The pinnacle of The New Comedy Awards, the BBC’s premier comedy talent search, has been reached. Over 1,000 applicants threw their hats into the ring, with over 100 engaging in head-to-head competitions at showcases nationwide, and 30 battling it out in the regional heats. Now, the stage is set for the six finalists to captivate the judges and vie for the prestigious title of BBC New Comedian of 2023.

The Grand Final was filmed before a capacity audience at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow, one of Scotland’s oldest and most significant playhouses, inaugurated in 1904. This historic venue has been a stage for top stars and stand-up comedians throughout its illustrious history.

This Grand Final is the culmination of six regional heats filmed across the UK, and the judges face the daunting task of selecting a winner from a diverse array of cutting-edge comics.

Guiding the proceedings is the accomplished stand-up, writer, and actor Rosie Jones, who serves as the host. Head judge Josh Pugh takes his place for the final time, accompanied by fellow stand-ups Zoe Lyons and Darren Harriot. Dan Tiernan, the winner of the New Comedian Award in 2022, delivers a special performance before passing on the award to this year’s deserving recipient.

Established in 1995, these esteemed awards have played a pivotal role in launching the careers of some of Britain’s most beloved comedians. Notable names include Peter Kay, Joe Lycett, Lee Mack, Julian Barratt, Josie Long, Shappi Khorsandi, Romesh Ranganathan, Alan Carr, Russell Howard, Lee Ridley, Nina Conti, Rhod Gilbert, Tom Allen, Lauren Pattison, and Sarah Millican, to name just a few.

The BBC New Comedy Awards continue to discover a diverse and talented array of new comedy stars from all corners of the country, contributing to the resurgence of British comedy as a focal point in world-class entertainment.

Don’t miss the broadcast of the BBC New Comedy Awards 2023 on iPlayer.

Meet the Host and Guest Judges

Rosie Jones (Host)

Rosie Jones onstage smiling with microphone. BBC New Comedy Awards 2023 in background
Rosie Jones (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Michael Prince)

How does it feel to be hosting the final of the New Comedy Awards?

Really good. I like being in charge and having the power, but I’m so glad that I am not a judge this year. I judged the final last year and it was so hard. I get to relax, none of the decisions are on me because if I had it my way, they’d all win.

What makes a good stand-up show?

It’s so obvious but just funny jokes, funny jokes by a funny person who is enjoying themselves. I find as a comedian and as an audience member, if the performer is enjoying it you go along with the ride.

What advice would you give to any budding comedians looking to apply next year?

Just get out there and start gigging because like everything it’s all about practise, so keep going. You’ll have good gigs, you’ll have bad gigs but if you keep going and keep striving to improve you’ll have a great time!

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out in your career?

I think quite literally keep on going, so just never think right I’ve done all the gigs now. Even now I try to gig at least three or four times a week because comedy is like a muscle. You’ve got to keep it up.

Did you ever take part in any comedy talent shows?

Not on TV but I did do a few of the comedy talent shows, I did like Funny Women, and they were brilliant in terms of giving me stage time and feeling like I had something to focus on and when you’re starting out to be able to say finalist or semi-finalists gets you on that rung of the ladder.

Tell us about the worst gig of your life.

You know what, I’ve have very few bad gigs because I am that talented. But I did have a bad gig when I had to follow the brilliant Lost Voice Guy, who’s also got cerebral palsy. I feel like he beat me to all the disabled jokes, so when I went on and said ‘Hello, I’m disabled!’ the whole audience were like ‘Yeah, bored’.

What’s the best city in the UK to perform in?

I’ve got to say it because I’m here, but I always have great gigs in Glasgow, I really feel like they have the best audiences. And I grew up loving Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges. So, I feel like there is something in the Glasgow water.

Josh Pugh (Guest Judge)

Josh Pugh sitting with arms crossed smiling at camera
Josh Pugh (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Michael Prince)

How does it feel to be judging the final of the New Comedy Awards?

I actually feel more relaxed about the final, anyone can win it and ultimately now it’s about who deserves to win on the night, has the best gig in the room, so the pressure is off me really, and very much on the audience and acts.

What are you looking for in the winner of the New Comedy Awards?

Every one of the finalists would be a worthy winner and I believe all of them can go on to have brilliant careers in comedy… and even out of comedy, it’s never too late to retrain and get a trade if that’s what they want to do, plenty of vocational courses available online or alternatively an apprenticeship although hard to come by are perfect for those looking to ‘learn and earn’. It’s a big old gig (within the context, it’s all totally frivolous really) and it’s just about who can enjoy it and get themselves across in the room.

