Fringe benefits: How winning the top comedy prize at Edinburgh can transform a performer's life

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

1981: Cambridge Footlights

You couldn't have scripted better inaugural winners than the Cambridge Footlights, who numbered Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Emma Thompson, for whom it's not so much a case of "where are they now?" as "where haven't they been?" Fellow members included Paul Shearer, who is best known for his work on The Fast Show, and the late Penny Dwyer, who chose a career in metallurgy over one in entertainment and worked on the construction of the Channel Tunnel.

1982: Writers Inc

This traditional revue group consisted of the actor Nick Wilton, who toured extensively in regional theatre afterwards, and was recently seen as Widow Twankey at the Festival Theatre in Malvern; Jamie Rix, son of Brian Rix, who made his name as a children's author with Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids; and Victoria Pile, who makes up the trio, and is best known as a writer, director and producer for Smack the Pony and Green Wing.

1983: Lost Trios Ringbarkus

Steve Kearney and Neil Gladwin's show, Los Trios Ringbarkus, consisted of "anger, angst and severe physical comedy" and mess made from "beer, bananas and bread." Kearney has written and produced on a series of films in the U S; Gladwin worked on the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.

1984: The Brass Band

The musical comedians Loois Tooloose, Jimby, Fritz Frumheimer, The Captain and Buford, from the west coast of America, returned to San Francisco to resume their careers.

1985: Theatre de Complicite

Complicite have become a by-word for experimental theatre and are arguably one of the comedy awards' greatest success stories.

1986: Ben Keaton

After winning the Perrier, the actor Ben Keaton made a number of TV appearances, from Father Ted to Emmerdale, and he also had a small part in the film East is East. He's made frequent appearances at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.

1987: Arnold Brown

Former accountant Arnold Brown, from whom a line like "I enjoy using the comedy technique of self-deprecation – but I'm not very good at it", would be typical of his laconic shtick, was among the first acts on stage at the Comedy Store in 1979. Brown continues to work as a comedian.

1988: Jeremy Hardy

Once dubbed the "most left-wing man in the country", Hardy has stayed in the vanguard of left-leaning laughs since the Eighties, despite the changing political landscape and shifting comedy trends.

1989: Simon Fanshawe

Simon Fanshawe's journalism career went largely uninterrupted by his Perrier success in 1989; his renown is still largely based on his extensive broadcasting and articles for a raft of newspapers.

1990: Sean Hughes

Hughes carried a blunt stick with him, with which Festival audiences didn't seem to mind being hit, even if some of his gags were close-to-the-bone: "I once watched two friends shooting up heroin. I was quite shocked, 'cos they didn't have Scottish accents for a start." After the award, Hughes enjoyed the high of his own Channel 4 show and six years as a team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

1991: Frank Skinner

English graduate Skinner was already making a name for himself and appearing on TV when the Perrier came along to put the icing on his comedy cake. More successful TV appearances duly followed, with Fantasy Football League, Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned and his own late-night chat show.

1992: Steve Coogan

The irritable Mancunian Paul Calf was among Coogan's winning collection of characters in Steve Coogan in Character with John Thompson. Thompson performed as Bernard Righton, a PC version of Bernard Manning, whose signature joke ran: "An Englishman, an Irishman and a Pakistani walk into a bar. What a perfect example of racial integration." Coogan went on to huge success, most notably as Alan Partridge, his colossus in sports casual.

1993: Lee Evans

The bendy bonhomie of Lee Evans won the day against a varied field that included Donna McPhail, Phil Kay, Greg Proops and musical comedy acts that included the future award winner Phil Nichol. Like Coogan, Evans has had brushes with Hollywood (including in There's Something About Mary).

1994: Lano and Woodley

This Australian physical-comedy duo came up trumps in what was by all accounts a lively panel debate, a battle from which Harry Hill was expected by many to come out on top. Lano and Woodley only went their separate ways two years ago after 20 years performing together, having first met participating in the 1980s improv movement Theatresports. Frank Woodley was back at the Fringe in 2008 with his solo show.

1995: Jenny Eclair

The opening gag of Jenny Eclair's show Prozac and Tantrums ran: "I've had my nipples pierced. Why? Because I was sick of losing my car keys. The only trouble is that I have got this really elongated nipple from shoving the keys in the ignition." A novelist and regular pundit, Eclair can be seen on tour with Grumpy Old Women Live this autumn, a show that she co-devised.

1996: Dylan Moran

Laid-back, louche, world weary and wise, Irishman Dylan Moran strolled off with the award from under the noses of his Black Books co-star Bill Bailey, 1993 newcomer Dominic Holland, Rich Hall, TV sketch duo Armstrong and Miller and Al Murray (the first of his four nominations). Moran's work has spanned stage and screens both big and small, although he's never left stand-up behind.

