Comedy Festival: Lawrence Leung’s city dining tips

The Comedy Festival is in full swing. It’s week two. Punters descend on festival venues like seagulls to an unattended bag of fish’n’chips. With over 400 shows competing for attention, every comedian is hoping that their show is the most appealing potato cake amongst the flake and salty dim sims falling out of the greasy bag. For some reason this metaphor is making me hungry.

It’s good to have a full stomach before seeing a round of festival shows. If you’re seeing two shows on one evening (say, a favourite and an up-and-comer) I would make sure you plan your night carefully, allowing for dinner and walking between venues – otherwise, you may end up being picked on by the comics in those shows for being ‘latecomers’.

Pick up your tickets early. Download the free Melbourne International Comedy Festival app if you have an iPhone. Like a smartypants, show off to your date that you have the program at your fingertips and maps to get to the various venues. If you don’t have an iPhone, make a point of it. You’re not a slave to those so-called smartphones. Bloody Gen-Ys.

There are plenty of places to grab a bite and drink in the city between shows. I’m a big fan of dumpling houses in the CBD – I could write an entire blog about that – but I won’t this time. Just know that there’s a plate of fried beef dumplings and a thermos of scalding hot lava-temperature tea around almost every corner.

The Peter Cook Bar at the Town Hall is a nice place for a quick pre-show drink, if you want to be in a crowded joint and have the person you are talking to constantly looking over your shoulder at someone more interesting and famous.

Victoria Hotel around the corner from Town Hall has a great mezzanine bar with couches and a grand piano. It reminds me of Cantina Bar from Star Wars, except the bug-eyed aliens are comedians trading war stories over a drink or two. Sometimes these comedians are holding MP3 recorders and microphones. What you call conversation, we call ‘next week’s podcast’.

This is by no means a definitive guide. I’m sure there’ll be six new hip pop-up bars appearing in a laneway by the time I finish writing this sentence. So ignore what I say and just explore a Melbourne alleyway and push open every door next to a dumpster covered in stencil art. Oh look! It’s a Steampunk-themed whisky joint filled with RMIT graphic design students and dubstep DJs.

For late-night Comedy Festival entertainment, you can’t go past all-night gigs and drinking at venues such as the Festival Club at Hi Fi Bar, Tuxedo Cat, the Butterfly Club and perennial favourite Trades Hall. On Friday and Saturday nights at Trades Hall there’s a stand-up comedy show called Hang the DJ that transforms into an all-night dance club until the early hours of the morning.

My advice is to treat your Comedy Festival like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Like most festival-tragics, you may end up on page 237: ‘At 4am, you and nine comedians stumble out of the Hi Fi Bar and head towards the dim sims at Golden Showers, like moths to a flame.’

This is just one night. The festival is on for a month. I’ll see you around the bain-marie.

Lawrence Leung’s brand new show, Part Time Detective Agency is at the Swiss Club, 89 Flinders Lane until 21 April.