Billy T Award

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The Billy T Award is a New Zealand comedy award recognizing up-and-coming New Zealand comedians with outstanding potential. It has been presented annually since its inception in 1997 when Cal Wilson and Ewen Gilmour shared the award. The Billy T was shared between two comedians until 2001 when it became a solo award.[1]

The awards are an initiative of the New Zealand Comedy Trust to ‘foster and encourage outstanding New Zealand talent.'[2]

Billy T James[edit]

The Billy T Awards were named in honour of New Zealand comedian Billy T. James. The winner receives ‘the yellow towel’ in tribute to the towel worn by James in some of his most famous sketches.[1]


The winner is selected from five nominees performing during the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Five judges select a winner based on their proven comedic ability, talent, dedication and potential.[2]

Billy T Award: winners and nominees[edit]

2001 and 2002 nominee Rhys Darby
2004 winner Ben Hurley
Year Billy T recipient(s) Other nominees
1997 Cal Wilson
Ewen Gilmour
Mike King
Brendhan Lovegrove
Raybon Kan
1998 Brendhan Lovegrove
Radar (Andrew Lumsden)
Sugar and Spice (Jonathan Brugh and Jason Hoyte)
Philip Patston
Jaq Tweedie
1999 Philip Patston
The Humourbeasts (Jemaine Clement and Taika Cohen)
Paul Ego
Irene Pink
Jon Stubbs
2000 Mike Loder
Paul Ego
Jan Maree
Irene Pink
Benjamin Crellin
2001 Jan Maree Jeremy Elwood
Rhys Darby
Jon Stubbs
Benjamin Crellin
2002 Dai Henwood Rhys Darby
Tarun Mohanbhai
Benjamin Crellin
GARY (Brett O'Gorman, Jamie Bowen and Mick Andrews)
2003 Justine Smith Penny Ashton
Sully O'Sullivan
Benjamin Crellin
GARY (Brett O'Gorman, Jamie Bowen and Mick Andrews)
2004 Ben Hurley Cohen Holloway
Ezequiel Balmori
Jamie Bowen
Penny Ashton
2005 Sam Wills Cori Gonzalez-Macuer
Darren Jardine
James Nokise
Jo Randerson
2006 Cori Gonzalez-Macuer James Nokise
Jerome Chandrahasen
Cameron Blair
Gish (Justin Hansen)
2007 Mrs Peacock (Jarrod Baker and Dave Smith) Alex Hawley
Jamie Bowen
Grant Lobban
2008 Steve Wrigley Simon McKinney
Grant Lobban
The Lonesome Buckwhips
Jim Brown
2009 Chris Brain Jim Brown
James Keating
Vaughan King
Dave Wiggins
2010 Rhys Mathewson Jarred Fell
Clayton Carrick-Leslie
Vaughan King
TJ McDonald
2011 Nick Gibb Joseph Harper
Urzila Carlson
Nick Rado
Cameron Murray
2012 Guy Williams Tom Furniss
Rose Matafeo
Tevita Manukia
TJ McDonald
2013 Rose Matafeo Tom Furniss
Eli Matthewson
Pax Assadi
Joseph Moore
2014 Guy Montgomery Brendon Green
Jamaine Ross
Stephen Witt
Tim Batt
2015 Hamish Parkinson Eli Matthewson
Matt Stellingwerf
Nic Sampson
Tim Batt
2016 David Correos Alice Brine
James Malcolm
Laura Daniel
Matt Stellingwerf
2017 Angella Dravid Paul Williams
Li'i Alaimoana
Ray O'Leary
Patch Lambert[3]
2018 Melanie Bracewell Alice Snedden
Donna Brookbanks
James Malcolm
Two Hearts (Laura Daniel & Joseph Moore)[4]
2019 Kura Forrester Donna Brookbanks
James Mustapic
Ray Shipley
Tom Sainsbury[5]
2021 Brynley Stent Brynley Stent
James Mustapic
Josh Davies
Lana Walters[6]


In 2003, Mike Loder was blacklisted from the 2004 festival after sending fake congratulatory letters to nominees Sully O’Sullivan and Penny Ashton.[7] In 2005, Philip Patston, the 1999 winner who is gay and disabled, volunteered to give up his award in response to the rhetoric and policies of the National Party under Don Brash.[8]


  • Rose Matafeo is the youngest recipient of the award at age 19.
  • Benjamin Crellin (2000–03) and Jamie Bowen (2002–04, 2007) share the record for most nominations (four).


  1. ^ a b NZ On Air, Press Release: ‘New Zealand Laughs On Air’ 23/4/02.
  2. ^ a b NZ International Comedy festival, Press Release: ‘2007 Billy T Nominees’ 16/1/2007
  3. ^ "Finalists for the 2017 Billy T Award have been announced". Stuff. Fairfax Media. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  4. ^ Minards-Black, Charlotte. "Congratulations to the 2018 Billy T Award nominees". Facebook. NZ International Comedy Festival. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Billy T Nominees for 2020 Announced". Retrieved 17 April 2020.
  7. ^ Richardson, Amie, ‘Prank-pulling comedian finds the joke’s on him,’ (Sunday tar Times: 1/6/03)
  8. ^, press release: ‘Eradicate me: gay and disabled comedian,’ 30/10/05.