What makes a good stand-up show?

Oh, there’s so many different ways of doing it and that’s what’s great about live comedy, Peter Kay will take the roof off in a different way to Billy Connolly, Sarah Millican will do it in a different way to Bill Bailey. I think people just want to see something authentic and done well. I just like to be excited by what I’m watching on stage.

What advice would you give to any budding comedians looking to apply next year?

Just send in a good video of you doing 5 minutes of stuff you really like; I think at the early stages of doing comedy the things you like and are drawn to are the things that are most authentic and closest to your “voice.” To be totally honest I don’t and have never held talent shows in any sort of regard, but they can be great fun if you get to one of the televised heats and literally no harm done if you don’t. Nothing to lose.

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out in your career?

Someone once told me to ignore all advice, including that bit of advice, so I didn’t really know what to believe to be honest, but I think there is no substitute for doing lots of gigs, different kinds of gigs in different places to different types of people. Also push yourself, do a new bit, be brave, dare to be great, there are loads of good comedians, but the true greats will do things that others won’t, have fun out there.

Did you ever take part in any comedy talent shows?

Yeah, in year 6 me and my mates entered the school talent show, got on stage and wrestled for about a minute before the teachers put a stop to it, was it performance art? Had we just not planned anything? I honestly don’t remember but it was great. 

Zoe Lyons (Guest Judge)

Image of Zoe Lyons holding a mannequin head with a wig on it
Zoe Lyone (Image: Jenny Smith

How does it feel to be judging the final of the New Comedy Awards?

It is an absolute honour to be part of the judging team. I know how much it means to all of the finalists to have reached stage of the awards. Winning the New Comedy Award has such a positive impact on newer comics careers. It is a big deal!

What are you looking for in the winner of the New Comedy Awards?

I love new comics with funny bones. Some performers just seem to have comedy in their DNA, and I love when you see that in someone.

What makes a good stand-up show?

Authenticity. Doesn’t matter what kind of comedy you are into… prop, sketch stand up it should come from a place of authenticity.

What advice would you give to any budding comedians looking to apply next year?

Do as many live gigs as you can. For me nothing beats stage time when it comes to learning your craft. And don’t worry too much about the gigs that don’t quite go to plan. We have all been there, we have all had dreadful gigs. Those are the ones you learn most from.

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out in your career?

I always remember Adam Bloom telling me when I first started to give the audience 10 seconds to “Take you in.” Establish yourself on stage before you start into your first joke. That really helped me actually because I used to get so nervous, I would sprint to the mic and immediately start babbling. It helped me develop the skills to look more relaxed on stage. I was still so nervous, but it made me appear more comfortable.

Did you ever take part in any comedy talent shows?

Yes, I did quite a few. I reached the final of So You Think You’re Funny and won the Funny Women competition. That was a massive boost to my confidence and helped massively with getting more gigs. So, I do know how important these shows can be.

Who is the funniest performer you’ve ever seen in your life?

Oh boy… tough question and I would really struggle to whittle it down to just one. But for pure joy, creativity and silliness on stage I love Spencer Jones. I know it’s not stand-up comedy exactly, but he never fails to crack me up.

Tell us about the worst gig of your life.

So, so many to choose from. One that still makes me shiver when I think about it was at a Rugby club fund raiser “Ladies Night” and I was on after the male strippers. I died a thousand deaths that night.

What drew you into being a comedian?

Pure and simple, I love to make people laugh.

What’s the funniest one liner you can think of?

I don’t do one liners, but I do enjoy a good one and Tommy Cooper was a master of them. “I phoned the Doctor… I need to make an appointment with you because I’ve got a bad back. He said how’s your flexibility. I said I can’t do Wednesday.”

What’s the best city in the UK to perform in?

I am hugely biased, but it has to be Brighton, with Glasgow a close second!

Darren Harriott (Guest Judge)

Darren Harriott on a red sofa with his legs up laughing and looking at something off screen
Darren Harriott (Image: Ray Burmiston)

How does it feel to be judging the final of the New Comedy Awards?

It’s an honour and a privilege to be judging the finest new comedy talent in the UK. I remember when they used to say I was a “hot newcomer of comedy” it didn’t last long.

What are you looking for in the winner of the New Comedy Awards?

I’m judging everything, I wanna see the full package so: good jokes, originality, style, do they look like they belong on a  comedy stage. I know they are all new acts but who looks the most seasoned and confident in their material.

What makes a good stand-up show?

