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2023 Billy T Nominees Take To The Stage At Billy T Jams

Having been selected way back in 2021 over Zoom during a lockdown, ahead of the later cancelled 2022 NZ International Comedy Fest, five of Aoteaora’s freshest comedians will finally get their chance to compete for the prestigious Billy T Award. Chosen for their proven comedic ability, dedication to their craft and outstanding potential, this year’s nominees have their first outing together at Billy T Jams on 3 March at Q Theatre.

Billy T Jams will be hosted by 2021 Billy T Award winner, and Celebrity Treasure Island’s very own ‘Puzzle Queen’, Brynley Stent who will welcome the nominees Abby Howells, Gabby Anderson, Jack Ansett, Janaye Henry and Maria Williams to Q Theatre’s mainstage to show off their superb comedy skills.

The five nominees will perform their own full hour shows during the 2023 NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo (5 – 28 May), with the winner taking home the coveted yellow towel and title of 2023 Billy T Award Winner at Last Laughs on 28 May.

Named after comedy legend Billy T James, the award celebrates his memory and achievements as a comedian who forged a hugely successful career and changed the face of comedy in Aotearoa. The Billy T Award recognises emerging comedians with outstanding talent, who are destined for big things. Ewen Gilmour and Cal Wilson took home the very first award back in 1997, and in the 26 years since winners have included some of Aotearoa’s biggest comedy names, including Rose Matafeo, Angella Dravid, Dai Henwood, Kura Forrester, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement.

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Billy T Jams officially kicks off 2023 for the NZ International Comedy Festival - the full 2023 NZ International Comedy Festival with Best Foods Mayo programme will be announced in March 2023.

2023 Billy T Nominees:

  • Abby Howells - an award-winning comedian and writer from Ōtepoti. Her most recent comedy show HarleQueen won the Director’s Award at the 2021 Comedy Festival. Her debut show in the Festival Gloknid: Dwarf Warrior won Best Newcomer - Wellington. Abby has an MA in Scriptwriting from Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters and won the Brad McGann Award for Film Writing for her screenplay.
  • Gabby Anderson – has lots of strings to her bow… comedian, improviser and teacher in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She hit the scene running in 2018 winning the National Raw Comedy Quest, and in 2021 performed her first solo show in NZ International Comedy Festival, Cheaper by the Half Dozen. Reviews of her comedy range from “refreshing and relatable!” to “you don't seem that funny, Miss”.
  • Jack Ansett - is an Auckland based stand-up comedian. He's been performing around the country since he was just 15. Now 24, he's a regular at The Classic Comedy Club, has written for 7 Days and appeared as a panellist for TV Three’s Guy Montgomery’s Guy-Mont Spelling Bee. When he's not doing stand up, Jack is making videos on TikTok for his 36k followers, where he has garnered millions of views for video series such as Marketplace Disgrace.
  • Janaye Henry (Ngāti Kahi ki Whangaroa) - has been making waves in the comedy scene since 2017. She self defines as a clown by nature but a comedian by nurture. Her first solo hour at comedy fest Literally Obsessed, was debuted to a sold out audience in 2021. She has completed three theatre-in-education tours in schools and is obsessed with using humour to talk about all kinds of kaupapa. She has written for The Spinoff, Have You Been Paying Attention? and various other projects she doesn’t know if she can contractually talk about. In 2022 she curated the first wāhine Māori comedy line up show, Shoes Off (at the door). She's got her eyes on the prize (that yellow towel) and she's ready to bring audiences something a little bit flirty, a little bit silly and always a little bit political.
  • Maria Williams – is a comedian, theatre-maker and improviser who grew up in Whakatū and started her career in the arts in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. At the 2019 NZ International Comedy Festival she won Newcomer of the Year in Wellington for Mournmoor Murders with Alice May Connolly, and 2021 Newcomer of the Year in Auckland for Anxiety...the Musical?!. Maria has also been part of teams that have won NZ Fringe Festival Awards, Wellington Theatre Awards and a 48Hr Film Festival award. She likes silly, theatrical, absurd comedy and sees comedy as a great way to discuss mental health.

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