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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Interview with Mell Coppin and Zara Noruzi, from Byron Comedy Festival

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Byron Bay Comedy Festival: Bringing in the Laughs

Last year wiped out our entire entertainment program, but while things aren’t completely back to normal, it’s looking up. The easing of COVID-19 Public Health restrictions means that smaller events are back! And one of the biggest small events in the region is the Byron Bay Comedy Festival. Run by Mell Coppin and Zara Noruzi, it’s a beautifully curated event of top shelf laughs. The Echo spoke with the girls about what’s in store for their May event.

What are your backgrounds work or event wise?

We have both run different businesses over the past twenty years, we’ve also have run many events in Byron, but mostly fundraisers.

You girls don’t come from the world of comedy so why comedy ? Why did you decide to do something as crazy as running a festival?

Comedy is definitely one of our favourite art forms and we regularly travelled to Melbourne to watch the Melbourne Comedy Festival. We then wondered how good it would be if we didn’t have to travel for comedy, and had a festival in Byron to bring the laughter to town and share it with everyone. And as you know, if you want a job done, you better do it yourself.

What kind of festival do you want to run? Why do you think it’s important to keep it small?

For us it’s important to run an event that offers an overall wholesome experience; from the way we dress the venue, to food, drinks, colours, seating – and everything to do with creating a memorable outing and going home with a fun memory. To achieve that we have chosen the small, but iconic, Byron Bay Surf Club. At this stage we are keeping the festival small and intimate, and we aim to deliver quality rather than quantity. We have also managed to achieve our goal of offsetting the entire festival to be carbon neutral, and we’re very excited to announce that we will be taking a kilo of plastic out of the ocean for every ticket we sell with the help of our partners Hidden Sea wine and Re Sea Project.

How has COVID-19 affected your event and numbers for this year?

Like any other festival, we are facing limitations with the number of tickets we are allowed to sell – and lots of regulations that have to be met in order to run the event. And at times it was easier to just let it go for another year and wait for the covid storm to pass, but ultimately we decided to run the 2021 and started to fill out endless covid regulation forms.

So, tell us… who is coming… what do we have to look forward to? Who are the big names?

We are so proud of our lineup this year. We have brought back the town’s favourites, Glenn Robbins and Dave O’Neil, as many people missed out on tickets last time. Also Fiona O’Loughlin, Jean Kittson, Adam Zwar, Andy Saunders, Ting Lim, Dave Callan, Geraldine Hickey, Zoe Coombs Marr and the best of British with new British comics in the lineup.

Who are the comedy surprises?

Hard to choose! But definitely look out for Dave Callan’s show (if you’ve never heard of him, do yourself a favour!) Andy & Ting – headlined by Andy Saunders, who killed it on The Block , with opener Ting Lym; this is comedy from an Indigenous AND Singaporean perspective! Geraldine Hickey & Zoe Coombs Marr are 2021 women; they combine sass and the smarts with an attractive dose of quirky. We think these acts will kill it!

What do you have for the kids?

Well, kids are never left out of our lineup. We have a few really fun workshops for the kids, as well as family friendly shows.

Mandy Nolan will run the Funny Kids Workshop leading up to the festival, and the funny kids get to perform at the festival. The workshop will be held at a venue tbc on 1 May, so email [email protected] if you want your child to attend.

Alex Frith is back in Byron after decades of work in London circuses. He teaches a three-hour super fun slapstick workshop for children 8–15yrs, which ends with a short demo/performance… and will definitely involve some good ol’ pie throwing.

We also have Madeleine West of Neighbours fame running Theatresports workshops on Saturday where the students will experience fun, thinking on their feet, improvisation, pressure – and lots of laughing. Theatresports builds skills in confidence and teamwork, both of which you will see in their Sunday Theatresports performance.

Rebel Bingo is our festival surprise packet. A mix of standup comedy with a game of bingo, add a dance class, and take away the bingo wheel, equals ReBeL BiNgO! Say whaaat? Forget everything you know about Bingo and just get everyone you know to come along… young and old, you’ll love it.

What should we expect from this year’s event?

A well curated lineup, your belly full of great food designed by renowned chef Shannon Bennett, and made by The ByronBay General Store, beautiful drinks brought to you by Brookie’s Gin, Hidden Sea wine and Byron Bay Brewery, and the best view in town!

Tickets are on sale now for Byron Bay Comedy Festival, 13–16 May 2021. Go to byroncomedyfest.com.

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