Just be funny doesn’t matter whether it’s clean jokes, dirty jokes, stories, crowd work – people just want to laugh and forget about the troubles in their lives. Sometimes with crafting a show comedians often forget the number one thing is…funny.

What advice would you give to any budding comedians looking to apply next year?

Write write write write write. Jerry Seinfeld says the key to stand-up is to recognise it’s the art of writing and getting used to doing it. Just keep writing and honing that set until it’s an undeniable 5-10 mins of comedy.

What’s the best piece of advice you got when you were starting out in your career?

Just keep gigging. It’s the only way to get better and play all different types of rooms.

Did you ever take part in any comedy talent shows?

Yes, and I was terrible at all of them… I never felt like I could connect well enough with an audience in 5 minutes as my material wasn’t punchy enough back then.

Who is the funniest performer you’ve ever seen in your life?

I saw Bill Burr in 2019 in Edinburgh do one of the funniest hours I have ever seen and dealt with drunken hecklers brilliantly.

Tell us about the worst gig of your life

I have had so many terrible shows in the past that it’s impossible to name just one, that’s what being a comedian is all about! You learn from them, and you keep going plus they make the best stories around the table with family.

What drew you into being a comedian?

I felt alone and misunderstood as a teenager so signed up for a comedy gig just after my 18th birthday, it changed my life and I have never gone back since, nothing has captured my heart more than doing stand-up comedy.

What’s the funniest one liner you can think of?

Tim Vine – Velcro what a rip off… I remember hearing this back when I was an open-mic comedian and thinking I couldn’t never write like this, so I appreciate other people who do.

What’s the best city in the UK to perform in?

BIRMINGHAM!!!!!….obviously

Meet the Finalists

Kit Rees aka Hester Ectomy

Kit Rees aka Hester Ectomy performing on stage with microphone
Kit Rees aka Hester Ectomy (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre TV/Ciara McMullan)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

It feels amazing!!!  Honestly very validating and really makes all the work I’ve put in pay off. I’m really enjoying knowing strangers all over the country are laughing at my stupid bits.

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone you who has inspired you?
I love James Acaster. I’m completely enamoured with his style of absurdist comedy. Also, Jessica Kirson for her confidence and how she doesn’t even care about what she says – as long as it’s a laugh! But generally local drag artists especially those who host shows taught me how to be mean but still funny: Dick Von Dyke, Onya Becks, and Trudy Scrumptious to name a few.

What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

Attention. Kidding! Or am I? No, I grew up watching Mock the Week reruns on reruns on reruns to the extent that once I made a Mock the Brother game for my brother’s birthday. So, when I got old enough to actually hold a microphone I thought – why not me! I’ve always been the annoying theatre kid since I was little so to write and perform my own lines and be able to add my own humour – that’s the ticket for me!

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

The community with other comics! I attend a writing group here in Belfast for comedians, and I’ve made great friends. Having comics, I like with me makes any venue feel safe, plus they’ll lie to me and tell me my bad sets were amazing.

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

I was doing a live screening of Rocky Horror and performing in drag alongside it when the projector suddenly broke. The event wasn’t even for stand up but to fill the time I just jumped on and did 5 minutes until the techs got everything running again.

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

That I can afford the root canal I need. No but honestly it would mean everything!! It tells me that I don’t need to change myself to appeal to people. I can be my weird trans drag self-telling queer jokes and that’s still acceptable! No not just acceptable but exemplary!

Chantel Nash

Chantel on stage performing with microphone smiling
Chantel Nash (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Philip Gatward)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

Massively surreal. I entered because I thought it was the ‘done thing’, I’ve only been doing stand up for a year. So, I was very much following the crowd. But it seems the crowd are gone and now it’s me and a handful of others left, and I don’t really know how it’s happened. 

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone you who has inspired you?

I think my favourite comedian changes weekly I watch Earthquake’s Netflix special at least once a week. But growing up when everyone else was watching Little Britain I was watching 3 Non-Blondes – Ninia Benjamin, Jocelyn Jee Esien and Tameka Empson really stand out.

What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

Post-natal depression (I’m fine now) and a partner who set me a challenge, to think of my wildest dream and do it. 

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

The excitement of thinking of a new joke or story and then trying it out for the first time. When it works it’s the best feeling but even when it doesn’t, the work to ‘make it work’ is equally fun. This IS funny, I know it is I’ve just got to find the magic mix. 

