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 (6th October), Al-Habib was presented with his prize by Aurie Styla.
The organisers say: "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, Bromsgrove, 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. "I learned that if you're funny, they can't make fun of you", he said.
He "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", he says. "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."
Opening the night, Yates, from Malvern, Worcestershire, found dark humour in co-habiting and the differences between humans and animals; Newcastle-under-Lyme-based Reynolds delved into their insecurities, transition, and unexpected product placements in dramas; Birmingham's Baker recalled an ill-timed drug trip and an Aqualand mishap; while Brummie Bingham 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."
A collaboration between the award-winning arts festival and The Glee Club, the 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. Nominated acts are selected by a panel of comedy professionals based on their performances over the last 12 months. Previous winners have included Josh Pugh, Celya AB and Andrew McBurney.