1997: The League of Gentlemen

Graham Norton, Al Murray, Johnny Vegas and the previous year's best newcomer, Milton Jones, were the cast of the vanquished as the League's three-man troupe charmed and horrified Edinburgh with their macabre brand of humour. Since then, the League have conquered stage, radio and screen with their tales of strange happenings in the skewed environs of Royston Vasey.

1998: Tommy Tiernan

Tiernan, an energetic and cerebral storyteller with a gift for poetic phrasing ("I love coffee. Sometimes I have an espresso before I wake up to wind up my dreams"), has toured worldwide and particularly extensively on the US and Canadian circuits.

1999: Al Murray

There was no small amount of relief and celebration for Murray and his management, Avalon, when he finally "got the beers in" and scooped the Perrier award for his boisterous and apparently bigoted pub landlord act that had started life during Harry Hill's Pub Internationale tour in 1994.

2000: Rich Hall as Otis Lee Crenshaw

Rich Hall's Southern US jailbird took comedy into the millennium, leaving Dave Gorman, Lee Mack, Sean Lock and Garth Marenghi in his wake. A celebrated example of Crenshaw's cunning couplets runs: "Women call it stalking/ It's just selective walking".

2001: Garth Marenghi

The fictional horror author character was nominated the previous year and came back in 2001 with a similar mix of hammy acting and Hammer Horror-style silliness. Co-creator Richard Ayoade is now best known as Moss in The IT Crowd.

2002: Daniel Kitson

Now a regular cult favourite on the Fringe, Kitson usually travels with both a stand-up and a theatre show in tow, all branded with his unique bittersweet humanity, illustrated by lines such as: "Seeing these three elderly ladies fall about laughing at a fart joke was an act of human defiance for me – they might not be here on Tuesday."

2003: Demetri Martin

The New Jersey comedian now hosts his own show on Comedy Central that is coming to E4 this autumn. Spare a thought for Australian Adam Hills, though, nominated for the third time without "doing an Al Murray" and eventually winning it. Other nominees included the current cult favourites Flight of the Conchords.

2004: Will Adamsdale in Jackson's Way

Adamsdale's absurd take on a motivational speaker got the blessing of Stewart Lee, and passionate advocates for the show among the judges on the Perrier panel ensured that the award went the old Etonian's way. Adamsdale has subsequently made his debut film appearance as a newsreader on Richard Curtis' The Boat That Rocked.

2005: Laura Solon

Solon became only the second woman, after Jenny Eclair, to win the Perrier in 2005. Her character comedy show contained observations like: "Elephant and Castle: one place name, two broken promises." Appearances followed in TV shows Ruddy Hell It's Harry and Paul, and Al Murray's Personality Disorder.

2006: Phil Nichol

Edgy in a cartoonish way, Nichol told the audience: "I'm a dangerous comic. Sometimes I chuck peanuts into the audience to see if there are any fatal nut allergies out there." Nichol continues to be a Fringe regular in both comedy and theatre, and among various other work he has appeared in a London run of Sam Shepard's play Simpatico.

2007: Brendon Burns

A coup de theatre reminiscent of an Andy Kaufman "happening" was enough to finally tip the scales in favour of the 100 per cent perspiration acolyte of the "Comedy of Hate". "Muslims are great because they stay up all night to give you fried food before you go to bed," was among the insights given by the Australian comic resident in the UK. Since winning the award, Burns has walked out on presenting I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, but has also released a number of DVDs, taken on US representation and has a couple of TV projects in development.

2008: David O'Doherty

The Yamaha-keyboard toting, lo-fi comedy stylings of David O'Doherty surprised many by taking what turned out to be the final Intelligent Finance-sponsored award from under the nose of Welshman and hot favourite Rhod Gilbert. Taking twee to new upbeat levels, O'Doherty mused on the pre-technology, pre-psychologising days of dating that his mother and father must have experienced, where coupling must have been easier: "You like soup too? This is going to be great!" O'Doherty has a book, an album and a film with Dylan Moran out in the autumn.

2009?

We are no doubt in for some surprises this year; the field is wide open given the number of newcomers. Rhod Gilbert could well be one previous nominee to reappear among the field, while there is a possibility that Sarah Millican could jump from newcomer to main award winner. Other previous nominees in with a shout include Paul Sinha and Andrew Lawrence. Meanwhile, Shappi Khorsandi has been getting a lot of attention for her new book, How to Be English, and so will be worth watching closely.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis