HOMEGROWN talent Cameron James believes Novocastrians have always been naturally funny, but finally the city is receiving the respect it deserves from the Australian comedy scene.
This weekend chuckles will be echoing up and down Hunter Street as the inaugural Newcastle Comedy Festival holds various stand-up shows between The Happy Wombat and Clarendon Hotel.
Then from next Thursday the Spiegeltent returns to Civic Park with a variety of dance, music and comedy shows which include appearances from nationally-successful comics Wil Anderson, Dave Hughes, Tom Ballard and Newcastle's Rhys Nicholson.
Following that, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow stops at the Civic Theatre from June 7 to 9.
The joke feast kicked off on Friday night when a sold-out Civic Theatre hosted the Newcastle Comedy Festival's Opening Gala, which showcased 11 stand-up comedians including Dudley's James.
"Back when I first started there was only one place you could do it [comedy] and that was the Oriental Hotel and now there's this festival, Spiegeltent and three or four comedy nights running throughout the month and that's so cool," James said.
"The city is kind of known for it's sense of humour, so it's exciting that it's finally becoming a big thing in the world of comedy."
The Opening Gala was James' first appearance on stage at the Civic Theatre, bar what he describes as a "kind of embarrassing" performance playing guitar in mass while in year 12 at St Francis Xavier.
James said the fact that the Newcastle Comedy Festival could sell out the 1500-seat Civic Theatre in it's opening year, was proof that his old schoolmate and event organiser Andrew Milos had created something that local audiences were craving.
"It feels like it's been in the works for years now and something people have been talking about for a long time and Milos has made it happen and it's incredible," he said.
"Particularly to do the gala at the Civic Theatre.
"That's an iconic venue. I saw Silverchair play there in the year 2000 and the first stand-up comedy I saw was there and it was Carl Barron.
"I sat right in the very back row, far left, as far from the stage as you can be and it was still the best night ever. I'm over the moon."
James, 31, began his stand-up career at the Oriental Hotel after leaving high school and in recent years has built a career writing and performing sketch comedy for television.
For the past year he's appeared on SBS show The Feed.