Radio 2 is re-launching the BBC New Comedy Award, the broadcasting corporation's nationwide search for the best new stand-up comedy talent in the UK.
The Award is being re-introduced following a five year break, and will now feature added audience interaction. The prize for the 2011 winner will be a slot in Radio 2's Comedy Zone, plus development advice and guidance from BBC Radio Comedy and the possibility of appearing on other slots on BBC Radio, including an interview on Steve Wright in the Afternoon, which currently reaches almost 7 million listeners
There will be ten country-wide heats, with 12 acts going through to the semi-finals. One person from each heat will be selected by the judges on the night, with the runner-ups put forward for an online audience vote. Following the semi-finals, six acts will perform on the grand final, which will be broadcast on Radio 2 on Saturday 18th June.
The contest will be covered extensively online so comedy fans can follow all the stages. As well as hosting the semi finals audience vote, the BBC website will also feature filmed highlights of the heats, bonus audio material, information about the judges, contestants and past winners, plus message boards for the public to get involved and post their views on the participants. There will also be blogs and expert advice from former winners and comedy producers at the forefront of the industry.
The BBC New Comedy Award initially ran from 1995 to 2005, with a number of the finalists going on to become household names. Rhod Gilbert, Alan Carr, Marcus Brigstocke, Peter Kay, Lee Mack, Russell Howard, Shappi Khorsandi and Julian Barratt are amongst the previous finalists. The last contest in 2005 was won by Tom Allen (now the star of Bleak Expectations), with Sarah Millican and Edward Aczel finishing as runners-up.
Radio 2's Steve Wright says: "Just taking a look at the roll call of previous BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Award winners and finalists should be all the encouragement anyone needs if they're thinking about entering. So go on, give it a go and send us five minutes of your best material. Thanks to Radio 2, you could be the comedy talent the nation has been waiting for!"
The BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Award 2011 is open for submissions until Sunday 27th March. It's open to any act, aged 18 years or over, who has been performing on the comedy circuit as a stand-up for less than 3 years. They must submit 5 minutes of original and un-broadcast material - but must have seven minutes in total available for use in future rounds - and must not have performed this material on television.
More information and an application form is available from the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/comedy or by calling 03700 100 200.
Patrick Kielty, who will present the semi-finals and the grand final, says: "Trying to make it as a stand-up comic can be a scary ride, but it can also be brilliant fun. The BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Award is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who thinks this could be their true calling. And if you don't take the plunge you'll never know."
The regional heats will take place on the following days:
London - Tuesday 26th April (Tattershall Castle)
Brighton - Wednesday 27th April (Komedia)
Birmingham - Monday 2nd May (Cheeky Monkey)
Cardiff - Wednesday 4th May (Glee Club)
Glasgow - Monday 9th May (Highlight)
Newcastle - Tuesday 10th May (The Hyena Comedy Club)
Manchester - Monday 16th May (Manchester Comedy Store)
Belfast - Tuesday 17th May (The Belfast Empire)
The semi finals will take place on 3rd and 10th June, and the final will be broadcast as live on Radio 2 (30 minute time delay) on Saturday 18th June, with the results broadcast live later the same night.
For more information on the 2011 contest, and to read about the history of the awards, including a list of all the previous finalists, visit: www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/comedy