Raw Comedy - Melbourne International Comedy Festival

How do you enter Raw Comedy in 2024?

Are you thinking to enter Raw Comedy in 2024? Registrations ARE NOW OPEN. CLICK HERE.

Got no idea what Raw Comedy is?  Well, what you should know is that Raw Comedy is Australia’s largest amateur comedy competition for, well, raw comedians. And by ‘raw’ the competition’s organisers mean you’ve not earned more than $500 total from comedy – ever. In fact, you might not have ever stood up on stage and made people laugh. Yup! That raw.

But don’t worry if you’re green. Many finalists, like comedian Matt Okine, literally began their stand-up comedy career by entering Raw Comedy. Listen to Matt explain how he got to the State Finals here. Matt didn’t make the National Grand Final, but he did attract the attention of Triple J, and the rest is history.

You might be interested to know that the competition has been around since 1996, making Raw Comedy 2023, 27 years old. Possibly older than YOU! You might also be interested to know that the comp involves the whole country – from Perth to Darwin, Brisbane to Hobart – and, yes, Sydney and Melbourne. Sounds exciting!

So how do you get into Raw Comedy 2024? Here’s how:

1. Hurry up and wait

Once you register to enter raw comedy you’ll be told to wait. Not everyone that signs up to Raw Comedy 2024 is guaranteed a spot in the heats, and the organisers take a few weeks (or historically months) to do some background checks on contestants. They’ll be looking to see if you’ve already got a strong comedic brand, which would be indicative of earning more than $750. They’ll also check to see if  you have entered more than three times – which is the limit.

 2. Date and time

* Bing * You have mail. The next thing you know, you’ll have an email from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which includes a date, time and venue. These dates and times are generally non-negotiable, but if you really, really need to make a change, you best be ready to beg. Remember, you’re one of over 1,000 contestants, so you can’t start acting precious – well, not until you’ve won.

Be prepared also for increased anxiety and blood pressure. That’s all normal.

3. The big day

On the day of your heat, you’ll be invited to come to the venue an hour earlier than the rest of the audience. There, you’ll be reminded of the Raw Comedy rules, informed of the running order, reminded that you only have five minutes, and given the chance to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to make friends with the other contestants, because it’s likely that you’ll see them again on the open mic circuit regardless of the outcome.

Be sure to actively breath – like what they do in yoga. Chill. Try to relax, and if necessary make multiple toilet trips.

4. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…

And then suddenly you’ll hear your name, and you’ll be on stage. You’ve got no more than 10 seconds to get the audience laughing from the moment you open your mouth, so ensure your first gag is quick and funny. Then, let practice kick in.

Now, you’re probably wondering whether there’s rules on what content can be performed, and quite simply there is. Raw Comedy is incredibly political, with noble goals to dilute the traditionally large number of, shall we say, white, middle-aged male comedians. To that end, material that may be seen as offensive to minority groups or “offend the sensibility of the audience” is banned. Yes, Jimmy Carr wouldn’t have got far.

5. And the winners are

There’ll be more than one winner at the heats – possibly three, four or even five – so if your name isn’t called out first, don’t go tipping over chairs just yet. Remember, comedy is subjective, so while your audience might have been engaged in rapturous laughter, your judges on the day, might take a fancy to another. If you win your heat, good for you. If you don’t, at least you had a good set. Remember, you get three goes at Raw Comedy, so come back again in 2024.

6. R-R-Repeat

Next is the national finals, and normally only one person from each state gets through – occasionally two, as was the case for Victoria in 2018. Whether it’s a preliminary heat, state final, or the ‘National Grand Final’ it’s advantageous to repeat the same set. Don’t try adding new material – at the very most, remove anything that didn’t work, and add proven material.

In 2018, 15 Hard Knock Knocks’ alumni competed in Raw Comedy. In 2019 it was 27!  In 2023 that number was over 30, with 11 graduates making it through to their respective state finals. That same year, Hard Knock Knocks graduate Ginny Hollands made it through to the National Raw Comedy Finals, joining other alumni, Chetan Singh (aka Delhi Buoy) from 2022 and Gavin Sempel from 2018.

All these champs will tell you that regardless of the outcome, it was worth having a crack. And if you need a little help polishing your first 5-minute before you enter Raw Comedy, remember the Hard Knock Knocks has stand-up comedy courses around Australia (and even online!).

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