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

I’ve actually been quite lucky and not had too many bad heckles. I did do a gig at a family festival, and I misunderstood the brief and thought it was for adults with perhaps a handful of kids present. But I when I got there it had been billed as ‘comedy FOR kids’ and I had to face a tent full of 5–13-year-olds with 10 minutes of material that was, less than child friendly. When I opened my set stating my age an 8-year-old boy shouted, ‘you don’t look a day over 25’ (I am older than 25) it was hilarious. He stole the show (and closed it) I made him get on stage and tell a joke to close. (Did I use that child as a comedy human shield? Perhaps).

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

It would be an amazing and wild way to end the year. But to be honest getting this far has surpassed what I believed could be possible and I’m happy with that and really proud of myself. 

Jin Hao Li

Jin Hao Li performing on stage with microphone. BBC New Comedy Awards branding in background
Jin Hao Li (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Philip Gatward)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

As an advocate of competitive art, I am very happy to have made it here.

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone you who has inspired you?

Not to be gross, but my favourite comedians are my friends on the circuit. The most famous comedian I love is Jerrod Carmichael.

What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

The first special I enjoyed was Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. His uncle not allowing anyone to touch the fire at the cookout made me laugh so much and so loud that my parents scolded me, because it was midnight, and I was a “disturbance”. Since then, I’ve wanted to emulate that joyous mischief.

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

I like how difficult it is. Sometimes you travel hours to bomb in front of three people. There’s no fun in failure for other industries, I think. I’m an actor as well, and when I get a rejection email following an audition, it’s just grim. But, when you feel the silence in the room after a joke doesn’t land, there’s an excitement in trying to get them on your side again. I dislike the notion that comedians are masochistic because they enjoy suffering. It’s two separate emotions. I’m upset that I’ve wasted everyone’s time, but I’m also happy that this feels more like an adventure. No good story is “Jin Hao set out to achieve his goals, and he did.”

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

I was hosting a gig at University and a fresher fainted in the front row. I think they passed out mid-joke from drinking too much. The security guards helped them out of the room, but their friends stayed for the rest of the show. After that they kept getting updates via text on the situation, and I can’t help but to feel they should’ve just ditched the show and followed their friend.

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

It would be neat to be the first Singaporean to win this. I keep getting delusions that the newspapers back home pick up the story of my victory. I do think it’ll be a great launching platform for me because I just graduated three months ago, so I’m really trying to figure out the industry. 

Dean T. Beirne

Dean T. Beirne performing onstage with microphone
Dean T. Beirne (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre TV/Michael Prince)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

In one word, incredible. I did not expect to get past the showcases, never mind winning the semi-final. It’s been over a month since it happened and it still doesn’t feel real that in this very early stage of my career, I’ve gotten this far. I have a really great group of comedy friends who were also part of the showcase and we all spoke about treating the showcase like any other gig, that way we would eliminate nerves and not be let down if we didn’t get through. We would just keep doing what we do and get back out at the next gig.

I was actually in a performance of The Wizard of Oz when I got the news that I’d gotten through to the semi-finals, literally got the call minutes before I was about to go on stage, and I’d spent our entire performance on Cloud 9 desperately trying not to forget my lines. To make it to the final and be in the company of the other winners is amazing, as they’re all comedians I like and would love to gig with regardless of it being a talent show.

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone who has inspired you?

I think Frankie Boyle was an inspiration for a lot of comedians on the Scottish circuit, and the way he wrote, I found interesting and hilarious, and he got me interested in stand up from my teens. I love comedy that’s intelligently written and performed and gives me an insight into the comedian.

I would say my favourite comedian is Larry Dean. The first time I saw him, I was amazed with the way he mixed energy, intelligent writing, and great delivery all in one package. Winning my semi-final whilst he was the host was an amazing feeling, it felt so surreal to get that achievement on stage with my comedy hero.

I also think the way Pete Davidson brings the audience along with the terrible thing his family went through and never wallows asking for sympathy is very impressive. It’s all about the funny.

But if I’m honest, the people who have inspired me the most has been everyone I’ve met on the Scottish circuit. Scotland is full of amazing comedians who all have different flavours of comedy, so no matter who you’re on with at a gig, always stay and watch the headliner. You’ll see so many different styles and learn so much. People like Susie McCabe, Darren Connell, Jay Lafferty, Liam Farrelly, Mark Nelson, Christopher Macarthur-Boyd, Stuart McPherson, Gary Little, Marc Jennings, Stephen Buchanan, and too many others to name have all been so inspiring to watch since I’ve started.

 What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

I think during lockdown, a lot of young Scottish people decided they wanted to give it a go. I know as soon as the lockdowns lifted, I immediately went out and wanted to try everything I’d been scared to do before. I went back to university, dyed my hair, pierced my ear, and started dressing how I wanted. I’d always done performing and writing as part of my hobbies growing up. I’ve been in bands, I’ve written books, I’ve done voice acting, but stand-up was the one I’d never tried, and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a go.

