Export strength laughter

Top Aussie wins free Edinburgh show

The best Australian comic at the Melbourne Comedy Festival will be heading for the Edinburgh Fringe - for free.

A new award, worth more than AU$10,000, was launched at the Australian Festival yesterday, introduces a new competitive element event. Honours previously given out have been more about prestige than cash.

The winner of Oz Export Award will get a four-week run at the Assembly Rooms, flights, accommodation and cash to spend on promotion to help establish their international career.

It is being funded by the British Council Australia, a UK body that promotes cultural ties between the two countries.

Director Simon Gammell said: "One of the things the UK and Australia have in common is our ironic sense of humour, unlike some Americans

"Australian comedians have been going down a storm in Edinburgh, and we're confident that we are supporting the first steps of a future superstar.

"It's a great prize, Whoever wins it is going to think that they've died and gone to heaven. May the best comic win."

Australian stand-up Adam Hills, who now spends half the year in the UK said the best advice he had ever been given was to go to Edinburgh. "I was a better performer for it," he said.

"Australian performers are as good as any at Edinburgh - it's not quality, it's the getting there that's the problem.

"We are as good as they are - the only difference is they have to drive a couple of hours to get there - we have to fly for 23."

And Melbourne Comedy Festival director Susan Provan added: "This is a genius idea that will help us hugely in our endeavours to find new comedy talent, and showcase the future of Australian comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

"We have a special relationship with Britain. British artists love coming here, Australians love going there. It's an enthusiasm that doesn't happen with Americans, for example.

"The Oz Export Award is going to be very quickly the most coveted award at the festival. There is already quite a buzz about it - it is very exciting."

The winner will be decided by the same panel of industry judges that already decides the festival's prestigious Barry Award, named in honour of Barry Humphries, plus a couple of members of the British Council, and possibly some UK comics, recruited to help make the final decision.

The winner will be announced in Melbourne next Friday.

Published: 9 Apr 2003

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