MICF: Julian O’Shea M is for Melbourne: The World’s Mostly* Liveable City

by | Apr 1, 2024

By Nick Pilgrim

An entertainment institution for as long as I can remember, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is bigger and stronger than ever. For three intense weeks each autumn, the jam-packed celebration takes over every space available in town.

With a list of options ranging far and wide, there is something on offer for everyone.

In seasons past, many of the acts have earned their stripes entering talent contests or climbing through the ranks at open mike nights. That observation equally applies to both local and international artists listed on this year’s calendar.  Thanks to the rising power of social media, 2024 has seen new faces appear from other sources such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. This exciting turn has also redefined and expanded the meaning of comedy as we know it.

Julian O’Shea is one of those influences.  With fans and followers reaching 125K on YouTube and counting, his popular channel is dedicated to Melbourne’s many landmarks and beyond.  At its heart a celebration and examination of (crazy) council infrastructure, O’Shea has created a page both entertaining and informative. (At the top of the show, his disclaimer is that if we laugh at what he says, it is comedy. If we don’t, it is educational.)

As charming and self-effacing in person as he is online, O’Shea is a confident and affable host. Drawing on the hundreds of clips he has filmed and edited over the past five years, his act is a Powerpoint-driven highlights reel of Melbourne’s biggest hits and misses. The overriding theme of the evening is that everything under examination is true.

Running A to Z, for sixty minutes O’Shea employs a giant television monitor centre-stage for support. For every letter, there is a personal anecdote or fast fact.  As impossible as it sounds, he even has a story for the letter X.

O’Shea’s quirky inventory of subjects includes:

  • Moomba’s Birdman Rally (which O’Shea dismally entered, much to his and our shared delight)
  • Collins Street’s Bike Lane, measured at a ludicrous fifty centimetres (or one and a half bananas wide)
  • A festival dedicated to the one-percent gingers (or folks like O’Shea with red hair)
  • How hook turns can be equated with Vegemite
  • Larry Latrobe (and when this iconic statue was stolen, rebuilt, and what it has taken to keep him secure)
  • The infamous Montague Street Bridge (that elicited both a cheer and groan from the capacity audience)
  • Quadricycles (which is a people-powered vehicle built for four that I had no idea existed until O’Shea’s lecture)
  • Truckzillas (being the new breed of monster-sized SUV vehicles taking over our roads and what O’Shea has done to implement a new parking law)
  • Vienna (which has stolen the title of the World’s Most Liveable City from Melbourne), and does it actually deserve the crown.

The list goes on.

Thanks to the success of his channel, O’Shea has made numerous television appearances and guest spots.  He was even the featured subject on a recent episode of Great Australian Walks with Julia Zemiro. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t already figured out what the letter Z stands for!)

As outrageous as some of his stories are, you simply can’t make this stuff up. What makes “M is for Melbourne” so delightful, is O’Shea’s passion and awe for every tidbit and topic. In other words, O’Shea’s journey is both a gentle dig and a love letter to Victoria’s Capital city.

Whether the potential for future expansion is on the cards or not (think A is for Adelaide, B is for Brisbane, C is for Canberra, etc), only time will tell.  But for the time being, O’Shea’s funny and original sold-out show is an absolute winner.

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