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

I love building a connection with an audience on stage for the moments I’m on. Stand-up is a great form of escapism but can also be very illuminating and interesting depending on your style. The versatility of it does wonders for creativity. When a connection is built and you can feel that energy in the room, nothing compares to that. Also, getting to meet so many fellow comedians and growing as acts together is a very strong communal feeling I’ve never felt before.

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

All the time, it’s part of the game. I think I struggle a lot with older audiences, but I think the worst thing you can do as a comedian is blame the audience. A great comedian should be able to play anywhere. So, if I ever have a difficult gig or a bad experience, I look back at my own set and my performance and see where I can improve from that. Sometimes you won’t be to that audience’s taste, but if you walk away thinking you did nothing wrong and it’s all their fault, you’ll never grow or progress.

My trickiest gig took place in Falkirk. It was a small audience and me along with some of the other acts were struggling to get them onboard, and then Liam Farrelly who was the headliner went on and got them onboard immediately. He mentioned the location in his set and that got the audience laughing and interested, which was a great learning experience for me as to how to get a tricky audience onboard and works as a good writing exercise to talking about where you’re playing in your set. People want to laugh and feel included, and it’s your responsibility as a comic to honour that.  

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

It would be amazing to win. The final is in my home city at one of the venues I could only dream of playing, it would feel like all the work I’ve done over the past two years to graft and become a better act has paid off. But I can’t go into a gig with the idea of wanting to win it. I will still go out on that stage and give it my absolute all, just like I do with every other gig I’m at, but if I go into it thinking it’s only a success if I win, I’ll get into my own head and mess up my delivery. I’m celebrating my two-year anniversary in comedy by playing a sold-out Kings Theatre that will then be broadcast on TV. That’s a win itself. 

Joe Kent-Walters aka Frankie Monroe

Joe Kent aka Frankie Monroe performing onstage doing a little jump. BBC Comedy Awards branding in background
Joe Kent aka Frankie Monroe (Image:BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Cariad Craig-Hunt)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

Absolutely crazy! I feel like a very lucky lad. My act is so weird and rouge so I really didn’t think that the BBC would give it the time of day. It’s been an amazing experience and the standard of comics at every stage of the awards has been incredible.

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone you who has inspired you?

Gosh! Loads! But my top one would have to be Spencer Jones! He’s such a lovable d**khead; so charming and fun on stage, which is what I always hope to be. 

What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

I went to the Fringe as part of a play while I was at Uni, when I was up there, I just completely fell in love with all the weird stuff. I saw about 70 shows and came back knowing that was exactly what I wanted to do, be a weird comedian.

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

Probably getting to hang out with other comedians! You can sort of feel like you are all cut from the same cloth and there is a real sense of camaraderie, as it can be really tough sometimes.

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

Yeah tons!! I was once booked for a formal dinner with around 600 people all sat in this big hall. There were no lights, no stage and the bad sound set up meant I could be heard over the sound of chatter and eating. So, I just sort of wandered round like someone’s drunk uncle at a wedding till I did my time.  

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

I think I’d mostly feel proud to be representing the weird northerners of the comedy world. There’s some amazing people and stuff that happens up here that doesn’t really get that much of a look in. Would feel great to shine a bit of light on that chunk of the comedy pie.

Paddy Young

Paddy Young performing onstage with microphone
Paddy Young (Image: BBC/Phil McIntyre Television/Paul Stephenson)

How does it feel to be a finalist of the BBC New Comedy Awards?

Amazing! Terrifying! I can’t believe it, can you? If this goes well, I might start paying my TV license. 

Do you have a favourite comedian or anyone who has inspired you?

Couldn’t possibly name one but Norm Macdonald, Chelsea Peretti, Daniel Kitson are all up there. 

What made you want to start stand-up comedy?

I hit puberty very late, and I had to make up for it somehow.

What is your favourite thing about stand-up comedy?

Making people laugh is the best feeling in the world. Watching another comedian have a bad gig is the second best. 

Have you had any difficult audiences? Trickiest on-stage moments?

Countless! Although that was probably more down to me than the audience, or the lack of. I remember at my second ever gig I didn’t get a single laugh. I ran home, hid under the covers and didn’t gig again for 6 months. The poorest. 

What would it mean to you to win the BBC New Comedy Awards?

The world. I’d wear the trophy for the rest of my life. Do we get a trophy? It would feel very very very good to win.