The 2011 Edinburgh Comedy Award results have been announced, and notably none of the prizes have gone to stand-up comedians this year. Sketch character comedian Adam Riches (pictured) won the prestigious main Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award 2011.
His show Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches was picked by the judges as the best of the Fringe, and takes the title of Best Show of 2011, and the accompanying £10,000 prize. Collecting the trophy from host Omid Djalili, Riches said: "It's an honour. Wow. Thank you very much. It's terrific. Overwhelming really. When you come up [to Edinburgh] you have limited ambition, you just want to put a good show together, so thank you very much to the panel and to everyone who came to see the show."
The judges praised Riches for his "trademark mix of character comedy, anarchic stagecraft and a fearless level of audience engagement". The comedian beat Andrew Maxwell, Chris Ramsey, Josie Long, Nick Helm and Sam Simmons to take the accolade. Josie Long, the only woman in the shortlist, missed out on the prize for the second year in a row. Nica Burns, producer of the awards, said: "Congratulations to Adam Riches, who is utterly original, extremely funny and a huge talent. He will no doubt be seen on your television screens in the near future."
Meanwhile in the Newcomer category Humphrey Ker, best known as a member of the Penny Dreadfuls sketch group, was awarded for his debut solo offering Humphrey Ker is Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher!. The show mixes storytelling and sketches to tell the tale of what happened when the fictional Dymock Watson was parachuted into Romania on a secret mission in 1943. Ker, who has also appeared on BBC Two improv show Fast & Loose, came ahead of fellow newcomer nominees Cariad Lloyd, Hannibal Buress, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, Thom Tuck, The Chris & Paul Show and sketch duo Totally Tom to claim the £5,000 prize.
The Wrestling, a one-off event in which comedians took on real wrestlers in the ring, and provided commentary and reporting, was awarded the panel prize. The show was the brainchild of comedy duo Max & Ivan. Collecting the prize alone as his comedy partner was late, Max Olesker jokingly said: "As a double act it's important that you work together well, and so if Ivan had managed to make it here I'm sure he'd have something witty and pithy to say." Olesker who, before turning to comedy, was the UK's youngest pro-wrestler at aged 15, picked up the award on crutches, as he fractured his ankle taking part in the event.
All three shows were performed at The Pleasance Courtyard, topping off a very successful year for the venue.
Here are the acceptance speeches:
Here is a video of Adam Riches performing as Daniel Day-Lewis as part of the BBC's coverage of the festival:
And here is a trailer for the forthcoming video for The Wrestling:
Established in 1981 by theatre producer Nica Burns as the Perrier Awards but since re-named, the Edinburgh Comedy Awards are the accolades that every festival act is looking to win. The awards, now in their 31st year, have previously been won by names including Al Murray, The League of Gentlemen, Lee Evans and Frank Skinner. Last year the main award went to Russell Kane, with Roisin Conaty picking up the Best Newcomer title.
Earlier in the week Burns said: "This record-breaking year of 505 eligible shows demonstrates the incredible strength of the UK comedy scene, which is bursting with talent both familiar and new and continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Not only that: in the run-up to this year's Fringe, everyone was predicting that 2011 would be an exceptional year for newcomers - they were right. With 100 extra newcomer shows to consider, it came as no surprise that the panel was spoilt for choice. This inspired the longest debate in the history of the Newcomer Award, and a second vote. Result: an unprecedented shortlist of eight, all of whom the panel feels should be encouraged, as they clearly have a brilliant future in comedy. This has been a great Edinburgh Festival for comedy."
It should be noted that not every act at the Fringe is eligable to win an award - alongside various other stipulations, the rules state that any comedian who is considered to have 'star status' (this is defined as any act who has starred in a television comedy or light entertainment series on terrestrial television, or regularly fills a 500-plus seat venue) may not be shortlisted.
This year's judging panel was comprised of Tania Harrison (Festival Republic), Lindsay Hughes (Baby Cow Productions); Julia McKenzie (BBC Radio Comedy); Mark Monahan (Daily Telegraph); Simon Nicholls (NBC Universal); Brian Reade (Daily Mirror); Ben Williams (Time Out); and members of the public Steve Morton, Cara Sandys and Sarah Slack, who won a competition to join the panel for this year.