The Melbourne International Comedy Festival brings around the usual suspects of international and local comedians. Some testing new material, others trotting out the tried and true. And every year, the smattering of newer (most often younger) comics trying to break into the scene, or cement their place.
A disturbing pattern in recent years for new Australian comics in particular sees posters plastered with the words "As seen on ..." and "As heard on ..."
This is not a problem in itself. It helps the public to know where they might have seen or heard Joe or Bessie or Aaron. And it helps the new comics get bums on seats.
What's disturbing is what the plethora of commercial television and radio appearances is doing to the development of new comedy.
It's blanding it down.
Comics who earned their stripes in the 1980s, 1990s, even much of the 2000s did so by gigging around town, fronting up to pubs and rooms full of demanding and vocal strangers wanting big laughs fast and often.
This caused its own issues of 'pub' comedy but it also gave comics enormous freedom to test material, test their own mettle and see how far they could push the extremes of their comedy before taking it to more mainstream forums.
Now the mainstream forums are where everyone is heading from the get go. Which means comedy that is palatable to network executives, classification parameters and ratings roller coasters. Comedy that is reactive rather than trail blazing. Comedy that - in some ways - has to please more than provoke.
And this is bad for comedy.
Some comics simply entertain and that is lovely. But the truly great comics cause discomfort, analysis and strong emotional reactions in among their laughs. Truly great comics are often ugly, odd misfits who shine in that particular arena BECAUSE it is a place for ugly, odd misfits.
Three words that are light years away from what you have to be to make it on TV.
Be cute rather than caustic.
Quirky rather than queer.
Pretty rather than pissed.
Then you'll get a nice spot on the telly and plenty of other lucrative promotional gigs and your comedy career will blossom and grow.
Sadly it's the state of comedy and the audiences at live shows who miss out as ideas are honed down to tv sized bites that are easy to swallow and quick to forget.
Thank God (no - not for the blue door of banality) - for the comics who still sit firmly OUTSIDE the mainstream. The older, grumpy, weird, awkward folk who still make their living out of penning the words and saying the talk that shocks, confronts or simply - fails to fit the neat commercial mold.
They are the ones who keep comedy, ideas and culture moving ahead, while their marshmallow counterparts take the exposure, the big paying jobs and the glory.
Maybe it's always been that way but it seems each year at the Comedy Festival the scourge of commercial media infiltrates more and more, sapping away intelligent, biting material and inserting silliness, prettiness and perfectly proportioned faces in its place.