Entry at all times remains at the sole discretion of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. However, the Festival operates along the following guidelines:
- You must be a permanent resident of Australia.
- You must be at least 17 years old on the date of your first heat. If you are under 17, you may be eligible to perform as part of Class Clowns, our national secondary school comedy competition. Visit classclowns.com.au for more information.
- You may not have earned more than $500 from performing live comedy, as of 1st January 2017. That is, $500 from gigs or income (after expenses) from a show or a $500 from a combined total of both. In a nutshell, you can't have made $500 in cold hard cashola from making people laugh.
- If you've been in RAW Comedy before, you can enter again, but a maximum of 3 different years.
- If you've been in the National Final, or 2 State Finals, you can't enter again.
- You can only enter in a given year, once. That is, you can't enter in different states in the same year.
- Stand-up, music, sketch, all forms of live comedy are welcomed.
- Your spot must be no longer than 5 - F I V E - minutes.
- Your spot must be totally original.
- We programme all the Finals with the best acts we've seen up to that point across the whole competition. That means if you 'win' a heat you're not guaranteed a spot in the next stage, but it's a pretty good indication. It also means we will wild card people from time to time.
- If you're from a regional centre, you are responsible for your own travel to your state capital city for the State Final.
- The Comedy Festival takes care of your flights to Melbourne if you get into the National Final.
Other Terms and Conditions
- By entering you agree to the Comedy Festival recording your spot for later broadcast on ABC Radio's triple j, and/or RAW Comedy podcast, and alignment with potential Comedy Festival sponsors. You agree that the Comedy Festival may edit your spot for broadcast or podcast. You promise us that you're not using any material or writing (e.g. music) in your spot that you're not allowed to, or that we can't broadcast or podcast in turn.
- You may not record your spot yourself without the express permission in advance of the person running your gig. Regardless of which you agree not to publicly or otherwise distribute or broadcast any recording you are permitted to make, including you agree to not put it on a website anywhere, including; YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, ever without express written permission of the Comedy Festival.
The Judges’ Objective
The overriding aim of RAW Comedy is to uncover and support new performers with the potential to make a sincere contribution to the artform and the industry, in the years ahead.
Some entrants will have had more stage time than others and therefore will be better ‘performers’, but we aren’t concerned if they are a little nervous or they forget the next line. Who looks like they could have a career in comedy? Who could be a possible star of the future? Who could go on to present new, innovative and exciting comedy in the years to come?
Who are the judges? What are they looking for?
The judges are invited by the local presenter putting on the gig. They are drawn from industry, performers, media, and other local identities.
There is no formal, structured way of “marking” or “scoring”. Judges are instructed to identify performers with potential for creative achievement.
Some of the things they look out for are quality and originality of material, performance skills and audience response.
The judging pro-forma
The judging pro-forma is part of this policy. It makes some specific notes on what judges look for. Judges don’t rely on precise numerical scores; they make qualitative notes, for discussion amongst themselves, considering each act in the context of the whole night they’ve just seen, to pick a “winner”.
Judging comedy is really subjective
The Comedy Festival, judges, contestants and audiences need to recognise that no creative endeavour can be precisely “measured” to be “best”. Judges make a subjective – although final – decision informed by their own experiences in the artform and industry.
Deal-breakers: what’s absolutely not on
- Doing material that the contestant didn’t write.
- Material that is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise seriously offends the sensibilities of the audience.
Complaints and queries
Judges will only discuss their decisions with the responsible Comedy Festival staff members or representative.
RAW Comedy contestants and audiences are invited to contact the Comedy Festival office to discuss judges’ decisions. It is not appropriate to enter into discussion with judges themselves at a heat, where they have so generously volunteered their time.
We asked regular RAW Comedy judges from around the country (so-called "Hanging Judges") to nominate their favourite Do's and/or Don'ts of RAW Comedy. Here's what they said:
1. Always prepare your show. No matter how off-the-cuff you might usually be, preparation/rehearsal compensates for any stage jitters. Preparation also indicates commitment - which bodes well with the judges. It shows.
