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New Annual Prize Celebrates Comedy Wild Cards And Pays Homage To The Topp Twins

May 14, 2022: On the birthday of Dames Jools and Lynda Topp, The New Zealand Comedy Trust is stoked to announce the Topp Prize, a new annual honour consisting of a $15,000 award and a trophy, to be presented annually to a ‘wild card’ of the comedy scene in Aotearoa. The award pays homage to the irreverent spirit of the Topp Twins, who celebrate their 40th anniversary as entertainers this year. The inaugural recipient will be announced at an event this September.

“We are so happy to be associated with this exciting new award. Comedy isn’t just about stand-up — it’s also for people who may like to sit down,” says Dame Jools. “The award acknowledges the diverse forms that comedy can take,” adds Dame Lynda. “We are thrilled to have this award named in our honour — if I was a younger comedian, I’d love to win this.”

The Topp Prize is a non-competitive award that will be given annually to a practising individual, duo or group with a strong, clear and unique voice and a generosity of spirit; a person or group making Aotearoa laugh with an out-of-the-box approach, whether that comedy takes place on the stage, on the screen or in a completely unexpected comedy space altogether.

New Zealand Comedy Trust General Manager Lauren Whitney says, “The New Zealand Comedy Trust is proud to add the Topp Prize to our stable of awards to reflect the strength and reach of our unique strand of comedy into more spaces across Aotearoa and globally. The Trust has been resolute in nurturing and championing this industry for over 27 years, and we are excited to be able to recognise even more artists who are passionately expanding the genre with their work. We are delighted to name this award after the icons Dame Jools and Dame Lynda, on their 40th anniversary of bringing New Zealanders and audiences around the world to tears — of laughter.”

Arani Cuthbert, the Topp Twins’ long-time manager, says: “The Topp Twins have always been trail-blazers and their comedy has broken down boundaries. This has sometimes come at a personal cost, so it’s wonderful that this Topp Prize recognises the courage and craft of diverse comedians who extend the genre of comedy.”

Where the New Zealand Comedy Trust’s other two main prizes, the Billy T and the Fred, reward a live stage show performed at the annual NZ International Comedy Festival, the Topp Prize celebrates a current body of work from any corner of the comedy sphere, on or off the live stage, by a local comedian working within or beyond Aotearoa.

The recipient is gifted a $15,000 award and a trophy provided by the New Zealand Comedy Trust, which also coordinates the selection panel, prizegiving and communications. Writer and producer Paul Horan, one of several industry legends who kickstarted the Auckland comedy scene and co-founded the Comedy Festival, will be the inaugural Chair of the selection panel, with panel members to be announced in the coming months.

“I am so proud to be associated with an award celebrating two legends who represent the best in New Zealand comedy,” says Paul. “They not only invented their own genre, but they altered the way we think of comedy in this country. They combined warmth and conscience to create a way of laughing that could only happen here. The Topp Prize will elevate the innovators and the risk-takers so that the core of our industry stays true to the Topps’ comedy ethos.”

“Our motto has always been ‘Amuse, Never Abuse’,” says Dame Lynda. “To put something down you don’t need to know anything about it — but to send something up you have to know everything about it. To be truly funny often requires looking at the world in a different way and this award will foster and reward that.

“We are excited to know the Topp Prize may help encourage the next generation of funny truth-tellers.”

More information:
The New Zealand Comedy Trust
The Topp Twins
Paul Horan
Arani Cuthbert, Diva Productions

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