Thigh Slapping Good Times: The Byron Bay Comedy Fest

No doubt many of us are in need of a good laugh, particularly after the year that was. Fortunately, this year’s Byron Bay Comedy Fest, running from 13 to 16 May, has an epic line up of comedic greats, featuring both national and international comedians.

As the Byron Bay Surf Club transforms into a swish Comedy Club, visitors have the opportunity to eat, drink and laugh, and soak up the ocean views. This year’s festival also sees renowned chef Shannon Bennett design a locally sourced and undoubtedly delicious menu in partnership with The General Store, so you can have a titter and treat your tastebuds at the same time.

Byron Bay Comedy Fest 2021 will feature a swathe of Australia’s funniest comedians, including Glenn Robbins, Jean Kittson, Andy Saunders, Rebel Lyons, and even great moments in Q+A with Dr Karl, who is also hosting the (sold out) opening night party. Add to that workshops, games and open discussions throughout the weekend, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a rib-tickling good time.

To gain an insight into a few of the comedians performing at the festival, as well as finding out what audiences can expect from their shows, we shot some questions through to some of the talent.

Mandy Nolan, Andy Saunders, Fiona O’Loughlin and Dave O’Neil all took time out to put forward the following, at times, hilarious, responses.

How did you initially get into stand up comedy? 

Fiona: It was accidental. I was emceeing an event in Alice Springs and the minister for the arts was in the audience. He suggested I apply to his office for an arts grant and the rest (as they say) is history.

Dave: Came from drama teaching to stand up. Good decision, but no holiday pay.

Andy: I was always into comedy but not officially stand up. I had been an emcee for about a million weddings and told jokes in front of family for years and I was always told that I needed to try it, so I did. I. Many people quite often have said I was a procrastinator so I told my wife when I was 29 that I wanted to try stand up before I turned 70.

Mandy: At Uni. I was doing feminist theatre. I stood on a chair and did a poem about a penis. I got a booking the next week.

Do you tell people youre a comedian, or do you pretend to have another occupation so youre not asked to perform for free at weddings and parties? 

Fiona: I always tell people I’m a geophysicist. It’s an easier sell now that I wear glasses.

Dave:  Them – “Can you come to our wedding?”

Me – “Yes love to”.

Them – “Great we’ll get you to MC”.

Me – “Sorry what was the date again?”

Andy: Like a vegan, I tell everyone.

Mandy: I tell them I am an auditor and they shut the fuck up. 

Where do you gain inspiration for your material? 

Fiona: Inspiration comes from everywhere. I LOVE people watching. It’s definitely my favourite thing to do. I’ll stay on a tram an extra stop if there’s a barney.

Dave: As Larry David said “If you tell the truth about how you’re feeling, it becomes funny”

Andy: Everything, everyday, all day, my head is a mess.

Mandy: I live in Mullumbimby. Inspiration is on tap. 

How do you envision the perfectaudience? 

Fiona: The perfect audience is a sold out audience. Honestly. I won’t ever get over the notion that strangers are actually happy to spend a night out coming to see me. Having an audience is such a privilege.

Dave: “Tall and tanned and young and lovely”. Yes, the Girl from Ipanema lyrics

Andy: Naked and laughing hysterically.

Mandy: Middle aged women who have had a few white wines.

If you werent a comedian, what would you be doing? 

Fiona: I would love to be involved in casting. I’m always on the lookout for new comedy talent. I really trust my gut. I said to Rebel Wilson 15 years ago “You are going to be World Famous Rebel”.

Dave: Golf, surfing…. kind of what I do now really. See you in the water.

Andy: Doing inspirational speeches in a really hilarious way.

Mandy: I’d be Prime Minister. I’d make a woman the Minister for Men.

Did you spend lockdown in 2020 being creative and inspiring, or binging Netflix and overeating? 

Fiona: I was so lucky. I had a book deal by Day 2 of lockdown. Now that was good timing.

Dave: Mainly walking in a 5K radius and hanging around the park. Sounds creepy when I say it.

Andy: I created a new dance which is a cross between hip hop and cultural parkour. Very hard not to look at.

Mandy: I wrote a book and I walked 10km a day. I ran online courses. I’m one of those annoying people.

What can Byron audiences expect from your show? 

Fiona: Stories! And lots of them. I am getting bolder with age so it really is quite a raucous hour.

Dave: Old guys talking. That’s creepy too.

Andy: Eye opening informative silliness.

Mandy: Hilarity. Insight. Middle aged rage. 

Finish this sentence: A world without comedy would be…. 

Fiona: Uninhabitable. I’d have to get on a rocket and go somewhere funnier.

Dave:  A long set up without a tag.

Andy: One big keynote speech with constant powerpoint presentations where someone reads word for word from it, so, work in other words.

Mandy: Like living with Scott and Jenny Morrison. Forever.

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