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A Sydney comedian’s guide to a month in Melbourne

IMAGE VIA @laurenybonner/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY LAUREN BONNER

“I could lie and pretend that I love the museum or say that I meditate at dawn before writing all day, but I think FJ is a safe space to honestly say that I just go to the shops a lot.”

Hello, I’m Lauren Bonner. I’m a comedian, but if you don’t believe me then you can come and see my new show Elephant at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. I’ve been to Melbourne upwards of five times for several days at a time, so I believe this makes me completely qualified to provide a guide to the city.


Interested to hear how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section.


Let me run you through my month, and I’ll give you some hot tips for things to do/eat (I only know one cafe), but more importantly what shows to see. 

Where’s good to stay?

 

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The first few times I came to the coffee capital, I would just stay with friends to save some money. This is all well and good, but something people leave out when they’re talking about how cheap Melbourne rent is, is how old their houses are. I don’t care that you’re paying half of what I do in Sydney, if you have a plant growing through the cracked asbestos in the bathroom it’s not worth it babe!

Sorry to all the Melbourne renters, if you’d like to prove me wrong please DM me and I’ll come over for a drink and do a quick inspection of the property. If your rent is reasonable and you don’t have any mould, I’ll happily eat my words (and whatever nibbles/charcuterie you provide xx). Now that I’m more financially stable aka open to debt, I normally stay in the CBD. Being centrally located means you’re around late-night food, transport, as well as many of the main comedy festival venues. There’s also a free tram zone around the CBD, although I personally believe that all trams are free if you’re brave enough. 

If you don’t like being right in the hustle-bustle, the inner north is the ‘cool’ area I think. I’ve stayed around Fitzroy and Carlton before and both are nice but have their quirks. Carlton particularly seems to only have one grocery store. Is that quirky? Having to walk 30 minutes for a bunch of bananas from Woolworths because you don’t want to buy the ones at the local organic grocer that are $20p/kg and look weird? They said that’s what bananas are meant to look like but I don’t care, I want the pesticide ones, please.

What’s good to eat?

 

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While I’m at the grocery store getting some nice poison bananas, I also like to grab a few other snacks to have at the hotel. Travelling alone is good because you’re not subject to anyone else’s weird eating habits. Whenever I’m in another city with other people I feel like a maniac always asking about food. Like should we get some nibbles for later? Hey, how about a little treat? If it’s just me then I simply get myself a little treat.

After all, I have earnt it haven’t I? I was so brave on the tram. I’m going to be in Melbourne for a month, so I want to do some cooking. An easy meal I do in hotels is the bag of kale slaw with some tofu on it. I’ll usually eat this once, then indulge in takeaway for the rest of the trip while the bag of salad rots symbolically in the fridge. It’s kind of my portrait in the attic if you will.

I’m a big fan of the cafe Green Refectory in Brunswick. It ticks all my boxes – affordable, large portion sizes, and no one will get mad at you if you sit there for ages. The last time I went though, I knocked on the bathroom door twice because I wasn’t sure if anyone was inside. A lady shouted, “Obviously someone is in here!”. This experience made me like the cafe a bit less, however, I will definitely give it another go and hopefully the lady will not be there.

I’m also on a real croissant kick currently and would like to try one from Lune Croissanterie. They’re meant to be the best croissants in the world or something but every time I’ve tried to get one, there’s a huge line and I give up immediately. Instead, I go buy a horrible old almond croissant from another random cafe that makes me sick, because apparently, I would rather poison myself than wait in a 15-minute line.

What’s fun to do during the day?

 

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I could lie and pretend that I love the museum or say that I meditate at dawn before writing all day, but I think FJ is a safe space to honestly say that I just go to the shops a lot. It feels good to get that off my chest. A lot of people hate shopping centres, but for me, they’re very soothing. Melbourne Central and Emporium are my main go-tos. There’s something about being in another city that makes you feel like you can just buy whatever you want.

Last time I was here I tried on some white cowboy boots that were far more expensive than anything I’d normally buy. Then another girl came in the store and tried them on too. She was shopping for a cowboy party and was really nonchalant about the price and just bought them. Then I was in the store wearing the boots like ‘Why shouldn’t I buy the boots? SHE was allowed to buy the boots. SHE didn’t even care about the boots as much as I DO’, so I bought the boots.

There are also a lot of great vintage stores around Brunswick and Fitzroy. I don’t think I could name any for you (helpful xx) but something I have to admit I like about Melbourne is how easy it is to get to different suburbs. I recommend getting the tram up to Sydney Rd in Brunswick and just having a wander around. The tram is handy but it’s also crazy how you get off it and you’re suddenly standing in the literal middle of the road.

Everyone seems totally chill about this too. Sometimes when you’re waiting for the tram, you just have to stand there vibing in the middle of the road. Are you guys okay? Do people get hit by cars more in Melbourne? Aside from shopping, I also like going to parks and nice green spaces. The Fitzroy Gardens are a lovely spot to lie down and relax before a busy evening performing and watching comedy shows, which brings me to the main point of this article really.

What are the best shows to catch?

 

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The Melbourne Comedy Festival is huge. It’s so big that it be totally overwhelming, but it’s also stacked with so many amazing shows. So if you don’t know where to start, let me help you. First up, I’m sorry but I have to put myself first here and recommend that you see me, Lauren Bonner, and my show Elephant. It’s on at 6.40pm every night except Wednesdays at Trades Hall. If you’ve read this far then you probably don’t completely hate my vibe, and I promise the show will be much funnier than this article. Hard to imagine? Only one way to find out.

Now that I’m done being selfish, you can also see Ben Kochan and Concetta Caristo’s show Funny as Sin. They’re both very funny and silly, so this show will be packed with gags. Speaking of silly, I’m also excited to see Frankie McNair’s show, Relax Your Knees. It’s their debut solo show, and I think it’ll be a cracker. Some other shows that will take ‘silly’ to another level entirely are Emma Holland’s Dreamer in the Mist and Sam Campbell’s Companion.

 

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Both of these acts do the kind of comedy that makes me wonder if they’re from the same planet as me. If you want total chaos, try late-night shows like Dan Rath’s Cockroach Party or Hot Department’s After Party. Because I’m in Sydney, I don’t get to see Melbourne-based acts too often, so I’m really keen to catch Andrew Portelli’s Tough Guy, Urvi Majumdar’s Urvi Went to an All Girls School, Grace Jarvis’s Digging a Hole and Bronwyn Kuss’ show Any Goss?. These guys are all so funny and crushing it on the local club circuit.

If you’re really still worried about taking a punt on a random comedy show, there are a few shows that I know you will like. Like, I have no doubt that you will have a good time. Comedy is subjective of course, but truly I believe that even the biggest sourpuss in the world couldn’t help but love the following shows: Cameron James’ Electric Dreams, Danielle Walker’s Nostalgia, Melanie Bracewell’s Ooh La La and Blake Freeman. They’re all just really, really good. Don’t make me try to convince you, just go.

Not to get too soppy but there really is something magic about live performance, and comedy is truly something that is so much better experienced live in person, and not on a screen. During the festival you can catch shows every day of the week, all hours of the night, so there’s no excuse to miss it. I’ll see you there.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs from March 29 to April 24, head here to find out more about the program. You can keep up with Lauren here and buy tickets to her show here.

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