RAW Comedy Judging Policy

The Judges’ Objective

The overriding aim of RAW Comedy is to uncover and support new performers with the potential to make a sincere contribution to the artform and the industry, in the years ahead.

Some entrants will have had more stage time than others and therefore will be better ‘performers’, but we aren’t concerned if they are a little nervous or they forget the next line. Who looks like they could have a career in comedy? Who could be a possible star of the future? Who could go on to present new, innovative and exciting comedy in the years to come?

Who are the judges? What are they looking for?

The judges are invited by the local presenter putting on the gig. They are drawn from industry, performers, media, and other local identities.

There is no formal, structured way of “marking” or “scoring”. Judges are instructed to identify performers with potential for creative achievement.

Some of the things they look out for are quality and originality of material, performance skills and audience response.

The judging pro-forma

The judging pro-forma is part of this policy. It makes some specific notes on what judges look for. Judges don’t rely on precise numerical scores; they make qualitative notes, for discussion amongst themselves, considering each act in the context of the whole night they’ve just seen, to pick a “winner”.

Judging comedy is really subjective

The Comedy Festival, judges, contestants and audiences need to recognise that no creative endeavour can be precisely “measured” to be “best”. Judges make a subjective – although final – decision informed by their own experiences in the artform and industry.

Deal-breakers: what’s absolutely not on

  • Doing material that the contestant didn’t write.
  • Material that is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise seriously offends the sensibilities of the audience. 

Complaints and queries

Judges will only discuss their decisions with the responsible Comedy Festival staff members or representative.

RAW Comedy contestants and audiences are invited to contact the Comedy Festival office to discuss judges’ decisions. It is not appropriate to enter into discussion with judges themselves at a heat, where they have so generously volunteered their time.

Judges Say

We asked regular RAW Comedy judges from around the country (so-called "Hanging Judges") to nominate their favourite Do's and/or Don'ts of RAW Comedy. Here's what they said:

The Do's

1. Always prepare your show. No matter how off-the-cuff you might usually be, preparation/rehearsal compensates for any stage jitters. Preparation also indicates commitment - which bodes well with the judges. It shows.

2. If possible, try to see some RAW Comedy heats before your own. Often, there are trends in material so, if you see a trend emerging, then you can steer away from it in your own set. Repetition is boring and, of course, unoriginal.

3. Use the stage to your advantage rather than hiding in the corner (unless that's your schtick). This is your time to shine so command attention by opening up to the audience, engaging with them (look out at them) and using the mic correctly (a muffled voice means they literally can't hear you).

4. Hit the ground running. You only have five minutes to make an impression so don't go saving your best until last or leading up to it with a long, drawn-out story. Get the audience and the judges on-side - immediately!

The Don'ts

1. Don't abuse the audience (or the judges), especially if your set's going badly. Unlikeable comedians don't wash. If you're falling short of the five minute mark and you don't have enough material, just cut it short. It's better to bow out gracefully than disgracefully.

2. Don't imitate or steal material from others. While you think it is unlikely the judges will pick up on this, they most certainly will! Dave Hughes has been successful because nobody else is Dave Hughes. Be yourself.

3. Don't step on your own punchlines. If a joke has gone well, give it time to breathe - let the audience laugh before moving on. Similarly, if the joke has not gone well, move on quickly! Good timing is very important.

4. Don't be vulgar for the sake of a cheap joke. While there's still room for profanity and rude jokes, you need to be clever to pull off something new. The audience has heard every sex joke before - don't be groan-worthy! Also, there's a very fine-line between funny and just plain offensive.

5. If you've been in RAW Comedy before, don't use old material from previous years. The judges will be trying to gauge whether you have the 'legs' to go onto bigger and better things. Show them you're more than a one-joke wonder!


Judges Tips

Judges Top 10 Comedy Tips

1. Watch a lot of new comedy before going onstage – especially local stuff. Are people often stepping on your material? Each year so many comedians talk Tinder, gluten, vegans and hipsters. Your bit might be funny to the audience, but the judges will have likely heard that topic a bunch of times, so they may not think it's original. If you're going talk about something well-worn or cliché, try and make it original somehow, or find some other ideas.

2. Don't waste your time onstage. Phrases like "A little about me..." or "what else have I got for you?" can drag your set down. Get to the point quicker.

3. Don't pad out your set. Four minutes of strong stuff is better than a full five minutes with filler.

4. Think about your body language and stage presence. Are you fidgeting? Are you standing in the back corner? Can you make us laugh with your face/body as well? How do you change up your voice? Can you pause and build tension? 

5. Tell us your story. Talk about what you want to talk about – not just what you think will get a laugh. A lot of comedians pander to what they think audiences like. Everyone has a unique, interesting angle – remember, we're looking for an original voice. 

6. Many RAW Comedy contestants freak out about stuff that the judges don't care about. Big deal if you're so nervous that you forget your lines and need to check notes. You're new to it and that stuff is fixable. We're looking for potential not perfection.

7. Self-deprecation is fine but many lines are becoming cliché. "So I'm single", "I'm so lonely" etc. The judges hear a lot of cheap jokes. You won't stand out if you're going for cheap.

8. First impressions count. The first 30 seconds are vital and the judges may pigeonhole you based on your opening. Do you open with a wanking joke? They may think "Here we go again". If you plan to talk about some dirty stuff, start with a softer joke and ease us into it.  

9. It's really hard to get through if your material is crude or potentially offensive. You have to do it well and not many can at the open mic level. If you can somehow make it funny then that's awesome, but be warned.

10. Have fun. It is comedy after all.