Ahead of the official NZ International Comedy Festival programme launch next week, TimeOut got a sneak peek at some of the stars who will be heading here to make us laugh during April and May.

One of the hottest - and certainly one of the strangest - on the bill is Dr Brown, the on-stage persona of British-based American funnyman Philip Burgers.

Last year he won the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award, the supreme gong at Scotland's famous festival, with his show Befrdfgth, which he also brings to the New Zealand festival.

Similar to our own Boy With the Tape On His Face, the mad doctor is more of a clown than a comedian and his show is silent, with his absurdist mime and bewildering antics.


He will also be performing his kids' show, Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and his Singing Tiger.

As the festival programme says: "Doctor Brown goes to strange places, turns left and then goes even stranger."

This year's festival has attracted not only Brown, but two other Edinburgh Comedy Award nominees. British comedian Josie Long returns to New Zealand following her star turn, albeit a trippy and whimsical one, at the 2010 festival, and fellow Brit stand-up James Acaster will be performing his Edinburgh show, Prompt.

Dr Brown, Long and Acaster join the likes of first time visitor Tom Green (below right), who you might remember as Drew Barrymore's husband (for a very short time) and her love interest in Charlie's Angels. He started doing stand-up only two years ago but he started making a name for himself on MTV in the 90s on The Tom Green Show, a brainless and puerile, but funny and entertaining series, full of stupid stunts and shock humour.

Other first time visitors also include up-front and subversive American Margaret Cho with her show Mother, which offers up a not-so-traditional look at motherhood, South African Trevor Noah's The Racist offers a fascinating and funny insight into the "racial pecking order", and familiar British comedy face Jack Dee will share some of his colourful stories and deadpan wit for his show An Evening With Jack Dee.

Meanwhile, as an entree to the festival, on Wednesday next week this year's Billy T award nominees - the new generation of Kiwi comedy talent - will perform as part of the Billy T Jams at 8pm at Q Theatre in Queen St. The nominees include Rose "hopefully funny and entertaining" Matafeo and Eli Matthewson, a nominee for Best Newcomer at last year's festival.

The comedy festival programme is out on Wednesday, when more big name acts will be announced. For more info go to comedyfestival.co.nz.