Such is the calibre of entries for the Hackney Empire's New Act of the Year competition that one year Eddie Izzard only came third. Because of its reputation, the evening has also become a magnet for agents, managers, TV researchers and PRs - one carefully placed bomb could wipe out the entire comedy industry. Over the past few weeks, more than 100 hopefuls have auditioned for one of the 12 places in tonight's final, which is compered by the effervescent Stephen Frost (above). Every young child, it would appear, now wishes to be a comedian when she or he grows up rather than a train driver or an airline pilot. When you see the list of former winners - which includes David Baddiel, Alan Davies, Ardal O'Hanlon and Stewart Lee - you can understand why.
Hackney Empire, Mare Street, London E8 (0181-985 2424) tonight
THE BEST OF THE REST
Anyone who can wear a duffel coat and still get called a sex symbol must have serious charisma. The sartorially challenged Alan Davies has wardrobes full of the stuff. Even when he's being offensive - he reckons, for instance, that in the phrase "Countryside March" there is "one very important syllable" - you can't get riled because he's so very likeable.
Regent Theatre, Ipswich (01473 281480) tonight; Theatre Royal, Norwich (01603 630000) tomorrow
Hot on the heels of Fascinating Aida comes another satirical female singing trio. The Nualas - that's Nuala, Nuala, and Nuala - were freed from a dull existence in the Irish countryside by a freak meeting at a tractor pile-up. They have since devoted their lives to singing amusing songs about such subjects as love, men, nuns and the catering industry.
The Drill Hall, 16 Chenies Street, London WC1 (0171-637 8270) Tue to Sat to 13 MarReuse content