Festival announces 2023 comedy award shortlist

Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2023 shortlist
From Left to right: Hasan, Rachel, Joe, Josh and Chris.

Birmingham’s long-running comedy festival has revealed the shortlist for its prestigious 2023 award.

The region’s biggest comedy prize, the Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award recognises the very best new and emerging comedic talent from across the West Midlands, and officially launches the annual arts festival on Friday 6 October 2023, at The Glee Club, Birmingham.

The five acts nominated for the award are: Hasan Al-Habib, Rachel Baker, Joe Bingham, Josh Reynolds and Chris Yates.

Born in North London, to Iraqi parents, Hasan Al-Habib moved to Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, aged three, and went to school in central Birmingham. Trying his hand at stand-up, inspirations include The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah, Janine Harouni, Frankie Boyle, and Joe Lycett (“for his invention”). A Chortle Student 2022 Finalist and OnlyFans Comedy Creative Fund finalist, Hasan is now back in London, where he works as a Policy Analyst for the House of Commons at Parliament.

“I love jokes where the punchline comes out of the blue,” Hasan says, “as well as acting out characters to enhance material and employing lots of accents and impressions.”

Rachel Baker resides in Cotteridge, Birmingham, and works in the arts as an assistant producer. She first tried comedy while studying at the University of Birmingham, going on to perform more widely, around the region, a year ago. Citing comedy actresses such as Emma Chambers, Caroline Aherne, Meera Syal and Julie Walters as inspirations, she describes her style of comedy as “hectic in a controlled way. A bit cheeky. I like to approach each set differently as every audience and room is unique; there is always something about the audience or venue that you can have a shared laugh about.”

Birmingham-born, Joe Bingham spends his time between Yardley, Birmingham, and London. A Project Manager, he made his stand-up debut at the Patrick Kavanagh, Moseley, in 2019. Among his comedy heroes are US stars Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr and Katt Williams. Continuing to gig more widely, Joe’s toured with such acts as Axel Blake and Aurie Styla. He performs “observational comedy around my life experiences, and opinions on the world around me.”

Raised “all over Staffordshire,” Josh Reynolds currently calls Newcastle-under-Lyme home. A digital marketer, his stand-up debut was a five minute spot alongside several poets at a scratch night at Mitchell Arts Centre, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in January 2020. A fan of Stewart Lee and James Acaster, Josh says: “My comedy is mostly autobiographical, but I try to highlight the mundanity / normality of attributes and experiences that are quite niche.

Chris Yates lives in Malvern, Worcestershire and works in logistics. A University of Birmingham graduate whose CV also includes local band Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, he first stepped onto a comedy stage at The Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham in late 2021 following a course with Brum comic James Cook.

Describing himself as a “failed musician and bedraggled millennial layabout,” Chris says “other people describe my stuff as ‘weird’ or ‘dark’ quite a lot. Really, I’m just writing down what I think is funny, and then saying it, and hoping other people agree.”

A spokesperson for Birmingham Comedy Festival said: “It’s always a tough task for our selection panel to decide on a list of just five acts from the city and surrounding areas, as there is so much exceptional comedy talent here. So these five acts represent some of the very best, which will, without a doubt, make our award night another very special show.”

The shortlisted acts have been nominated by a panel of leading comedy promoters, acts and comedy professionals from across the region based on live performances over the last year. Previous winners of the award include Josh Pugh, Celya AB, Andrew McBurney (Gary Powndland and Friends), and Hannah Weetman (who won in 2022).

The judging panel at the award includes comedian/ actor Jo Enright and comedy streaming platform NextUp Comedy, as well as representatives from The Glee Club and the comedy festival.

The Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2023 – supported by The Arcadian – takes place at The Glee Club, The Arcadian, Birmingham, on Friday 6 October 2023. The night is compèred by James Cook and closes with a special set from Josh Jones. Tickets £12 (£10 NUS) + booking fee, from 0871 472 0400. For more information see: www.bhamcomfest.co.uk


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