The Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2012: Celebrating the weird and the wonderful

Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominees 2012. Top to bottom, left to right: James Acaster, Dr Brown, Tony Law, Josie Long, Claudia O'Doherty, Pappy's, Sam Fletcher, Joe Lycett, Daniel Simonsen, Ben Target, David Trent

The natural position for any live comedy fan on the issue of awards is, more or less, 'anti'. Stand-up comedy is an art form! A complex, egalitarian one capable of saying important things and brightening souls. It should not be dragged into the mire of corporate-sponsored competition, with artist pitted against artist in a macho struggle to establish who is 'the best'!

That's our natural position.

Then the Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2012 shortlists are revealed and we're all really rather excited that such a diverse, innovative, funny and by all accounts darn-well lovely group of comics has been given the extra bit of recognition and profile that a nomination, let alone a win, affords.

I can't pretend to have seen the full shows from all of these performers, but I've seen enough of each of them to know that these really are two great lists - stuffed full of comedians who plough their own hilarious furrow in the name of making their audiences not just laugh but, I think, kinda happy.

Let's start with the Best Newcomer nominees, and David Trent, a comic who uses graphics, video and, yes, PowerPoint brilliantly, and combines his projections with a big, confident delivery. Daniel Simonsen - a very different performer - has aced 'nervy beta male' with his dark but wonderfully funny stories of social embarrassment, and the likable, inventive Sam Fletcher gives bad magic a very good name.

Joe Lycett, meanwhile, is a born raconteur who adds a lovely note of oddness to his stories, and Ben Target delivers a dazzling whirligig of visual jokes, one-liners and games with a rather unsettling calm.

As for the Best Show award, there are a fair few names on the list to make the left-field comedy-lover's heart leap. Not least Claudia O'Doherty, who charmed the whole of Edinburgh a few years ago with Monster Of The Deep, and has honed all of that creativity and strangeness in her ambitious time-bending play-within-a-stand-up show The Telescope.

Or Doctor Brown, the silent comic who conjures laughs from the (apparently) simplest of wordless scenes and sequences. James Acaster has mastered the 'deceptively simple' line of comedy too, but words are very much his thing - a fine turn of phrase transforming what could be rather straightforward observational humour into something much more enjoyable.

Then there's Josie Long, nominated for the third year in a row, and still fighting the good fight with her lovely of mix of lo-fi comedy and political rage. And Pappy's have this year achieved what few of us thought possible - injecting pathos and emotion into a brilliantly knockabout sketch show. Last Show Ever is cleverly written, ambitious and just wonderfully funny.

Which brings us to Tony Law. So given to saying he 'doesn't do comedy right', he would increasingly have to admit that a lot of people disagree. We know what he means though, and seeing his idiosyncratic humour recognised this year has made me smile all day. Last year's show Go! was fantastic; Maximum Nonsense is better - an impressive and massively fun hour of big ideas, surreal ramblings, insight and general messing about.

Of course lists like this will never be long enough to included everyone's favourites, or all of the shows that deserve to be celebrated. But as Long herself tweeted earlier, if these lists reflect the best of Britain's live comedy scene - and from my experience of it, they go a good way towards doing so - we are living in something of a little golden age. And a completely bonkers, but smart and big-hearted one at that.

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