• 2018 Deadly Funny winner Leon Filewood. (Jim Lee Photo)Source: Jim Lee Photo
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyer Leon Filewood was the wildcard contestant in the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival competition.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

17 Apr 2018 - 9:28 AM  UPDATED 17 Apr 2018 - 9:28 AM

Law is a far cry from comedy, but for Leon Filewood it has been his life - that is until Saturday when he was announced as winner of the 2018 Deadly Funny comedy competition.

Deadly Funny is part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival and gives a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contestants from around the country the opportunity to be mentored by some of the biggest Indigenous names in comedy.

The workshops are followed by a community performance, from which a winner is selected.

This year, Mr Filewood and 11 other contestents were flown to Melbourne to be mentored by established comedians Andy Saunders, Kevin Kropinyeri, Sean Choolburra, Shiralee Hood, and Stephanie Tisdell.

“The reality is I didn’t go there to win,” Mr Filewood told NITV News.

"I didn’t see it as a competition, I saw it as an opportunity to go and learn about how things work, to get mentored, to figure out what the comedy space is all about."

Mr Filewood is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man. His Aboriginal heritage includes Kokomini, Kuku Yalanji and Girrmay.

He studied law originally to pave the way towards a career in politics, and to inspire his community.

"It was such a far fetched thing that I could be a lawyer. Looking at my peers and my community where I grew up on Thursday Island... you don't have and lawyers or those sorts of professions," he said.

"So I thought there's a couple of reasons I was to try for this. One, because I want to get into parliament, and two, if I can achieve it then these fullas here will think 'hey if this fulla can do it then we can too'."

"So you're sort of trying to inspire the community."

Although he enjoys his work, Mr Filewood also needed to nurture his creativity and began reading up on comedy.

"The law is a very conservative profession. There's not really any space for creativity of any sort really. Unless you're trying to craft a particular submission or an argument," he said.

Although unsuccessful in the Brisbane final of Deadly Funny, he kept trying, performing at any Brisbane open mic nights that he could find.

It was his persistence and a phone call from his unofficial mentor Steph Tisdell to Deadly Funny event organiser Wes Snelling that got him a wild card entry.

"It didn't hurt that she saw that I was trying, going to open mics and whatnot so she put in a good word with Wes to say look this fulla is legit, he is trying to get more experience, this is what he's doing," Mr Filewood said.

"Wes called me about three weeks ago saying would you like a wild card and of course I said hell yeah."

Other contestants included Dion Williams, Dora Smith, Elaine Crombie, June Mills, Kimberly Lovegrove, Kylene Anderson, Ky Ambrum, Maggie Walsh, Michael Naawi, Richie Fejo and William Makin.

“I thought we all deserved to win and I felt sad that they were going to name a winner. I was thinking man, we’ve all done so well we all need to be proud of it, why does there have to be a winner?” Mr Filewood said.

But when his name was called and he was handed a giant $2000 cheque and a trophy, Mr Filewood simply couldn’t believe it.

“I was just in shock,” he said.

NITV will be broadcasting the competition later this year.