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The 2018 Billy T nominees are here, and they’re pretty damn great

The 2018 Billy T Award Nominees were announced today. Sam Brooks goes deep on who they are, and why this slate is so great.

Remember comedy? It exists! And outside of the Comedy Festival. What a concept!

Last night, applicants for the Billy T Award, the most famous award in New Zealand comedy, did their sets and today, as though by magic, we have a set of five Billy T nominees. (For the uninitiated, the Billy T Award, named after Billy T James, is an award given to an up-and-coming New Zealand comedian and rewards excellence, potential and general all-around funniness.)

And you guys, there’s four women, one gay dude and only one straight white male. That’s huge. Gargantuan. Titanic. Other words that mean huge that you don’t use in regular conversation.

They are:

Alice Snedden

Donna Brookbanks

James Malcolm

Melanie Bracewell

Two Hearts (Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore)

But who are they really?

 

Alice Snedden

Who is she?

Alice Snedden is currently the head writer of Jono and Ben, a writer for Funny Girls, co-host of willfully bizarre and strangely compelling podcast Boners of the Heart (with former Billy T winner Rose Matafeo), member of improv gang Snort and a regular columnist for the Sunday Star Times.

What do I think?

I reviewed her show earlier this year, and called it one of the most assured hours of stand-up I’ve ever seen, which remains true as I have barely seen any stand-up since the Comedy Festival and it’s unlikely to have changed. But having seen Snedden on a few panels and lineups since then, I’m still struck that she’s equally brilliant at off-the-cuff remarks as carefully crafted and structured jokes. She’s legit, is what I’m saying.

Donna Brookbanks

Who is she?

Donna Brookbanks is a co-founder of improv gang Snort, performer and writer for Funny Girls and was a nominee for Best Newcomer at the Comedy Festival earlier this year, and she’s been quietly and surely working on her stand up for a few years now.

What do I think?

I love Donna. She’s one of the highlights of Snort, and she brings an incredible amount of charisma, offbeat energy and near-terrifying vulnerability. Her show this year was deservedly nominated for Best Newcomer, and I can’t wait to see her take her blend of support group confessional style of comedy and theatricality even deeper.

James Malcolm and Donna Brookbanks.

James Malcolm

Who is he?

James Malcolm won the Raw Comedy Quest in 2014, and was a Billy T nominee in 2016.

What do I think?

I haven’t seen much of James’ work, so I can’t really comment. From what I understand, he leans deep into pop culture and isn’t afraid to shock his audience with pretty frank stuff about being a young gay dude. That, in itself, is really goddamned cool, and she’s a huge achievement for someone as young as him to be nominated twice in three years.

Melanie Bracewell

Who is she?

Melanie Bracewell is a writer for The Project, a host at Radio Hauraki, and was the star of our videos for the Electoral Commission along with this year’s Billy T winner Angella Dravid. She was also the winner of this year’s Best Newcomer Award, and I feel if we need someone to do an impression of Helen Clark’s voice in a few years she is the person we should ring.

What do I think?

Mel’s bloody great. She’s an old school kind of a stand-up, there’s few bells and whistles, because she doesn’t need them. (This sounds like shade, but I promise you it isn’t. We get by without bells and whistles every day and many of us are better without constant clanging and whistling.) What makes her really special is that she’s a strong enough and charismatic enough performer, so much so that her awkwardness is a genuine asset and not a crutch, like it can be for many young comics.

Melanie Bracewell and Two Hearts (Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore).

Two Hearts (Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore)

Who are they?

Laura Daniel is a writer and performer on Funny Girls and Jono and Ben, and was nominated for the Billy T Award in 2016. Joseph Moore is a writer on Funny Girls, Jono and Ben, has been doing stand-up for ages and was nominated for the Billy T Award in 2013. Two Hearts is the musical pop-comedy duo they’ve formed together.

What do I think?

Two Hearts was flat-out my favourite show of this year’s festival. It hit everything I want in a show; so much love, time and craft had gone into it, and the chemistry between the Daniel and Moore was electric. It’s the rare musical comedy show where the music and the comedy are just as great as each other. (Read Duncan Greive’s review of the show here).

I have no idea how they’ll top it, but I’m excited to see them do so.

Other Notes:

They changed up the Billy T Award rules slightly this year (and also other award rules, which are less relevant to this piece!). The big change is that all the applicants for the award must have performed a one hour show in the festival already. This means that you probably know some of these names already, especially if you’re following the comedy scene.

Three of the five nominees this year come from improv group Snort. This doesn’t sound significant until you also find out that three of the five last Billy T winners also belong (or have belonged) to Snort at some point.

Four out of six (if we’re to split Laura and Joseph up for statistics’ sake) of the nominees this year are women. That’s the most nominees ever (and even if it was three women it would be the most nominees ever). That’s huge. Like, really genuinely huge. It’s very easy to say that awards are just awards, but awards mean something to many people, and to have such a strong showing of support for women in an industry that has been historically, and continues to be, quite shitty to and for women, it’s a big deal.

It’s a big deal that there’s only one straight white dude nominee, and he’s half a nominee (sorry, Joseph). That’s literally never happened. It’s a strong statement, and not even one that comes from some bullshit affirmative action some redpill redditor might label it; these are genuinely the best of the best.

This is a really strong slate of nominees, you guys. If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t say it. These are people who you should already be watching and laughing at, and if this is the reason you need to get up off your asses (and go see their shows in the festival in a few months), then so be it. Go see them, they’re great.

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