10 Oct 2023

New Faces of the 2024 Billy T Award Announced!

On Saturday night, emerging comedians from all over Aotearoa competed for the chance to become one of the Billy T Award nominees in the 2024 NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo.  

This prestigious award, named after comedy legend Billy T James, recognises an up-and-coming comedian with outstanding potential. And this year, nominee spots were hotly contested! 

Fourteen comedians pitched their 2024 Comedy Festival show concepts to a panel of industry experts, and then showcased their comedic skills in a stand-up throwdown at Te Pou Theatre in Henderson. The judges were thrilled by the energy and talent of this year’s applicants and, after tough deliberation, settled on the finalists. 

Selected for their proven comedic ability, dedication to their craft, current form, and outstanding potential, The New Zealand Comedy Trust are delighted to announce that our 2024 Billy T Award nominees are: 

Advait Kirtikar

Advait is a Wellington based stand-up comedian. Known for his super dry performance style and killer timing. Advait has sold out shows across multiple comedy and fringe festivals, and is a fixture on the Wellington comedy circuit.  

Lana Walters

Lana is a standup comedian, television writer and improviser based in Auckland. A regular panelist on 7 Days and The Project, you may have also seen her in the 2022 Best Foods Comedy Gala or The Great Comedy Debate. Lana is also a staff Comedy writer at The Project, and her freelance writing credits include 7 Days, Funny Girls, Jono and Ben, NZ Today, and Have You Been Paying Attention? NZ. This is her second nomination for the Billy T Award.  

Liv McKenzie

Liv is a stand up comedian from Christchurch and the winner of Best Newcomer at the 2019 NZ International Comedy Festival, and the host of TVNZ+'s new show, Cubicle Confessions. She has been featured on 7 Days, Have You Been Paying Attention, and the Best Foods Comedy Gala. 

Rhiannon McCall

Rhiannon (she/her) is a comedian, actor, writer, and filmmaker from Christchurch and now based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She is a comedian/reporter on Seven Sharp, a regular panelist on 7 Days. Rhiannon also features in Epic NPC Man by Viva La Dirt League, a Youtube channel which has over 5.5 million subscribers. Rhiannon is also a shameless improv nerd. She's a regular fixture at Snort, and co-director of improv company Heartthrobs. 

Tough Tiger Fist

Ben Cleland and Matt Parker are two highschool best friends from the small rural town of Waiuku. Office workers by day, at night these boys transform into a joke-slinging, multi-instrumental comedy dynamo, belting out delightful ditties about just about everything - from a soulful operatic ode to Matt's lost hair, to a bombastic hip-hop tribute to their favourite Star Wars character. Tough Tiger Fist has been a staple in the Auckland comedy scene since 2019.  

Winning the Billy T Award is a huge deal. The award celebrates the memory and achievements of Billy T James - a comedian who forged a hugely successful career and changed the face of comedy in Aotearoa. The 2024 winner follows in the footsteps of comedy greats who over the last 25 years have included; inaugural winners Ewen Gilmour & Cal Wilson, Rose Matafeo, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement, Dai Henwood, Justine Smith, Kura Forrester, Angella Dravid, Rhys Mathewson, Melanie Bracewell, Guy Montgomery, David Correos, Kura Forrester, Brynley Stent and Abby Howells. 

This year’s expert panel of five judges bring a wealth of experience from the comedy, television and theatre industries to the table. They are Kura Forrester (Ngāti Porou) (Comedian, actor and Billy T Winner 2019), Brynley Stent (Comedian, actor and Billy T Winner 2021), Nathan Joe (Playwright, performance poet, and Creative Director of Auckland Pride ), Perlina Lau (Writer, actor, producer, broacaster), Tim Blake (Executive Director at SILO Theatre), and Nigel McCulloch (Ngāti Whakaue) (TV and film producer for The Downlow Concept). 

Lauren Whitney, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Comedy Trust says, “The Billy T Award is one of my favourite of the Trust’s development initiatives, celebrating a special milestone in a comedian’s career. The high calibre of judges bring expertise from across the comedy sector to recognise that potential not just on the live stage, but skills that can be utilised across the industry. All five of the nominees are already making their mark in the industry and we get to celebrate their creative work in solo show form during next year’s Festival.”  

These five nominees will all perform their own one hour shows during the 2024 NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo (3 – 26 May) leading up to their final performance at Last Laughs (Sunday 26 May) at SkyCity Theatre. On this very special night, the judges will make their final decision, and one of the talented comics will take home the prestigious yellow towel and be crowned the 2024 Billy T Award winner!