The country's top comedians face the challenge of finding the funny in Covid-19 when the International Comedy Festival returns this May.
The festival has today unveiled its line-up, with more than 80 events spread across four weeks that will see dozens of comedians taking to stages throughout Auckland and Wellington.
It's a much-needed boost to the local comedy industry, which was dealt a massive blow when last year's festival was cancelled due to lockdown.
And those comedians get to take centre stage, as border closures mean the "international" part of the festival is on hold for now.
Comedy Festival general manager Lauren Whitney said that while they hope to bring international comedians back in the future, this is a special opportunity to celebrate New Zealand's comedic talent.
"Aotearoa has a really interesting range of voices and comedy styles, and we are in a position where we can hold our own, we can celebrate our voices in a festival."
The packed programme features multiple Billy T and Fred Award winners, including Guy Williams, Melanie Bracewell, Angella Dravid, Chris Parker and Rhys Matthewson, alongside fan favourites Tom Sainsbury, Pax Assadi, Two Hearts and Michelle A'Court - while TV regular Justine Smith will host the Best Foods Comedy Gala that kicks off the festival.
Last year's Billy T nominees have carried over to this year, with Brynley Stent, James Mustapic, Josh Davies and Lana Walters competing for the prestigious prize for up and coming talent.
The festival's cancellation last year means James Nokise has been the reigning Fred Award winner for two years now. While he wouldn't mind extending that title out to a third year with his new show, Let It Out, the main aim for this year's festival is simply to get back on stage after losing countless bookings during lockdown last year.
"People taking being a live performer for granted. It's a privilege to perform to live audiences, and to see a packed bar beforehand that then turns into a packed venue.
"It's a relief we are moving forward and are getting back on stage, because many countries aren't in that position yet."
While many comedians may wish to avoid discussing Covid-19, Nokise said that lockdown was a traumatic time, and it has been cathartic to write about it for his show and "find the joy" in his experiences of the last year.
The Comedy Trust that runs the festival is looking to ease any potential emotional or financial distress that comes with alert level changes. All shows will be sold at a level 2 capacity until a week before they are due to begin, to avoid any losses that would come with having to cancel or scale back performances.
"The risk of going out of level one is there all the time, and it's quite a stressful world to exist in, and we wanted to provide as much stability as we could for comedians and venues and audiences," Whitney said.
Having to cancel the 2020 festival was a hard decision that saw countless comedians have to throw out the shows they had been working on, but Whitney said there was never any doubt about bringing it back for 2021.
"There are lots of artists with lots of say right now, and they are just ready to get back on stage."
• The New Zealand International Comedy Festival runs from April 30 to May 23. Tickets go on sale from midday today. The full programme is available at www.comedyfestival.co.nz