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Canberra Comedy Festival 2015


Who was funnier at the Canberra Comedy Festival this year? Australian, Heath Franklin or Irishman, Jason Byrne?

Last month saw the Canberra Comedy Festival’s third year and according to James Stevenson who heads up media and marketing for the festival, “attendances were record breaking”.

The Festival has multiple shows running simultaneously but I decided to check out both Heath Franklin and Jason Byrne.

Heath Franklin

Franklin’s Chopper Repeat Offender show is based around Mark ‘Chopper’ Reed who is renowned for being one of Australia’s most notorious criminals.

In the past, I’ve been a huge fan of Franklin’s DVDs and online material. However, I’ve never had the chance to see him perform live.

The show’s content wasn’t what I expected.  Previously, Franklin’s jokes focused on sending up Chopper Reed’s personality, his quotes and his antics.

However, his latest show is largely his own material and specifically takes aim at everyday clichés people tend to misuse, for example ‘follow your heart’.

Franklin did acknowledge Chopper throughout the show, dropping lines like “that moment where every part of your body wants to smash something in half, like Godzilla, then taking a deep breath, reassessing the situation and then doing it anyway.”

I left the show in hysterics largely due to Franklin’s ability to grace the audience with good old-fashioned Aussie humour.

His greatest attribute was easily the instantaneous wit he displayed when challenged by his audience.  On several occasions he engaged with the crowd, always leaving the spectators in stitches with his hilarious responses.

Jason Byrne

Irish comedian Jason Byrne is an international act with rave reviews, so I decided to look in on him too. 

On stage, Byrne had an unusual persona – he couldn’t stand still! He was moving at million miles an hour and talked so fast you could hardly understand what he was saying!

People were yelling at him from the outset and at one point Byrne quipped, “I’ve never had an audience heckle me this much before I have even started!”

He cleverly used the crowd’s comments to his advantage throughout the show.  The audience were the inspiration for most of his jokes, which I thought was brilliant.

Several times throughout the show he made remarks like “I’ve never had an audience like this, you people aren’t normal,” and “I can’t believe I didn’t record this show.”

Byrne loves to engage with his audiences, reflected in his concept when the crowd names each show at the conclusion of the performance. The audience came up with the name ‘Rangas For Free’ which was based on a joke from earlier.

Stevenson who saw both Byrne’s Friday and Saturday shows said that both of these performances were “pretty different from each other.”

The extra ten dollars of Byrne’s ticket price compared to Franklin’s was easily justified.  The highly audience dependent nature of his act meant that he was constantly coming up with new material on the spot.

Although I thought Heath Franklin was an excellent performer, Jason Byrne was better.  I didn’t want his show to end,  crying with laughter the entire show.

Both performances were held at separate venues, Heath Franklin played at the ANU Arts Centre, while Jason Byrne was at the Canberra Theatre Playhouse.  Both venues were excellent, everything ran on time and was extremely well organised.

The Canberra Comedy Festival has come on leaps and bounds since it’s inception three years ago. I cannot wait for 2016.

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