Durban - THE Nando’s Durbs Comedy Festival kicks off in a week and boasts a solid line-up of top international comedians.

Brian Haner, Finess Mitchell, Tom Segura, Mitch Fatel, Christina Paszitsky and Ian Bagg have all been bagged for the gig, alongside local comedy giant, David Kau.

This year the annual shindig moves venues and is to take place at The Playhouse. Tonight caught up with the event organiser and CEO of Hunta Live, Sam Hendrikse, to find out more about this year’s fest, the line-up and the new venue.

He said the Nando’s Durbs Comedy Festival brand has seen steady growth over the years and this year will see the addition of the Nando’s Soweto Comedy Festival, in addition to the Cape Town and Joburg legs of the event.

“When this festival started, not many international comedians had been to Africa. We’ve now booked more than 200 international comedians for the festival.”

Commenting on this year’s acts, Hendrikse said they booked comedians based on the recommendations of other international acts who have performed here, booking agents and the comics’ availability.

“When it comes to the Nando’s Comedy Festival, we have always over-delivered for the audience because we try to enhance their comedy experience,” he said, explaining that this was one of the main reasons for the move to a theatre this year – also the case in with the Joburg and Cape Town venues.

“If, for example, we wanted to book a comedy magic act, a theatre is more creatively accommodating. And we found we can generally offer more to audiences in Cape Town and Joburg in a theatre environment.

“So this year, instead of doing three nights at the ICC in Durban, we’ll do five or six nights at the Opera Theatre (The Playhouse),” said Hendrikse.

A major drawcard for the festival is the Comedy Showdown, which is sponsored by Graça – a regional-level competition where local comedians compete for a spot on the Nando’s stage in their respective city.

“What started off at the Fresh Faces of Comedy 15 years ago has become the Comedy Showdown where we try to create a platform to discover the ‘next big thing’ in comedy. David Kau, who is on the line-up this year, appeared in the then-Fresh Faces of Comedy. So a lot of these guys who are big in the industry today came from these kinds of platforms,” explained Hendrikse.

The local leg of the Graça Comedy Showdown began last week with six local comedians making it through to the next round, Liam Johns, Dusty Rich and JD Bauer being at the top of the pile.

Bauer, 19, began his career at just 16 when he performed during a series of Bruinos Only comedy shows, which is also when he was tipped to be Durban’s youngest comedian. After a short stint on SA’s Got Talent, he disappeared from the comedy scene and focused on completing his matric. But it seems he’s back with a bang.

In a statement, the Durban Society of Comedy says the final takes place tonight at the Havana Grill at Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World where the six finalists will compete for their spot on the Nando’s Fest line-up. The showdown will be hosted by Glen Bo and headlined by Cape Town-based comedian Martin Evans. Tickets are R50 at Computicket.

• The Nando’s Durbs Comedy Fest is at The Playhouse Theatre, August 14 to 19. Tickets: R150 to R200 at Computicket. The Nando’s Jozi Comedy Fest, at The Teatro is at Montecasino, August 20 to 26. The Nando’s Soweto Comedy Fest is at The Walter Sisulu Square Hall, August 30 and September 1. The Nando’s Cape Town Comedy Fest is at Artscape Theatre, September 3 to 9.

Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect from some of the international acts coming to Durban:

• Best known as Guitar Guy from The Jeff Dunham Show, Brian Haner is that perfect combination of skilled guitar player and stand-up comedian.

• Comedian, actor, author and Essence Magazine columnist, Finesse Mitchell has been seen on the big screen in films such as Who’s Your Caddy?, The Comebacks, and Mad Money. Apart from being a regular |on E!’s Chelsea Lately, Finesse is a recurring guest on television on shows including The Today Show, TYRA, The Early Show, and others.

• Tom Segura is a comedian originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, whose credits include “Conan,” “Comedy Central Presents”, “Russell Peters Presents,” and “Live at Gotham!”

• Mitch Fatel is the number one requested comedian on Satellite Radio and has appeared numerous times on both the “Late Show with David Letterman” and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”

• Stand-Up comedian/writer Christina Pazsitzky is a series regular on Tru TV’s World’s Dumbest, you may have seen her as a roundtable regular on E!’s Chelsea Lately and will be seeing her in Showtime’s new Live From Amsterdam Series!

• Back by popular demand after killing it as host of the Nando’s Cape Town Festival in 2010, Ian Bagg is no stranger to comedy stages around the world.

Within three short years of starting doing stand up, he had made three appearances on NBC’s “The Conan O’Brien Show”, rocked HBO’s “Aspen Comedy Festival”, and destroyed “Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival”. He has made several appearances in independent movies and sitcoms and the likes of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, CBS’s “Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” and CBS’s “The Craig Ferguson Show”.

• One of the most sought-after comedians in South Africa, David Kau's name is synonymous with many firsts - including that performed at the first Nando’s Comedy Festival in 1998 (then called the Smirnoff Comedy Festival), becoming the first black stand-up comedian on this coveted comedy stage.