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Financial crisis - a laughing matter -

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Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: Escapism has long been a medicine for harsh economic reality, and it seems that
Australians may be turning to laughter to escape the current economic malaise.

The 23rd annual comedy festival in Melbourne has already racked up more than a million dollars in
ticket sales.

From Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHEL BROWN: This is the festival's currency. Melbourne comic Justin Hamilton says there's no
richer sound.

JUSTIN HAMILTON: It's really addictive, you get that first laugh. There's absolutely nothing like
it.

RACHEL BROWN: I think Russel Cain described it as coke for the ego.

JUSTIN HAMILTON: (laughs) Yeah what a great quote! I think that's completely right.

RACHEL BROWN: There'll be 330 acts up almost 10 per cent on last year.

Since then there's been the changing of the political guard in America, so Hamilton says his
colleagues might have to dig deeper for fodder.

JUSTIN HAMILTON: Kind of adapt their humour to still be anti-authority while deep down still having
a man crush on new President.

RACHEL BROWN: Comedian, Charlie Pickering.

CHARLIE PICKERING: The comedians that like to do topical or political material have a unique
challenger this year.

RACHEL BROWN: People like Wil Anderson who loved sticking the boot into Amanda Vanstone. Those
characters just aren't around anymore.

CHARLIE PICKERING: No, she did her best to get back on the radar by having a dog attack at
Pakistani dignitary. Which is quite an amazing effort for a diplomat.

RACHEL BROWN: Bushisms may wane this festival, but Wil Anderson hopes George Dubya has given
hecklers some creative inspiration.

WIL ANDERSON: Ah look I would like to see some more sheer throwing (phonetic). I thought it was
very sad that guy... he was one of those great moments where sometimes you don't need to go to a
comedy festival to see comedy.

RACHEL BROWN: This year's acts range from traditional stand up, to musicals - to an op-shop tour,
to a former cocaine smuggling lawyer - turned author - turned comic.

Festival director Susan Provan says the material is steered less by its writer, than the times.

SUSAN PROVAN: I actually think its changes in technology that have the biggest impact on the
changing natures of performance. The integration of audio-visual and computers, thing that you see
in every second show now.

RACHEL BROWN: Are you worried about a potential drop in patronage given the global financial
crisis, job losses, bushfires?

SUSAN PROVAN: We've already sold well in excess of a million dollars worth of tickets, and that's
before we've opened. So I'd say we're very on track to match last year's nine million odd dollars
of ticket sales.

I think people always need a laugh, in hard times people always turn to bread and circuses.

RACHEL BROWN: Wil Anderson says it's the perfect excuse for a laugh.

WIL ANDERSON: Entertainment in many ways can be resilient through these times.

RACHEL BROWN: So the same philosophy of ladies' lipstick during the recession?

WIL ANDERSON: Ah yeah exactly. (Laughs) I would like to think of my show as the ladies' lipstick of
entertainment.

RACHEL BROWN: Charlie Pickering, you'll provide the circus?

CHARLIE PICKERING: Yeah that's exactly right. You can bring bread to my show.

Let's not forget there's a set of stimulus hand outs that are about to happen. I mean there's
nothing better to spend you stimulus money then on local comedy.

(Sound of dog barking)

CHARLIE PICKERING: That's the dog barking by the way, it's not me.

PETER CAVE: Barking mad. Comic Charlie Pickering, part of the rabble entertaining Rachael Brown
there.