The New Zealand Comedy Trust has announced that the inaugural Topp Prize, named after the iconic Topp twins, will be awarded to comedian Chris Parker. Recognised as one of Aotearoa’s most generous and gifted comedians, Parker takes home $15,000 and two iconic milk bottle lolly artworks from Simon Lewis Wards – housed in a double hot pink crate to match Camp Mother’s pantsuit.
The New Zealand Comedy Trust established the Topp Prize in 2022 as a non-competitive prize awarded annually to a practicing individual, duo or group with a strong, clear and unique voice. It can can be bestowed to 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.
“We are honoured to have our legacy acknowledged alongside kiwi comedy legends Billy T James and Fred Dagg. As young performers we were not afraid to stand up for what we believed in and incorporated these issues into our live shows,” said Dames Lynda and Jools Topp. “Being out lesbians in the early 80s singing country music through comedic characters the Gingham Sisters was probably one of the most diverse combinations of political comedy in the world, and to have an award honouring those qualities in 2022 means so much to us. A message we would like to give to the next generation of comedians is “Believe in yourself, believe in your message and believe you are funny as”.”
Since winning the New Zealand Comedy Trust’s prestigious Fred Award in 2018 he’s toured to sell out audiences, won Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, had his felting hat exhibited at the Auckland Museum and Te Papa, published a book, and created the TVNZ special Chris Parker: Back To School. Parker said: “This is a huge honour. I’ve always truly idolised the Topp Twins and I spend an alarming amount of time watching them on YouTube. A performer like myself is a product of the work, advocacy and representation that they’ve put out into the world with such positivity and respect for Aotearoa. I’m so touched.”
New Zealand Comedy Trust Board Member Gemma Gracewood said: “Our existing honours — The Fred and the Billy T Awards, named for John Clarke’s Fred Dagg character, and for variety king Billy T James — are prizes for the best show and the best emerging performer in the annual comedy festival.
“But what about the work that our comedians do year-round, in other forms and on other stages? What about those who move the art of comedy forward, and help to make a better, more robust, supportive and inclusive whānau in light of our industry’s problematic past, and present?”
This year’s selection was panel was led by comedy industry legend Paul Horan and included comedian and producer Tim Batt, our own Sam Brooks, Wellington theatre stalwart Salesi Le’ota, NZ on Air’s head of funding Amie Mills, Australian comedian Rhys Nicholson and Piki Films producer Morgan Waru.