Rising stars to catch at comedy festival (and tell everyone about)

Sling on your grins for a rollicking wave of rising comedy stars at the 16th Sydney Comedy Festival. Here’s the pick of live acts moving into the comedy scene’s brighter stage spotlights.

The Hot Department’s Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan merge filthy silliness into sketch comedy.

Hot Department – After Party

Winner of Best Ensemble in Cabaret at the 2020 Green Room Awards, and, importantly, the 2021 Lip Sync Battle at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Honor Wolff and Patrick Durnan Silva, merge queer, surreal and white silk-draped filthy silliness into sketch comedy incorporating aggressive choreography and avid tongue-kissing. Seen in Aunty Donna skits, ABC’s At Home Alone Together and their cult hit series Stepmom Blues, these best friends are, in their words, “a sexually dysfunctional comedy duo with deep trauma and a validation addiction”. Factory Theatre, May 14-15

Clowning school graduate Floyd Alexander-Hunt dissects matters of the heart.

Floyd Alexander-Hunt – Highly Strung

A graduate of Sydney University’s law school and Phillip Gaulier’s famous clown college, vivid over-thinker Floyd Alexander-Hunt probes the schisms of love she has lived/survived – first love, unrequited love, (un)conditional love and self-love in a solo show of joyously sarcastic self-analysis. Highly Strung will undoubtedly feature Alexander-Hunt’s classical violin skills, whether as a tool to demonstrate the importance of digit dexterity in matters of the heart or proof of her razor-sharp multitasking comic mind. Factory Theatre, May 18-22

Chris Ryan is a former journalist who is now one of the country’s most in-demand comedians.

Chris Ryan – Can’t Complain

Chris Ryan gave up journalism to be a comic and often carries a tall, fabulous mohawk mullet of silver locks, but it’s her straight-talking takes on life as a mother, gym membership hostage and celebrator of the no-bullshit freedoms of nearing 50 that’s making her a star. Winner of the Sydney Comedy Festival’s Best Newcomer Award, nominated for Best Newcomer at the MICF and a touring comic for the Australian troops in the Middle East, Ryan’s dry wit has shone on The Project, ABC Radio’s Thank God It’s Friday and gigs in every corner of Australia. Factory Theatre, May 19-22

AJ Lamarque is not only a polished stand-up performer, he also mentors rising comedians.

AJ Lamarque – English Breakfast

Host of the monthly Kweens of Comedy show at Darlinghurst’s Oxford Hotel, AJ Lamarque is a comedian, MC, producer and mentor whose deceptively languid stand-up is a quip-smart and smartly measured ride. Proudly mixed-race (his mother is Anglo British; his father is Chinese-Jamaican-Indian-South African), and a supporter of rising talent via his Newcomers Program and role in the Australian Council for the Arts 2022-2023 Future Leaders program, Lamarque’s stand-up craft is like a scented mind missile, hitting its target with precise panache. Factory Theatre, April 28-May 1

Gabbi Bolt is a regular on The Chaser Report podcast.

Gabbi Bolt – I Hope My Keyboard Doesn’t Break

Bolt’s star began to rise when she penned and performed a TikTok R’n’B ditty about ABC journalist Andrew Probyn being told he “did not run the press conference” by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in early 2020. Later in the year Bolt duetted with former prime minister Kevin Rudd in a heartfelt but hilarious plea for diversity in the media and became a Broadway collaborator after contributing a song for Ratatouille the TikTok Musical. Her first solo stage show mines nostalgia, feminism, the internet, housing prices and climate change, or, in her words, “millennial anxiety but if it were a musical”. Factory Theatre, April 28 &29

Ben Kochan and Concetta Caristo – Funny As Sin

Stand-up comedians and real-life de-facto couple Kochan and Caristo do a blistering set of what it truly means to be in love, whether that’s who should convert religion if they get married, or how the ebb-and-flow of lusty quibbling in a relationship is just as valid as a pash. Seen on SBS show Celebrity Letters & Numbers and Let’s Get Quizzical, Kochan and Caristo turn love’s glories into unflinchingly salty bon mots. Enmore Theatre, May 7-8

Scout Boxall was nominated for best newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival last year for her debut solo work Good Egg.

Scout Boxall – Buck Wild

Scout Boxall’s much-awaited follow-up to their MICF Best Newcomer-nominated 2021 debut solo work Good Egg interweaves stand-up, stories and original songs in a high-octane exploration of being bi-polar (plus Formula One racing and dolphins). Boxall, who explained coming out to their parents with the terms “diversifying my gender portfolio” and “preserving dating optionality”, is as confident with pointed social commentary as creating intricately offbeat characters. Buck Wild, directed by award-winning comedian Michelle Brasier (Aunty Donna’s Big Ol House of Fun, Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell), is a personal story within genre-defying chaos. Factory Theatre, May 7-8

Greg Larsen’s years of experience as a comedy writer, actor and director make him a must-see at this year’s festival.

Greg Larsen – We All have Bloody Thoughts

Greg Larsen is a long way from being an emerging comedian but his years as a comedy writer, performer and director in projects are far-ranging as The Project, black comedy The Tourist, ABC TV’s Get Krack!n, Ronny Chieng: International Student and his 2021 semi-autobiographical solo show This Might Not Be Hell (winner of the MICF Piece of Wood Award) make him a must-see. The trailer for We All have Bloody Thoughts is a grainy, out-of-focus 20-seconds of Larsen standing warily at the back of a dark shed. Go watch him do something similar on stage but with jokes. Factory Theatre, May 12-14

The Sydney Comedy Festival runs from April 25 to May 2.

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