Melbourne International Comedy Festival's Marcus Ryan gets to play it straight


The pressure is off Marcus Ryan this weekend as he is the MC for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow in Wollongong.

The pressure is off Marcus Ryan this weekend as he is the MC for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow in Wollongong.

One of the world's premier laugh fests, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is a veritable wonderland for fans of the funnies. Australia's biggest cultural event, more than 600,000 people attend hundreds of shows from hundreds of the world's biggest and best comedians over an entire month.

After such a hectic four weeks, sometimes performing multiple shows a night, comedians could be forgiven for wanting a detox from stages, audiences, pre-gig nerves and post-gig applause.

Not so, says Aussie funnyman Marcus Ryan, who has signed himself up for a string of shows around the country as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow which snakes its way into Wollongong between Thursday and Saturday.

"I'm enjoying a break right now after the festival, but I've got that post-festival depression that some comics get," Ryan says as we catch him on the phone.

"We sleep for half a week straight, then realise we want to be performing every night again."

Ryan will be the MC for the night, running the show as he introduces some of Australia's brightest upcoming comedy talent including, David Quirk, Bev Killick and former Triple J radio host Tom Ballard. A team of humans cramped together on a road trip in a van for weeks on end might seem more the territory for rock bands, but Ryan says it presents a welcome change from the usually solitary profession of comedy.

"In festivals you run into everyone every day, but on the road you might only run into another comic every few months," he said.

"On a show like this, we travel together, stay in the same hotels, live out of each other's pockets a lot. If you get along, it's great, but if you don't then it's trouble."

Ryan, however, has the added advantage of being the host of the show, meaning he isn't expected to leave audiences in stitches every night - indeed, from much experience MCing comedy nights in the UK and US, he said audiences were pleasantly surprised he even offered jokes at all.

"It's different between being a host or the other comedians. Some people don't even see my job as being a comedian, they will come up to me after the show and tell me 'you're funny, you should be a comedian'," he laughed.

"I just hold the show together. I can play around with the crowd, chat, and don't have to use too much of my material."

The line-up is not a roll call of the biggest names from the Melbourne festival, but it is meant to be a selection of the names likely to be playing huge sold-out theatres in years to come.

Ryan says the drawcard of the roadshow is exposing a smorgasboard of new, up-and-coming talent to the masses.

"A lot of people around festival time just want to come and see the international acts, but they don't go to see local talent in the rest of the year."JOSHUA BUTLER

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