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USyd students make it big on the small screen

University of Sydney students are set to star on John Conway Tonight, ABC2’s newest answer to the absence of an Australian Jimmy Fallon.

The team at John Conway Tonight. Image: GNWTV The team at John Conway Tonight. Image: GNWTV

University of Sydney students are set to star on John Conway Tonight, ABC2’s newest answer to the absence of an Australian Jimmy Fallon on our screens.

Aaron Chen, 21, Jenna Owen, 21, and Victoria Zerbst, 22, will feature on the late night show, beginning Sunday, April 16.

Chen stars as Conway’s right-hand man, opening the show with a soon-to-be iconic dance, and quipping from the couch all night. Owen is one of four head writers and will play various characters, including the recurring role of Sophie Conway — John’s fictional niece whose character takes her cues from the world of Charles Dickens and has evolved into a caricature of the alt-right. Zerbst will also feature in a variety of Saturday Night Live style ‘player’ roles.

Owen credits her time at USyd for introducing her to comedy. “Uni did everything for me,” she told Honi.

“Vic and I hosted Hermann’s Night Live in 2016 for a little bit to try and get sketch comedy happening.

“I had never attempted comedy before Sydney Uni – I’ve only been doing it for two years.”

Owen met Chen during the 2015 Sydney University Arts Revue, and it was this friendship that got her onto Conway. Chen, who has been part of the show for one-and-a-half years, invited Owen to join when they were looking to expand. She in turn recruited Zerbst, a former Honi editor.

When Owen started with Conway eight months ago, there was no money involved.

“At the end of the show if we were really lucky we’d get ten bucks from people’s donations,” she says. But now, with an ABC contract, things are moving fast.

“It’s been real crazy: it’s insane that it’s come all at once.

“In our first year we packed in a lot of festivals and a lot of content, really put ourselves out there, and it really paid well. And the time’s right for sketch comedy.”

While Chen and Owen have deferred study for the semester, Zerbst is persevering. “Sometimes I feel like the Hannah Montana of alternative comedy juggling full-time study with this show,” she says. “If I don’t finish Uni this year I don’t think I’ll finish at all. So it’s going to be a hectic few months.”