A KENDAL funnyman has reached the final of a comedy competition which helped launch the careers of Peter Kay and Russell Howard.

Pete Otway is one of only six people out of 800 to reach the last stages of the BBC’s New Comedy Awards 2012, which aims to find the UK’s new stand-up talent.

The 23-year-old, who now lives in Manchester, quit his bar job in the summer to become a full-time comedian after realising he had a knack for making people laugh.

He now earns his living by gigging up and down the country – sometimes five nights a week – and is thrilled to have made it to the final.

Pete, who auditioned for the competition in August, said: “I’m really happy. It’s quite a shock because the standard has been so high all the way through so I’m really pleased.”

The former Liverpool John Moores University student has been doing stand-up for two-and-a-half years and performed at clubs in the city.

“It’s notorious for being a tough place to gig. I started going to a comedy club and it just went from there,” he said.

“I always wanted to give it a go, but I didn’t think I would ever look at it as a career. It’s going well, it’s been exciting if a little bit tense at times.

“I didn’t realise how big the comedy circuit was.”

The final will take place in front of a 1,000-strong audience at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre on Monday.

Hosted by comedian Patrick Kielty, the hour-long show will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and be available to watch on interactive television via the red button.

Although a judging panel will be present, the public will vote for the winner.

Pete said: “Last year they had two million people listening on the radio and half a million watching on TV.

“I’m just going to concentrate on the audience in front of me because if I think about how many people might be listening, I don’t think I would be able to do it!”

The enthusiastic performer recently completed 16 gigs in 17 nights and has taken to the stage at London’s famous Comedy Store, the Isle of Wight Festival and Kendal Calling.

“It’s amazing, especially something like the other night when there were 500 people in this club in Newcastle. The build-up is very nerve-wracking, but there is nothing like the buzz I get from it.”

Pete, who has done work experience at The Westmorland Gazette, described his material as ‘anecdotal comedy’ and said he counted Mock The Week frontman Dara O Briain among his favourite comedians.

However, he is yet to perform in his home town.

“I have purposely stayed away!” he quipped.

“I haven’t really had the opportunity to do it. I’m sure it will happen, but I haven’t really gone looking for it.”