2. If possible, try to see some RAW Comedy heats before your own. Often, there are trends in material so, if you see a trend emerging, then you can steer away from it in your own set. Repetition is boring and, of course, unoriginal.
3. Use the stage to your advantage rather than hiding in the corner (unless that's your schtick). This is your time to shine so command attention by opening up to the audience, engaging with them (look out at them) and using the mic correctly (a muffled voice means they literally can't hear you).
4. Hit the ground running. You only have five minutes to make an impression so don't go saving your best until last or leading up to it with a long, drawn-out story. Get the audience and the judges on-side - immediately!
1. Don't abuse the audience (or the judges), especially if your set's going badly. Unlikeable comedians don't wash. If you're falling short of the five minute mark and you don't have enough material, just cut it short. It's better to bow out gracefully than disgracefully.
2. Don't imitate or steal material from others. While you think it is unlikely the judges will pick up on this, they most certainly will! Dave Hughes has been successful because nobody else is Dave Hughes. Be yourself.
3. Don't step on your own punchlines. If a joke has gone well, give it time to breathe - let the audience laugh before moving on. Similarly, if the joke has not gone well, move on quickly! Good timing is very important.
4. Don't be vulgar for the sake of a cheap joke. While there's still room for profanity and rude jokes, you need to be clever to pull off something new. The audience has heard every sex joke before - don't be groan-worthy! Also, there's a very fine-line between funny and just plain offensive.
5. If you've been in RAW Comedy before, don't use old material from previous years. The judges will be trying to gauge whether you have the 'legs' to go onto bigger and better things. Show them you're more than a one-joke wonder!
Judges Top 10 Comedy Tips for 2017
1. Watch a lot of new comedy before going onstage – especially local stuff. Are people often stepping on your material? So many comedians talked about Abbott in 2016, and Tinder, and gluten, and hipsters; and same-sex marriage. Your bit might be funny to the audience, but the judges will have likely heard that topic a bunch of times, so they may not think it's original. If you're going talk about something well-worn or cliché, try and make it original somehow, or find some other ideas.
2. Don't waste your time onstage. Phrases like "A little about me..." or "what else have I got for you?" can drag your set down. Get to the point quicker.
3. Don't pad out your set. Four minutes of strong stuff is better than a full five minutes with filler.
4. Think about your body language and stage presence. Are you fidgeting? Are you standing in the back corner? Can you make us laugh with your face/body as well? How do you change up your voice? Can you pause and build tension?
5. Tell us your story. Talk about what you want to talk about – not just what you think will get a laugh. A lot of comedians pander to what they think audiences like. Everyone has a unique, interesting angle – remember, we're looking for an original voice.
6. Many RAW Comedy contestants freak out about stuff that the judges don't care about. Big deal if you're so nervous that you forget your lines and need to check notes. You're new to it and that stuff is fixable. We're looking for potential not perfection.
7. Self-deprecation is fine but many lines are becoming cliché. "So I'm single", "I'm so lonely" etc. The judges hear a lot of cheap jokes. You won't stand out if you're going for cheap.
8. First impressions count. The first 30 seconds are vital and the judges may pigeonhole you based on your opening. Do you open with a wanking joke? They may think "Here we go again". If you plan to talk about some dirty stuff, start with a softer joke and ease us into it.
9. It's really hard to get through if your material is crude or potentially offensive. You have to do it well and not many can at the open mic level. If you can somehow make it funny then that's awesome, but be warned.
10. Have fun. It is comedy after all.
Congratulations to our 2016 winner Danielle Walker! Here's a look at her winning set:
To watch previous winners sets, or see some clips of great profession comedians, head to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's youtube channel!
If feeling it live is more your style, watch great comedians perform in one of the many local comedy rooms all around the country! Head here for a full list of places you can see some well formed LOLs