PROMOTER Andrew Milos said the eyes of the stand-up comedy industry will be on Newcastle this weekend as the city showcases that festivals can operate in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Newcastle Comedy Festival kicked off on Thursday night and is the first major comedy event held in Australia since the coronavirus outbreak. According Milos, it's actually a world first.
"Unless there's someone else I don't know about, there's no one else doing a comedy festival since COVID happened, which is insane," Milos said.
"I think it does send bit of a message that we can do it. It is possible. It's difficult, but there's adaptability definitely. Especially doing a theatre show and having these acts. I can't be anymore proud of what these acts will bring."
Relaunching the festival has been anything but easy. The second edition of the festival was originally scheduled for May, but was postponed when COVID hit.
Then the second wave in Victoria caused the cancellation of a host of acts, including Newcastle-born comic Rhys Nicholson, Nazeem Hussein, Aaron Gocs, and Tom Ballard.
Social distancing regulations also meant the Civic Theatre was unable to host the gala performances at full capacity. Instead, 750-capped matinee and evening gala shows will be held at the Civic Theatre on Saturday and Sunday featuring Rove McManus, Becky Lucas, Cameron James, Andy Saunders, Randy Feltface, Luke Heggie, Nina Oyama and more.
As of Thursday 2200 of the 3000 tickets had been sold.
Besides the gala performances, solo shows will be held at The Happy Wombat and Babylon until Sunday, November 29.
The nucleus of the Newcastle Comedy Festival began in 2017 when Milos launched Big Dog Comedy. Last year's inaugural festival was a raging success, backed by a $15,000 grant from the City of Newcastle, and Milos said he never considered taking a year off due to COVID.
"I'm grassroots and I grew up in Newcastle and I love comedy so much," he said. "The people I've surrounded myself with and the relations I've formed are something you can't buy.
"These people have been helping me for six years from doing small bookshop shows to the Happy Wombat and they wanted this to happen as much as I did."
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the City of Newcastle was proud to again sponsor the comedy festival.
"We've worked really closely with him [Milos] to put on a number of smaller events which were COVID-safe and this is really perfect timing to welcome back festivals to our event calendar," Cr Nelmes said.
Visit newycomedyfest.com for tickets and the full schedule of shows.