New Act of the Year comedy finals hope to uncover the next Russell Brand or Eddie Izzard

Vinegar - Katie (left), Samantha and Harriet.

Vinegar - Katie (left), Samantha and Harriet. - Credit: Archant

A “warped” women’s sketch group and a former Covent Garden street performer are yearning to make it big in the comedy world this Sunday, after making it through to the final of a prestigious competition which boasts Eddie Izzard, Matt Lucas and Russell Brand as past competitors.

Pete Dobbing

Pete Dobbing - Credit: Archant

Established in 1982, the New Act of The Year showcase has also helped the likes of Alistair McGowan, Harry Hill and Alan Davies establish themselves in the industry.

Previously known as The Hackney Empire New Act of the Year, this is the fourth year the show will not be performed in the theatre that it used to be named after.

While over 150 acts auditioned from all over the UK, just two wannabes from Hackney have made it through to the final 15.

Pete Dobbing who grew up near Victoria Park, where he performed in school plays at Lauriston primary school and Stoke Newington secondary school has always been into performing.

After studying drama at university he became a street performer in Covent Garden and travelled the world doing a show interspersed with circus tricks and jokes.

He found he was “talking more and more and doing fewer and fewer actual tricks”, and four years ago he began trying to get to grips with stand up.

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He said he is honoured to be one of the finalists: “I’m really excited to have been selected to perform at the final of the competition, at the Bloomsbury although I would have liked to perform at the Hackney Empire as I used to watch “Smiley’s Cut Price Comedy Club” there when I was a teenager.

“I generally talk about things I’m interested in, at the moment I’m talking a lot about technology, I think we’re living in a really interesting time and I’m fascinated by how things that seem totally modern and hi tech will seem mundane and irrelevant in just a couple of years.”

Meanwhile, Guardian and Grazia journalist Katie Burnetts is one third of sketch act Vinegar along with actresses Samantha Baines and Harriet Fisher, performing offbeat sketches about current affairs.

Ms Burnetts who lives in South Hackney off Mare Street said their material is taken from a “warped” perspective.

“We are trying to break down boundaries, but it’s also self-referential because we realise we aren’t breaking any boundaries, we are saying look how edgy we are being while not being edgy at all,” said the 29-year old.

“We did a show called On The Edge which was about being edgy, because every comedy group out there is trying to be a bit more edgier than the other.

“What we’re hoping to get out of this is a little bit more recognition in the industry, to meet more people, and to raise our profile.”

“Grumpy Old Man” Arthur Smith will host the final in the Bloomsbury Theatre as each act performs a five minute routine, from a range of styles which go across the comedy spectrum, from musical, sketch, poetry and novelty to stand-up.

The final takes place at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street next Sunday January 26 at 7pm.

Tickets cost £12.50 or £10 for concessions. Call 020 7388 8822 or see