This Comedy Gala About Australian Identity Is Free If You Bring Your Local MP

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Over the past few months we’ve seen the nation split itself in two at the federal election, a huge resurgence of far-right politicians (and an apparent enormous support for their extreme policies), an ignited debate about Australia Day which has the country’s biggest youth radio station under fierce scrutiny and a film interrogating and satirising Australian nationalism through the lens of the Cronulla riots.

Though we’ve always been a self-conscious country which struggles to define itself on the world stage, things are more intense now than ever. And because of this, there’s never been a better time to ask the question: what does it mean to be Australian.

This is the main topic for debate on stage tonight at Melbourne’s Anthenaeum Theatre. Australian Aid (a joint initiative comprised of a number of local charity and development groups) are hosting a one-night gala featuring 12 comedians who’ll be speaking on the theme Australia, Who The Bloody Hell Are We? The event will be hosted by Tom Ballard, and it will feature Shiralee Hood, Tripod, Nelly Thomas, Osama Sahi, Busty Beatz (Hot Brown Honey), Demi Lardner and more.

“So our election was pretty much a draw, the Census was an #EpicFail and I’m still not Prime Minister: truly, these are confusing times to be an Australian,” Tom Ballard said in a statement about the event. “In such an atmosphere, I’m very happy indeed to be hosting the Campaign for Australian Aid’s inaugural Comedy Gala.

This isn’t exactly new territory for Ballard. He’s often spoke about the ways comedy can effectively tackle political issues and his most recent gala set at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival All Stars show included talk of assassination, immigration policy and screaming “the revolution starts today” while suggesting we start sinking rich people’s boats.

I highly recommend it.

But the most interesting thing about the event may be its mission to reach out beyond the usual comedy-loving crowd. The event itself is totally free if you invite your local MP.

“As our MP, I reckon it’s important that you know the type of people, and the type of country that you represent,” reads the pre-written letter you can send to score a free ticket. Though it hasn’t been confirmed who exactly will be in attendance, quite a few have definitely received their invitations.

With topics such as marriage equality and Australia’s refugee policy on the bill, it could be a very uncomfortable show for some in the audience — but that just makes it all the more important.

“[The comedians] will make us all laugh and remind us that we have been, occasionally still are, and definitely should aim to be a great country that helps out others when we can,” Ballard says. “We normal people are actually in charge of defining who we are as a nation, not the soulless suits in Canberra, so why not do it while laughing?”

Tom Ballard and Demi Lardner will also be talking about some of these issues at this year’s Junket.