Rhys Nicholson reigns supreme at Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Rhys Nicholson has taken out the 2022 Melbourne International Comedy Award for Most Outstanding Show (formerly the Barry Award) for his latest hour Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!, announced Saturday afternoon at a ceremony hosted by Joel Creasey.

The highest of comedic accolades, rivalled only in prestige globally by the Edinburgh Comedy Award, is judged by a panel of clandestine industry cognoscenti. In the past, the award has catapulted the careers of the ilk of Daniel Kitson, Maria Bamford and The Mighty Boosh.

Rhys Nicholson takes out top honour at the MICF.Credit:Jim Lee

“This show is half Kyran Wheatley’s,” noted Nicholson during his acceptance speech, referencing his partner and the co-owner of one of the festival hubs Comedy Republic.

“Everyone deserves an award this year. Not this one. This one is mine,” he quipped.

“This festival is so important to me. I’ve been coming here since I was a teenager to watch shows.

“This community is so important to me.

“Thank you for this and thank you for being my friends.“

While this year’s festival welcomed back a host of big-name international favourites, the field for the top gong was entirely local. Nicholson beat out fellow nominees Aaron Chen for his hour If Weren’t Filmed, Nobody Would Believe, Cameron James for “Electric Dreams”, Danielle Walker for Nostalgia, Geraldine Quinn for Broad, Greg Larsen for We All Have Bloody Thoughts and Laura Davis for If This Is It.

The nod for Best Newcomer went to Frankie McNair for Relax Your Knees.

“What the f—k!,” they shouted almost breaking the audio system.

“I wasn’t going to do a show this year! I’m a f—king idiot!

Rhys Nicholson (left) with Frankie McNair who was awarded the best newcomer at the MICF awards on Saturday.Credit:Jim Lee

“Thank you to The Butterfly Club who made me do more shows so I could get nominated.

“I’m going to go cry in a corner.“

The Golden Gibbo, an award given solely to an independently produced show in memory of the late Lynda Gibson, was taken home by Alex Hines for To Schapelle And Back.

For the first time since 2016 the Directors’ Choice award was shared. Chosen by festival head Susan Provan in consultation with programming colleagues, it was divided by two acts at the opposite sides of the festival spectrum: two-and-a-half decade festival veteran Wil Anderson for Wilogical and debutante Bronwyn Kuss for Any Goss?

The (very literal) Piece of Wood award, otherwise known as the comics’ choice and selected by past winners, was won by cabaret star Tina Del Twist aka Wes Snelling for Caravan in the Sky. Snelling, a long-time supporter of comics and the festival, was introduced via a video chat under the false pretense that he was announcing the winner. When realising he was the actual winner, he fought back tears and slammed his laptop shut to riotous applause.

The Pinder Prize, honouring festival co-founder John Pinder and supporting the winner to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will see Danielle Walker jet off to Scotland in August; for the second time the People’s Choice Award for the act that sold the most tickets went home with Urzila Carlson for It’s Personal.

The Funny Tonne, which each year pits three comedy mega-fans against each other with a golden ticket to the festival to see and review as many shows as possible for the festival website, went the way of Tessa Stickland.

The Melbourne International Comedy Festival runs until April 24. The Age is a major media partner.

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