More than 3000 performers will entertain Melbourne at the annual laugh-fest, which will host special events to mark the milestone anniversary.
This year’s festival, from March 23 to April 17, is slightly smaller than last year, with 535 shows from a star-studded line-up of local and international comedians as well as newcomers.
To celebrate 30 years, the festival is presenting an exhibition at the Arts Centre capturing its history, from the 1987 launch with Peter Cook and Barry Humphries and including backstage footage, artwork and costumes.
A 30th Birthday Bash, with a yet-to-be-announced line-up, will be held at the Regent Theatre on April 1.
Two top comics who launched their careers at RAW Comedy, Celia Pacquola and Peter Helliar, will host the Oxfam Gala and Opening Night Allstars Supershow respectively.
Festival director Susan Provan said it had grown from humble beginnings to be the country’s biggest cultural event and one of the top three comedy festivals in the world.
“It’s never one person’s idea that makes these things succeed, it’s a combination of people over the years whose collaborative genius has got us to where we are now,” she said.
“We’ve got a really eclectic program this year in terms of all the Australian performers and a huge range of newcomers, and there’s a real buzz about the overseas artists who’ve been important to the festival and are coming back.”
Sam Simmons, who last year won the Barry Award and Edinburgh Comedy Award, will return with a new show, alongside a long list of Australian favourites including Hannah Gadsby, Judith Lucy, Tommy Little, Frank Woodley, Wil Anderson, Tom Gleeson, Dave Hughes, Anne Edmonds, Joel Creasey, Em Rusciano, Lehmo, Felicity Ward and Lawrence Mooney.
International stars returning to their adopted city of comedy include Rich Hall, Sarah Millican, Sara Pascoe, Danny Bhoy, David O’Doherty, Arj Barker, Stephen K Amos, Urzila Carlson, Luisa Omielan, Ross Noble and Paul Foot.