Inaugurated in 2015 and administered by the State Library of NSW, at the bequest of Peter Wentworth Russell to celebrate, recognise and encourage humorous writing, and to promote public interest in this genre.
The Russell Prize is award biennially to an Australian author of a humour book published in the previous two years. English translations of works that were originally written in another language are be eligible for nomination if the translations were published in the requisite period.
In 2021, a category of Humour Writing for Young People was inaugurated.
'Charlotte Gibson is a lawyer on the up. She won a landmark Native Title case, she’s making her parents proud, she could have her own TV show tomorrow. As her father Ray says, she could be the next feminist Indigenous Waleed Aly. But she has other ideas. First of all, it’s Christmas. Second of all, she’s in love.
'Charlotte's fiancé, Francis Smith, is not what her family expected. He's an unemployed experimental classical composer… and he's white! Bringing him and his conservative parents to meet her family on their ancestral land is a bold move. Will he stand up to the scrutiny? Or will this romance descend into farce?
'Love is never just black and white. It’s complicated by class, politics, ambition, and too much wine over dinner. But for Charlotte and Francis, it's mostly complicated by family. Secrets are revealed, prejudices outed and old rivalries get sorted through. What can’t be solved through diplomacy can surely be solved by a good old-fashioned dance-off. They’re just that kind of family.'
(Production summary: Sydney Theatre Company: https://www.sydneytheatre.com.au/whats-on/productions/2017/black-is-the-new-white )
'A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex; a bus stop outside a dementia care facility in Düsseldorf suffers its own identity crisis; a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave at a trainload of tourists; an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier; a backpacker in Israel has a bizarre religious experience.
'In these award-winning stories, David Cohen explores the oddities of human behaviour with wit, affection and startling brilliance.' (Publication summary)
'The literary event of 2015. Steve Toltz follows his extraordinary debut, the Booker-shortlisted A Fraction of the Whole, with a novel that's just as edgy, hilarious and compelling: Quicksand, at once unmistakeably Toltzean and unlike anything that's come before.
'Aldo has been so relentlessly unlucky – in business, in love, in life – that the universe seems to have taken against him personally. Even Liam, his best friend, describes him as 'a well-known parasite and failure'. Aldo has always faced the future with optimism and despair in equal measure, but this last twist of fate may finally have brought him undone.
'There's hope, but not for Aldo.
'Liam hasn't been doing much better himself: a failed writer with a rocky marriage and a dangerous job he never wanted. But something good may come out of Aldo's lowest point. Liam may finally have found his inspiration. Together, maybe they can turn bad luck into an art form.
'What begins as a document of Aldo's disasters develops into a profound story of love lost, found and betrayed; of freedom and incarceration; of suffering and transcendence; of fate, faith and friendship; of taking risks – in art, work, love and life – and finding inspiration in all the wrong places.
'Quicksand is a fearlessly funny, outrageously inventive dark comedy that looks contemporary life unblinkingly in the eye. It confirms Steve Toltz as one of our most original and insightful novelists.' (Publication summary)
'A witty, irreverent and intelligent satire of Australian politics.
'A soon-to-be-elected Australian prime minister invokes the spirit of Sir Robert Menzies and astonishingly, the Great Man rises from the grave. But in Canberra, amongst the nation′s leaders, the revived Menzies is rarely listened to and hardly visible. Increasingly discontented with his role as mere nostalgic symbol, Menzies escapes from Canberra. He runs westward, becoming larger and more powerful as he runs.
'This, perhaps the most significant untold story in Australian political history, lands in the lap of the Antibiographer, whose contracted book on Menzies is years behind schedule. Could this be the break the Antibiographer needs to redeem his career? Will he be able to track down the Menziean colossus and save his book and reputation? And can the out-of-control Menzies ever be contained?
'The Antibiography of Robert F. Menzies is playful, lyrical, surprisingly poignant and very funny.' (Publisher's blurb)