The annual Malcolm Hardee Awards - launched in 2005 in the memory of comic, agent, manager, club-owner and prankster Malcolm Hardee - aim to celebrate and promote "the spirit of madcap, anything-goes comedy anarchy at the Edinburgh Festival".
During August, whilst performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, Mars launched a joke competition called '(some guy called) DAVE Joke of the Fringe 2021' to take the place of the well-known annual Joke Of The Fringe competition run by TV channel Dave, which did not take place this year due to uncertainty around coronavirus.
The UKTV-run competition, inaugurated in 2008, sees a team of industry professionals scouting for jokes with the best then put to a public vote. This year Mars collected up gags himself and then asked the first person called Dave he encountered to pick the winner.
As seen in the below video, Masai Graham's joke "I thought the word 'Caesarean' began with the letter 'S' but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the 'C' section" was declared the winner.
Mars explained: "The broadcaster, Dave, has supported comedians at the Fringe for many years with their annual search for the best one-liner from the festival. This year their team of joke spotters were not in attendance and so I decided to cast a light on the hard-working comics of the Fringe by keeping their traditional joke competition alive."
The resultant list of 10 jokes - which included his own gag "my grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then" - was widely picked up by publications, gaining many column inches.
In a video acceptance speech Mars remarked that he "couldn't believe he had won this", before demonstrating his knack for self-promotion by pivoting into mentioning his forthcoming comedy album recording, which is due to take place at London's Top Secret Comedy Club on Monday 25th October.
This year's Cunning Stunt trophy was specially designed by inventor John Ward. Inspired by the BAFTA trophy, but using Malcolm Hardee's likeness, Ward designed one side to "symbolise the bland year and half it's been", with the other representing "pure Malcolm, with a hearty grin". (Interview with John Ward on John Fleming's blog)
Kate Copstick says: "The Hardee Awards - generally regarded as 'the comedy Oscars for the crazies' - have, for years, particularly the main award, transformed the careers of comic creatives who, until their win, could barely get booked. Many have had several bookings since.
"The Cunning Stunt Award, which this year goes to comic Will Mars, requires a combination of comedy skills and absolute fearlessness, frequently in the face of angry important people.
"This year's stunt took full advantage of the utterly pathetic level of attention shown by the media, for the closest thing to a true fringe that Edinburgh has seen for three decades.
"Insufficient numbers of 'them off the telly', runs lasting longer than an accident prone mayfly, or anyone doing anything that was ready to be seen by a paying public in the comedy section meant that almost all the comedy gong-givers stayed at home to watch them off the telly, on the telly. However, The Malcolm Hardee Awards committee was there. And, in a delightful, pointed, hilarious smack in the face of Dave, discovered Will Mars - already an excellent comic - creating his own '(Some Guy Called) Dave Joke of the Fringe'.
"It was won by the brilliant Masai Graham from a shortlist of great one liners and judged by 'some bloke called Dave' tracked down by the enterprising Mr Mars. Never has a Cunning Stunt Award meant more. Hilarious, spontaneous, brilliantly executed and sticking it to the Big Boys. Congratulations to our winner and well chosen, 'some bloke called Dave'."
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