Comedians Guy Montgomery and Tom Sainsbury are taking their winning brand of comedy to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The high-flying Kiwis join a cast of comedians spanning more than 650 shows throughout April. The festival has quickly become a global comedy hotspot but it is safe to say New Zealanders are often the ones who steal the show.

Montgomery, known for his effortless humour, stole so much of the show that he has had to move to larger venues to accommodate his fans.

“I’m in the lower town hall for the first half and then in the main town hall for the second. I am now the Mayor of Melbourne,” he playfully declared.

“I was doing shows for just 30 people for two years — this is new territory for me.”

Adding to his list of achievements, Montgomery also became the third Kiwi in history to host as a part of the opening night gala, joining Urzila Carlson and Melanie Bracewall.

“All you want to do is get asked to do the gig,” said Montgomery. “To get asked to host it is a little bit nice. You always want to be wanted.”

The invitation culminated in almost a decade of committing to perform at the festival.

“I first came over with Rose Matefeo in 2015, and we first did a split bill. Apart from the Covid years, I have been coming every year,” he said.

Festival director Susan Provan said that commitment kept people coming back for more. “Everyone likes him; he’s just so silly. He’s just so relaxing and silly, and you just come out happy,” she said.

‘I’m ridiculous, really’

Montgomery said Povan’s praise was a “dream review” for any comic.

“I’ve worked really hard to be relaxed on stage, and when you can see the performance relaxed as an audience, you relax. And I do like to be silly. I mean, I’m ridiculous, really.”

Montgomery said Kiwis won’t miss out on the “ridiculousness” either.

“What these turkeys in Australia don’t know is I’m just practising on them. I’m going to bring it home. It’s going to be finished, and it’s going to be funny. This stays between us. These people have no idea. These jokes aren’t done,” he quipped.

“This stays between us, but if you go to guymontgomery.co.nz, the information stays there.”

‘I’m feeling a little bit anxious’

Most notably known for his impressions online as Ginger the Cat, Fiona the wine reviewer, and Paula Bennett, Tom Sainsbury has racked up an impressive job list as an actor, director, and dancer.

He will add the Melbourne International Comedy Festival performer to that list this year.

Showcasing 22 shows for more than 150 people a night, Sainsbury said he was looking forward to the challenge with bated (and nervous) breath.

“I’m feeling a little bit anxious about doing my show here. This is the first time I’ve performed in Australia,” he said.

“I’m a little intimidated, a little bit daunted, but ultimately excited.”

He said his challenge is making his cultural references work for a different audience.

“I’ve got an Australian producer, and I sent her a text message this morning. I sent her a photo of jandals and asked her what they call them here, and she was like ‘thongs’, and I was like, great.”

Provan said the long-standing success of Kiwi comics at Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival was no secret. She highlighted trailblazers such as Rhys Darby, Urzila Carlson, and Flight of the Conchords, who started in modest venues but left a significant mark.

“There are so many of them, and over the years, they’ve been nominated for awards; they won our big awards,” she said. “Flight of the Conchords came over here when nobody even knew them. They were doing it in a tiny room and made friends here.

‘The rest of history’

“They went to Edinburgh, they had friends, British comedians that they met here, and they smashed it there. The rest of history.”

Provan noted the festival had been a “launching pad” for Kiwi talent, and both Sainsbury and Montgomery were no exceptions.

“That’s one of the great things about the festival — the friendships made across the industry globally, and everyone supports each other with their career developments, and that’s what I love to see happen.”

She said it was precisely why Carlson was missing the festival this year.

“Urzila’s not doing the festival this year because she’s off to do a big Hollywood,” Provan revealed.

“She’s about to be a superstar, and I’m going to be so proud when it hits the cinemas.”

Guy Montgomery (right) and Tom Sainsbury.

Montgomery and Sainsbury’s mutual admiration was palpable. Each praised the other’s stage presence and ability to connect with audiences.

“Guy has this innate ability to make everyone feel like the most interesting person,” said Sainsbury, while Montgomery acknowledges Sainsbury’s immediate charisma and comedic talent.

‘Take any opportunity’

As for their humble beginnings, both had some sound advice for budding comics wanting to follow in their footsteps on the international stage.

“Take any opportunity that comes your way, even if it’s like a six-minute out of a lineup, just take that opportunity, try new stuff, and keep trying to polish it,” said Sainsbury.

“It’s just a long, hard slog, so be prepared for its longevity rather than being a flash in the pan.”

Montgomery agreed and said it was all about starting somewhere.

“I didn’t start for a long time because I thought I was going to be bad,” he admitted. “But the sooner you’re bad, the sooner you’re good, so you just have to start.”

And if all else failed, they both agreed Kiwis had an advantage over their Australian counterparts.

“We have a sillier voice. Have you heard us?” said Montgomery.

“You know, I genuinely think there’s something in that,” agreed Sainsbury.

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