.
Bec Charlwood. The Happy Wombat, 5pm. This Perth comedian has appeared in many Australian comedy fests.
Al Del Bene. Clarendon Hotel , 6pm. The American comedian, now an Australian resident, looks amusingly at his successes and failures.
Nikki Britton: Once Bitten, The Happy Wombat, 7pm. The Australian comedian looks in this show, performed at the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals, at how women react to offensive male comments.
Cam Knight - Get rich or die crying, Clarendon Hotel, 8pm. This Aussie muses over his life with young children, trying to control his dog, and the nature of masculinity.
Luke Heggie - Have That, The Happy Wombat, 9pm. An amusing account of how to handle the dickheads that come into your life.
Neel Kolhatkar - LIVE, Clarendon Hotel, 9.45pm. The TV performer returns to stand-up comedy, looking at social media and other things.
Big Dog Up Late, secret venue, 10.30pm. The Newcastle Big Dog Comedy team share quick wits with guest hosts.
Sunday, May 26.
Sarah Gaul is Hysterical, The Happy Wombat, 4pm.
Rowan Thambar 23 and dissipointed, The Happy Wombat, 5pm. Learn through stand-up comedy and music why this 23-year-old heart-throb has a fragile ego.
Aaron Gocs - Divorced... with Children, Clarendon Hotel, 6pm. A heartfelt look, through stories and jokes, at the impact divorce has had on the divorced suburban dad's life.
Cameron James - Strawberry Blonde, The Happy Wombat, 7pm. The young comedian, fresh from the Sydney and Melbourne Comedy Festivals, looks through mean jokes and hilarious irreverence at his zero personal growth - or is he just in denial?
Nick Capper - Pig in the city, Clarendon Hotel, 8pm. Capper uses stand-up, bad songs and pixelated videos to show what it's like to be a country boy moving to the big city.
Cameron Duggan - Crowd Favourite, The Happy Wombat, 9pm. Duggan's skills in karate and using jet skis shows why he is a crowd favourite or do they; show from the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals.
Tickets for the festival opening show at the Civic are $55 and have to be bought from that venue. Tickets for the other venues are $20 to $30, and can be booked through stickytickets.com.au. Get more info through newycomedyfest.com.
NEWCASTLE University Drama Society is staging a revised version of its 2016 hit tongue-in-cheek comedy show Space Dragon Adventure, with performances at Tantrum Studio, 101 City Road, Merewether, on Friday and Saturday, May 17 and 18, at 7.30pm, and Sunday, May 19, at 6pm.
The brisk 90-minute comedy, by Jack Madden and Imy Blinky, looks at a dysfunctional space crew attempting to find a cure to a virus plaguing their home planet, and finding themselves stranded before crash-landing into an alien cantina. Desperate to complete the mission, the female commander is tormented by her feckless crew, genocidal alien royalty, and the harsh reality of turning 30 in space.
Tickets, $18.50, concession $14.28.