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And the winner is...

This year's shortlist for the Perrier Award for Comedy was stuffed with high-calibre acts (four stand-ups, one sketch show and a character comedian), but in the end it came down to a straight shoot-out between two stand-ups, Bill Bailey and Dylan Moran.

It was one of the most closely contested run-offs since, ooh, Jenny Eclair won it in 1995. The favourite from Day 1 of the Festival had been weird- beard Bailey, all round good bloke and Perrier's crown-prince-in-waiting since becoming the people's choice to win it last year. But in his rearview mirror loomed the cute countenance of Ireland's Dylan Moran (above), whose reputation had gone into overdrive with some brilliant performances over the last two weeks.

Some felt that Moran's more erudite, downbeat and less accessible style might count against him, allowing Bailey, who exudes an earthy charm and cheeriness, to carry off the spoils at last. How wrong. This critic felt moved to comment in a review last week that "Moran's time has come", and so it proved. It was he who received the Silver Bottle and a cheque for pounds 3,000 with the words, "This is... loads of flowers. No, I'm not pleased. I'm discombobulated."

As he wiped great smudges of Jenny Eclair's lipstick from his chin and worried about phoning his mum back home in Ireland, Moran might have paused to reflect on his meteoric rise since winning the So You Think You're Funny? talent competition in 1993; from nobody to Perrier in three years is some going.

Milton Jones became a somebody when he received the Best Newcomers award, and he - along with Moran, Bailey and fellow nominees Armstrong and Miller, Rich Hall, Dominic Holland and Al Murray - can be seen in London at Her Majesty's Theatre for four consecutive Saturdays, starting 29 Sept. Alternatively, see the Pick of the Perrier gigs at the Assembly Rooms this Friday and Saturday.