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A rite of passage for New Zealand comedians is heating up in Central Otago and Wanaka.

RAW Comedy Quest, the country’s largest open mic competition and launching pad for career funny people such as Urzila Carlson, Jamaine Ross and Justine Smith, is holding heats in both Clyde and Wanaka next month.

In the competition, comedy rookies — those with less than three years’ experience — take to the stage for five minutes of stand-up.
The lower South Island heats are a collaboration between Remarkably Funny, Dunedin Comedy and Invercargill based comedy veteran Terry Frisby.
Remarkably Funny spokesman and comedian Tim Muller said he was hoping the competition would spark an interest in comedy in the region.
Remarkably Funny . . . Comedian and Remarkably Funny spokesman Tim Muller is on the hunt for a new breed of stand-up comedians in Central Otago
Mr Muller  founded Remarkably Funny which kick-started the comedy scene in Queenstown three years ago.
‘‘[Remarkably Funny] have been going for about three years and started pretty much from scratch in Queenstown with our open mic nights at Yonder.
Things took off and now we’ve got 20 to 30 regular comedians, so there’s lots of really good talent,’’ Mr Mulller said.
The Otago leg of the competition has grown from a single heat in Queenstown to include nine shows in five towns and cities in this year’s edition.
The competition then progresses through semifinals in Dunedin and Wanaka to the regional final in Queenstown, where the winner will be selected to progress to the national final in Auckland.
Mr Muller said if there were enough people interested in entering who had never done stand-up before Remarkably Funny could run a workshop to help them get started.
‘‘We definitely don’t want people to feel it’s exclusive — it’s open to anyone who enjoys making people laugh.’’
Queenstown mural artist Maggie Rogers won the 2020 RAW Otago heats Dunedin and went on to compete in the national finals in Auckland.
The competition led her to see comedy as something she could do as more than a hobby.
Her advice for those wanting to give stand-up a try was to be authentic.
‘‘People starting out in comedy think they need to have big stories, but just go out and tell something that’s authentic, that’s happened in your own life and if you find it funny, other people will find it funny, too.’’
The RAW Comedy Heats are being held in Wanaka on July 21 and in Clyde on July 30. Prospective performers can sign up at www.southcomedy.co.nz