2009 National Grand Final

On Tuesday 15 September, at the Malthouse Theatre, 13 of the nation's sharpest school aged comic acts (16 teens in total) battled it out in front of a sold-out crowd at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's Class Clowns National Grand Final for their chance to be crowned the most hilarious teen act in the country.

The top prize was awarded to Sydney comedian Neel Kolhatkar (pictured below), who not only walked away with a novelty human-sized cheque, but also pocketed $1000 in cash plus another $1000 for his school, Caringbah High School.

Judges Colin Lane (of Lano and Woodley fame), comedian Wes Snelling, Councillor Cathy Oke (City of Melbourne) and Gideon James from the Melbourne Comedy Festival were impressed by the Year 10 student's musings on turning the TV show Bondi Vet into Broadmeadows Vet and his take on violence against Indians. Runner Up was awarded to 'Limbo', aka Ray Lawrence and Michael White from St Bernard's College in Melbourne.

Judge Wes Snelling said that some of the up-and-comers he saw today could put the pros to shame: "The standard was very high and it's comforting and exciting to see comedy that's so fresh, original, tight but most of all, hilarious," he said.

Emcee Dave Callan said: "I was loving it this year from the side of stage. This means two things for me - one, I kept forgetting I was emcee as I was getting lost in the LOLs; and two, it lit a fire under my arse to write better material myself."

Class Clowns is a national secondary school comedy competition and workshop programme run by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Class Clowns holds workshops and performances in every capital city and important regional areas, bringing the funniest school aged acts to Melbourne for the spectacular National Grand Final.

Since March this year, the Festival has been tracking a rare breed of teen - witty, smart, in Years 9 to 12, willing to perform five minutes of original comic material in front of a crowd, and most importantly, they had to be freakin' hilarious.

After a series of heats, finals, semi finals and state finals across the country, the cream of the teenage crop was flown (or driven) to Melbourne to compete in the National Grand Final.

Since its inception in 1996, Class Clowns has been developing the art of comedy amongst the nation's teenage comics from Darwin to Hobart, Perth to Launceston and in over 20 centres in between. The competition is supported by teachers' notes and online resources, as well as yearround developmental and professional workshops.

Class Clowns alumni include Tom Ballard (Triple J), Josh Thomas (Talkin' Bout My Generation), Danny McGinlay, and Kynan Barker (writer for Rove)

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