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The Sydney Comedy Festival Gala

26 April 2017 | 12:01 pm | Sam Baran

"A tasting menu cherry picked from the comedy smorgasbord on offer in the coming weeks"

The Sydney Comedy Festival's opening Gala brings together the best and brightest acts, in a tasting menu cherry picked from the comedy smorgasbord on offer in the coming weeks. Flamboyant MC Rhys Nicholson, clad in a sequined jacket, herded comedians from all over the world onto the stage of the Sydney Opera House to find out just how much hilarity they could cram into five minutes. The answer? Quite a lot, actually.

With such a fleeting slot, the comedians mustered all their manic energy and rapid-fire material to wow a sea of expectant Sydneysiders. There were reminiscences aplenty from the recent Melbourne International Comedy Festival (including more than a few hipster barista anecdotes), jokes about the Australian habit of abbreviating words to garbled sounds, and more gay Scotsmen than you could shake a kilt at. There was devastatingly clever humour (Papa CJ, Stephen K Amos), a bizarre foot puppet show (Anne Klinge), and an outrageously funny improvised finale involving three reluctant 'volunteers' and some horse masks (Jason Byrne).

Galas are usually a good way to take the temperature of a Festival's programming, so it was somewhat concerning that fewer than a quarter of the comedians showcased (four in total over the two-hour gig) were women. Full credit must go to the world-class calibre of the featured comics, but the drought of female voices on offer here sends an eyebrow-raising message about the disparities that exist in the comedy industry as it stands.

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For full details of the 2017 Sydney Comedy Festival program, visit the website.