In 2002 a joke spawned a comedy institution. A handful of local acts appearing that January decided to call their show 'The Hobart Comedy Festival - the world's smallest cultural event'. What was not expected was that immediately there was interest from other states for an opportunity to attend. 'A facetious joke became an actual event,' said Craig Wellington, Festival Producer, 'And 12 months later we were sharing the bill with the likes of Dave Hughes and Adam Hills. That was a big leap from year one to year two - 'cos in year one the lights kept turning off every time the pie-heater kicked in. We've long overcome such complex technical issues.'
'What we have aimed to do in the years ever since is balance the opportunities for some headline acts with opportunities for some local acts. Thus you get the likes of Peter Rowsthorn as well as a few unknowns who might well be the next big thing. It has happened before - one unknown went on to become Andy Muirhead.' Muirhead is host of ABC TV surprise hit, Collectors, and a regular at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Other people becoming very well known since cutting their teeth at the Hobart Comedy Festival are Hannah Gadsby, the Australian National Raw Comedy Champion who has performed around the world but started from Smithton via Hobart. Another is Burnie born performer Josh Earl, now a fixture on the Melbourne Comedy scene. Not to mention Colin Dean and John X, both in the cast of Billy Elliott in Sydney, who performed at the first two Hobart Comedy Fests.
'There have been some remarkable successes for such a fledgling event,' said Andy Muirhead. 'And, remarkably, very few acts that have become train-wrecks. But a small number of audience members still hope it will happen,' says Muirhead wryly. 'It is a great ten days for local crowds - what can be better than laughing, having a beverage and not having to pay to fly to LA, the UK or even Melbourne to experience it? Outside of the Hobart Comedy Festival there is nothing comparable to that standard and that vibe without travelling offshore for Tasmanian audiences.'
'So do support the local acts,' says Wellington. 'They support Tassie when they represent the state in Edinburgh, London and New York. And their reputation is as good there as a cricketers is in Sri Lanka or India.'
'But,' adds Muirhead, 'The point is - it only lasts ten days, so for goodness sake get a ticket!'
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