18 Jun 2021

A Sell-Out Success Story for Local Comedy in 2021

A Sell-Out Success Story for Local Comedy in 2021

Celebrating a Festival with all Aotearoa talent: sell-out seasons, South Island talent sweep the awards and comedy’s positive effect on audience well-being.


The NZ Comedy Trust are celebrating a blockbuster year of the very best in local comedy, having laughed alongside 50,000 Kiwis during the 2021 NZ Intl Comedy Festival with Best Foods mayo. The Festival saw over 500 performances spread across 107 seasons, 3 weeks and 2 cities, with 25 show seasons completely selling-out, proving the appetite for homegrown comedy is at an all-time high.

The numbers speak for themselves this Fest, reaching similar numbers to previous years which included some major headlining talent from around the world - with the 2021 Fest filling over three-quarters of all the seats available in this very special celebration of local comedians. After the Festival’s cancellation in 2020, the support for Kiwi comics from audiences excited to see Aotearoa experiences reflected on stage has been incredible and the New Zealand Comedy Trust have been truly thrilled to share a live festival during such a critical time for our booming comedy industry.

General Manager Lauren Whitney is delighted to have successfully brought a world-class, and COVID-free,  Festival to venues in 2021

“From the Best Foods Comedy Gala line-ups to Tofiga’s all Pasifika line up selling out Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, to Chris Parker’s record-breaking sales of How I Felt - we gave local acts the spotlight this year and audiences responded with full houses, rave reviews and sell-out seasons; a huge vote of confidence for our thriving Comedy industry.”

Another highlight this year was seeing South Island talent take home all the major Festival awards, showing our nationwide ability to nurture strong Comedy voices. Artists originally from Christchurch had a particularly strong showing, with Eli Matthewson taking out the Fred Award for Best NZ Show, Brynley Stent winning the Billy T Award and Jadwiga Green co-winning the Director’s Award alongside Dunedin’s Abby Howells. The Best Newcomer Award winners also hail from Te Wai Pounamu, Maria Williams from Nelson and Tess Sullivan from Hari Hari on the West Coast.

On top of sell-out shows and strong South Island representation in this year’s Fest, recently released findings from Creative New Zealand suggest the wider arts sector is making a powerful contribution to New Zealanders’ well-being and helping us get through COVID-19. It’s little surprise that Comedy in particular has played a much-needed role in offering light relief to New Zealanders in a global pandemic, both during lockdowns and as we return to live events. The results so far from audience research at this year’s NZ Comedy Fest is proving just that,; 98% of audience members so far agree that ‘Comedy improves my well-being in a positive way’, and state this as one of the leading motivations to engage with Comedy.

The Trust is already in planning mode, preparing for another hilarious Festival in 2022, with an even wider range of comedy styles on show. They are currently calling for those who attended the Festival to complete their 2021 Audience Survey, wanting to know how folks are feeling about coming along to the Comedy Festival in these strange times for live events, and what can be done even better for future Fests! And in true Comedy Fest style, there are some great goodies up for grabs for those who complete the survey, with a double pass to Heath Franklin’s Chopper - The Silencer in Wellington, a double pass to Guy Williams’ NZ Today LIVE, and the much-coveted Best Foods prize pack all up for grabs!