The 24-Hour Comedy Show – You Had To Be Here

Thanks to the magic of wireless internet technology, I am writing this in the middle of the strangest live event I’ve ever attended. I’m at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, in a circus tent right down besides the Yarra at Federation Square, where a comedian called Mark Watson is making an attempt to put on a 24 hour comedy show. And it has proven bizarrely addictive. I’ve clocked up six hours so far, and there are nine to go. So if you know anyone in Melbourne who is either a comedian, in possession of a borderline personality disorder or extremely easily entertained, you owe it to them to get them down to Federation Square some time before midnight.

It kicked off at midnight last night, obviously and ultimately proved so fascinatingly weird that I ended up staying until 5am. I had expected a progressive series of comedians coming up and doing a bit of their standup routine, punctuated by a bit of chatter from the MC. Not at all. What it has devolved into is an incredible series of pointless, yet wonderful, challenges, where the audience gets behind virtually any idea, no matter how illogical or poorly-conceived.

For example, at 3am last night, a fake salmonella scandal was created to get revenge on restaurant at which someone had apparently had a dodgy pizza. Acclaimed comedian Will Adamsdale was dispatched to this restaurant as an undercover health inspector by the name of Adam Willsdale. His task was to conduct a random pizza-topping health test using a thermometer borrowed from an espresso machine, and potentially to try to get the place shut down. His story was that his sister had been killed by a Salmonella Supreme a decade earlier – a story backed up by a hastily-constructed Wikipedia page, now sadly deleted due to the irritatingly killjoy character of the Wikipedia editors.

Unfortunately despite an extraordinary amount of individual bravado on Adamsdale’s part, the wily proprietors of said pizzeria refused to let him conduct the inspection without suitable identification. And since the ID card someone had made him was printed on the back on a popcorn box, the ruse was pretty well up.

Another mission involved a huge poster advertising the show, which a strange pigtailed character from Adelaide by the name of Rug, who was dressed as a member of the trenchcoat mafia, was sent to post iton the front door of Parliament. Sadly, since he was from Adelaide, he had no idea where that was. This happened at about 2am last night. But at 2pm this afternoon, the valiant Rug finally triumphed, scaling a ferris wheel just outside in an incredibly dangerous operation.

But my favourite moment involved a woman by the name of Amanda, who has the most absurdly loud and long laugh of anyone I’ve ever heard. To the point that whenever she laughed, the entire show stopped. Ultimately she was pulled up onstage into a kind of Perfect Match arrangement, and was paired with a heroic university student 12 years her junior who volunteered to squire her on a wine tour that she had signed up for today. He had two problems – no money, and classes today. We passed a hat around to raise the $80 required, and sent a proxy to her classes to take notes.

Excitingly, news has just come through from the Yarra Valley that Amanda and John have apparently kissed at a winery. So we aren’t just wasting time here in the tent. We’re actually spreading love. And that’s a truly beautiful thing.

Well, perhaps in theory. In actual fact, watching the romance unfold was scarily reminiscent of watching a train wreck through a super-slo mo camera. And, since both of them presumably now have shocking hangovers and are doing wine tasting, and have now spent 6 hours in each others’ companies, we can rest assured it’s quite a bit uglier than before. We’ll find out tonight, when they report back from the hot date.

As you may have gathered, there’s a fairly motley crew in here. There’s one guy who’s been to Watson’s three previous all-night shows, and has flown in from the UK specifically for this. I really hate to think about how much he’s paying per minutes. Still, I guess he’s saving on accommodation.

So, reading this, you can imagine that the standards for what is accepted as a valid way to fill the time are fairly low. When I walked in, they were playing online Boggle, and currently Watson is reading jokes out of Christmas crackers.


Still, it’s a mammoth effort to do a comedy show for 24 straight hours. And it still seems impressive even after the news that Mark’s most recent Edinburgh version of this show went for a ridiculous 36 hours. Darn it, does everything comedic have to be better in the UK?

I realise that all this may not seem funny to read about. It’s probably one of those things where you had to be here. And have had no sleep. And a few alcoholic refreshments. And even then, frankly, it’s not for the easily bored. But from my perspective, there’s only one question to ask. When’s the world record attempt, and can we arrange for Amanda and John to give birth bang smack in the middle of it?

I’ll update this blog if anything of earth-shattering significance occurs that might amuse those whose brains haven’t been utterly addled by spending hours and hours in a darkened tent. So I probably won’t update this blog.

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