WHEN Michael Dalton’s beloved alter ego Dolly Diamond is performing on stage, her brand of humour is one many in the LGBTI community can relate to.

“Dolly’s a woman of the world, but the humour is always there and it’s the humour that LGBTI people understand,” he told the Star Observer.

“When you go to see a comic who talks about their life and it’s something you can associate yourself with, it’s very important.

“At the end of the day it shouldn’t matter which side of the church you sit on, it’s whether it’s funny or not — but we don’t get anyone more gay friendly than Dolly Diamond.”

Dalton is slated to bring Dolly to the upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) for a comedy and cabaret show accompanied by pianist Mark Jones.

This year the MICF — the biggest comedy festival in Australia and one of the biggest in the world — will run from March 23 to April 17 and will feature a number of local LGBTI comedians, including Hannah Gadsby, Rhys Nicholson, Ben T, Nath Valvo, Hunter Smith, Trevor Ashley, Thomas Jaspers, Tom Ballard and Joel Creasey.

Festival director Susan Provan believes comedy provides a platform to shed light on social issues and raise awareness.

“Comedy is one of the most important ways to make us think about the world and environment, and talking about social issues that are important to us,” she told the Star Observer.

“Whether you’re part of that community or even a friend of that community, it’s great to hear people talk about the world from that perspective, because it makes you think about things you wouldn’t necessarily have thought about otherwise.

“It helps to engender tolerance and respect, and it’s great for everyone — not just for people who identify with the community, but people who want to support movements that are making the community better.”

As this year will mark the 30th MICF, Provan reflected on how the festival has flourished.

“Each year grows on what happened the previous year so it’s like a great snowball rolling down a hill,” she said.

“It’s also great watching careers develop… the babies from a few years ago are now selling big shows, and it’s exciting because you never know who everyone will be talking about at the end of the festival.

“I always encourage people to go out to the people they know they want to see but also see half a dozen people you’ve never heard of, so you can follow their career and remember that you saw them when they first started out.”

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While the MICF will showcase a number of LGBTI comics, it isn’t the only comedy festival doing so.

Immediately following Melbourne’s comedy festival is the Sydney Comedy Festival, which runs from April 18 to May 15.

Festival director Jorge Menidis said having comics with diverse identities helped break down barriers.

“It allows comedians to talk about their lives, and if their life has involved loving another man, or a woman loving another woman, that’s a great thing,” he told the Star Observer.

“All too often, people learn to accept and get over individual fears… each person is as funny as the next, and comedy’s a great medium to open the door to audiences who need to be educated.”

Menidis highlighted the musical comedy group Axis of Awesome as the festival’s superstar guest this year (they are also featured in MICF), following lead singer Jordan Raskopoulos’ recent public revelation that she is a trans woman.

“That’s a great story in the comedy community, because everyone in the community has really supported and backed her,” he said.

“I think there are powerful stories like that in Australia that offer the broader community awareness they mightn’t have had before.”

Melbourne International Comedy Festival is on March 23-April 17. Tickets and details: www.comedyfestival.com.au

Sydney Comedy Festival is on April 18-May 15. Tickets and details: www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au

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**This article was first published in the April edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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