Mandy Nolan is starting her own festival, The Byron Bay Comedy Festival.
Mandy Nolan is starting her own festival, The Byron Bay Comedy Festival.

Mandy Nolan's new comedy venture

SHE is unstoppable. Mandy Nolan is possibly the busiest person on the North Coast.

When she isn’t mothering a brood of five children, she is running comedy workshops for people with dementia.

Then there are the five comedy rooms she runs from the Gold Coast to Lismore. Yet still, Mandy’s passion for comedy has now been taken to a new level.

She is starting her own festival, The Byron Bay Comedy Festival.

Mandy caught up with us to share ‘her new baby’.

You have been promoting comedy in the Northern Rivers for 15 years. Why the Byron Bay Comedy Festival now?

In all honesty I haven’t been ready to do anything in Byron until now. I have two great event partners: fellow comedian Ellen Briggs and Glenn Wright (of Mullum Music Festival). I really want to use everything I’ve learnt from my years as a comic and as a promoter and as a believer in grassroots community events to create a sustainable, low-key but international profile festival. This area is such a cultural hot spot I think that it’s really only a matter of time before someone fronted with a Byron Comedy Festival. It just happens to be me.

What can we expect?

You can expect a lot of laughs. With the programming we are going for musical acts, cabaret, vaudeville, magic, freakshow and stand up. It won’t just be a stand up comedy festival. I think over a short period that people fatigue too easily from stand up as you can’t watch 10 hours of continuous stand up ... not even I can do that. It will be about diversity and with fringe events alongside mainstream. We are very close to pulling a big international act at the moment. Can’t say who, but it’s very exciting!

Will it be just another ‘stand-up’ gig?

No way. It’s going to be full of every sort of freak I can find, but only freaks of the highest calibre! I am currently working with an international promoter bringing English and American comics through Asia to Australia. I have a gig on September 28 at the Byron RSL which is a bit of a taster of the kind of quality people can expect. I am starting of a kids’ comedy school early October so that by the time the festival hits next year we will have a bunch of kids able to run a kids’ comedy club.

Where will it be held and what about ticket prices?

Haven’t set ticket prices yet but some shows will be free, others will be $10 and others may be $30. You buy your ticket per show so you only pay to go see what you want to see. We won’t do season passes. There will be street theatre in Railway Park and comedy on the street.

Can Byron Shire take another festival, albeit a comedy festival?

I can’t really answer about the Byron Shire taking another festival. I honestly think we can take creative arts events because that’s part of the brand. What the Byron Shire can’t take, in my opinion, is another mega ugly franchise. We want to celebrate uniqueness, diversity and humour. Our festival is small. It will always be small. It’s really for people who can get in their car and drive here. People don’t camp on the beaches to come to a comedy festival. If they bother to drive here from out of town they’ll book a nice hotel and make a weekend of it. Patrons are across the board, but tend to be women about 30 plus. They shop. They eat. They take it easy. I think the shire can handle that.

In the lead up to the festival you will be conducting Funny Kids comedy workshops. Please explain.

Ah, yes. My grand plan. To make other peoples’ children as precocious as mine! I am running workshops or actually an ongoing comedy school for kids. Tuesdays from 4-5pm at the Byron Community Centre. I want to train up kids in stand up. It’s amazing to see the confidence levels. One parent of a child commented: “Who would think that the eight-year-old boy on stage at the Currumbin RSL Club telling jokes, a year ago was a shy introverted child...”

For more information on the festival and kids’ comedy workshops, email

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