British Iraqi comedian Hasan Al-Habib wins top Birmingham Comedy prize

Hasan Al-Habib has been crowned the winner of the Breaking Talent Award at Birmingham Comedy Festival 2023
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Comedian Hasan Al-Habib has been announced as the winner of the Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award 2023.

Performing in front of a sell-out crowd at Birmingham’s The Glee Club on Friday night (October 6), Hasan was presented with their prize by comedian Aurie Styla. The award show officially launched the 2023 festival.

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A confident and intelligent performer with a skill for voices, Hasan’s set saw him recall school racism, ponder an Iraq version of Mamma Mia, media scare stories, and how not everyone knows what oncology is.

Born in London, Hasan moved to Lickey Hills, on the outskirts of Birmingham, at the age of two. Finding himself bullied at school in the wake of 9/11 for being Muslim (and also for supporting Liverpool FC) he discovered comedy could be a formidable defence.

Hasan Al-Habib from the Lickey Hills wins Birmingham Comedy Festival’s Breaking Talent Award 2023 Hasan Al-Habib from the Lickey Hills wins Birmingham Comedy Festival’s Breaking Talent Award 2023
Hasan Al-Habib from the Lickey Hills wins Birmingham Comedy Festival’s Breaking Talent Award 2023

“I learned that if you’re funny, they can’t make fun of you,” he said. Hasan “got to know the basics” of stand-up while performing to university friends and was shortlisted for the Chortle Student Comedy Award 2022. Moving to London last year, he’s a civil servant, but is eager to find where comedy will take him.

“I want to see what I can achieve, I want to try,” he said. “I love stand-up, but I want to try acting too – I’d love to do comic acting. Sometimes I have ideas and I can’t expand them on stage, they need others, so I’d love to do a sitcom, to write. Documentaries as well! I liked the idea of me, as a British Iraqi comedian, doing a documentary about going to Iraq – Iraqi culture has such a heavy emphasis on humour.”

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The rising comedian beat off stiff competition from four other emerging acts from the West Midlands: Chris Yates, Josh Reynolds, Rachel Baker and Joe Bingham.

Opening the night, Chris, from Malvern, Worcestershire, found dark humour in co-habiting and the differences between humans and animals; Newcastle-under-Lyme-based Josh delved into their insecurities, transition, and unexpected product placements in dramas; Birmingham’s Rachel recalled an ill-timed drug trip and an Aqualand mishap; while Brummie Joe canvassed those around him on why he was still single, and looked back to how he was raised.

A spokesperson for the festival said: "All the acts did brilliantly - really underlining the exceptional comedy talent here in the region. But Hasan stood out. Clearly a man of many talents, his material, delivery and his stage presence were all strong. We can’t wait to see what direction his comedy takes him.”

Hannah Weetman wins Breaking Talent Award at the Birmingham Comedy FestivalHannah Weetman wins Breaking Talent Award at the Birmingham Comedy Festival
Hannah Weetman wins Breaking Talent Award at the Birmingham Comedy Festival

Previous winners and participants have included:

A collaboration between the award-winning arts festival and The Glee Club, the prestigious Birmingham Comedy Festival Breaking Talent Award was set up in 2014 to recognise and support emerging comedic talent from the city and wider West Midlands.

  • Josh Pugh (Mock The Week, Dave Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee) - winner
  • Celya AB (BBC Comedy Award nominee, Live At The Apollo) - winner
  • Andrew McBurney (Gary Powndland and Friends) - winner
  • Lindsey Santoro (NextUp’s Biggest Award In Comedy 2023) - participant
  • Eric Rushton (Channel 4 Sean Lock Comedy Award 2023) - participant and
  • Jack ‘Gary Powndland’ Kirwan - participant.
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2022’s winner was Hannah Weetman, from Castle Bromwich. Nominated acts are selected by a panel of comedy professionals based on their performances over the last 12 months.

What else is happening at Birmingham Comedy Awards 2023?

2023’s event was supported by The Arcadian, with What’s On Magazine and NextUp Comedy, with a judging panel that included representatives from The Glee Club, NextUp Comedy and the festival.

The city-wide Birmingham Comedy Festival opened on Friday (October 6) with the award along with appearances from Tom Davis, Seann Walsh and Josh Jones.

It continues until Sunday 15 October 2023 with shows from Jenny Eclair, Josh Pugh, Jack Skipper, Rhys James, Paul Foot, Eshaan Akbar, Norman Lovett, and Lindsey Santoro, plus a celebration of The Goon Show, Laurel and Hardy screenings, improv, magic, and more. For full listings and more information, see: bhamcomfest.co.uk

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