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A comedian's inside guide to dining during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

From late-night bites to hanging with comics after-hours. 

After a sold-out season in 2017, Michael Shafar is returning to the Comedy Festival with Kosher Bacon – a series of hilarious observations upon Jewish traditions and lifestyle. Here he shares with Beat his favourite eateries, a handful of great acts to see, and some helpful dietary advice for the comedy enthusiast.

Comedy Festival is the busiest time of the year for a lot of comedians, so we don’t have a lot of time to eat properly (or at all). To me, comedy and food are linked. If I have a good gig, I celebrate with something delicious and fried. If I have a bad gig, I commiserate with something delicious and fried. During last year’s Festival, I lived off a diet of KFC Popcorn Chicken, which met my daily caloric intake but also shaved about 10 years off my life expectancy. Doctors say smoking is bad for your health, but comedy could be even worse.

But for this year’s festival I’ve decided to eat better. It’s going to be a challenge because I’ll be rushing from my day job at Channel 10 where I write jokes for The Project, to perform my new show Kosher Bacon, and then I’ll be sprinting off afterwards to see other shows.

With that in mind, I’ve done some research about places in the city where you can get food that (1) isn’t too expensive, (2) comes out pretty fast and (3) isn’t Popcorn Chicken.

My show is at Trades Hall this year, which is where the festival programs emerging Australian comedians. Punters come to Trades to see back-to-back shows. It’s also the hipster hangout during the festival with a cool bar and lots of man-buns bobbling around the place. It’s very Melbourne.  While you’re there, make sure to see Adam Knox, Alex Ward and sketch group Chimp Cop. See them all ASAP, and then you can tell your friends you saw them before they were famous. Now, that’s very Melbourne.

The great thing about performing at Trades Hall is how close it is to heaps of food that satisfy the above three criteria. Shujinko on Russell Street is a 24-hour institution that serves authentic ramen. Ramen is to the Japanese what chicken soup is to my people, the Jews. It makes me feel warm and happy, and it can probably cure every disease. I like to get a seat tucked away in the far corner where I can watch the energy in the kitchen, and where nobody will notice how bad I am at picking up noodles with chopsticks.

A couple doors down is Stalactites, a 24-hour Greek joint that serves delicious lamb giros. I like to go there late at night and see the waiter wince whenever a bunch of drunk guys at the end of a big night try to pronounce ‘giros’. It’s also across the road from another festival venue called Greek Centre, where you should check out Cameron James and Gerard McGowan.

On the same block, I’ll also be popping into 8bit to get a late-night burger and potato gems. The burgers come out quick, and the potato gems come in a little cardboard box that is perfect for eating on the move. If you bump into me on the street, don’t shake my hand because it will be greasy.

I’m not a big drinker, but Hairy Little Sista is where I hang out with other comedians to swap stories about how our shows went that night and who had the best heckle. It’s a great bar with heaps of shows nearby, including Tim Hewitt and Danielle Walker at The Victoria Hotel, Peter Jones at ACMI and Sam Taunton at the Town Hall.

Have a great festival. See as many shows as you can, and take a punt on someone new. And stay away from the Popcorn Chicken.    

You can catch Michael Shafar at Trades Hall - Music Room until Sunday April 22. Tickets via the Comedy Festival website