So what are the Mooseheads Awards? It all started in 1987 as a way of remembering Brian McCarthy – a comedian, actor and fringe comedy producer who was tragically killed at the age of 23 in a car accident. He died on the way home from the opening of the Spoleto Fringe (which is known as the Melbourne Fringe Festival) at the Collingwood Town Hall. Brian was the youngest of seven children to Irish immigrant parents. He studied drama at Rusden, which at the time was a teachers college that was really happening. He was one of the pioneers of Theatresports in Melbourne and appeared regularly on the ABC TV series Theatresports. Brian was a motivator as well as a performer, someone who pulled together the core elements of fringe comedy and performance into nights and events where anything went as long as it was new and interesting.
A lot of people ask where the name Moosehead came from? Moosehead was chosen, as it was the name of Brian’s favourite beer at the time. Our official name is the Brian McCarthy Moosehead Awards, but it's now commonly known as simply the Mooseheads.
The Mooseheads are about funding shows and artists that are exciting and different. We want to get behind an idea and love it a bit more because it is mental and overly ambitious. We try to find new playgrounds for working comedians and performers by spotlighting an idea rather than just turning out another show. To put it simply, the Moosehead are a really cool award. And when we say award, it’s more like a grant. Successful applications are called recipients of the grant. We don’t provide cash; rather we provide a comprehensive support package to help get your show up and running.
How does it work? It’s run by us - the Moosehead Committee - we are comedians, producers and friends of Brian McCarthy. We get inundated each year with submissions from around Australia. From these, we can choose anywhere from two, three or even four recipients that will be granted assistance to produce their show each year as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We have a keen eye and great track record of picking the most interesting shows of the festival.
And if that wasn’t enough, since 2006, we have teamed up a successful partnership with The Comedy Channel on FOXTEL. They fund The Comedy Channel Director’s Grant, which supports engaging a director for each of the Moosehead Award Recipients. We love having The Comedy Channel on board as it fosters our commitment to expanding the horizons for Australian comedians.
By providing the Moosehead Award, we want to give you (the artist) the ability to extend your creatively even further and give you more time just to focus on your show. The Moosehead are funded solely through a Benefit show, which is on the last night each year of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It’s a landmark event on the comedy calendar (and for those in the know) and features a top secret bill of local and international comedians.
Now in its 30th year, the Moosehead has supported, encouraged and nurtured over sixty acts since 1987.