Stand-out stand-up: comedians name their favourite funnyman

Daniel Kitson, a comic virtually unknown to mainstream television audiences, today received the ultimate accolade when he was declared the funniest man in the business by his contemporaries.

In the first survey to examine the views and attitudes of British stand-ups, the Edinburgh Fringe star gained a quarter of the votes cast, beating Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard to the top spot.

But while his bushy beard and bottle-top glasses make him one of the most instantly recognisable figures on the comedy circuit, Kitson, 33, has resisted offers to return to television to milk the current boom in prime time stand-up after an earlier unsatisfactory experience appearing alongside Peter Kay in the sitcom Phoenix Nights.

The small screen's loss has proved live comedy's gain. The winner of the 2002 Perrier award now commands an impassioned following around the world, including in Australia, where he is currently performing to sold out audiences at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

His one-man show, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, received rave reviews in The New York Times and led critics to compare his monologues about love and loss to fellow Yorkshireman Alan Bennett's bitter-sweet narrations in Talking Heads.

The survey, carried out by TV channel Dave, was based on interviews with 112 British comics, including Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Tim Vine and Dave Gorman. Comedy critic Bruce Dessau, who conducted the research, said Kitson was a deserving winner.

"He is a totally natural comedian and has all the skills of a great northern comic like Les Dawson. There is something about that accent that makes a great comedian and he has a fantastic facility with language," said Mr Dessau. "But although he has been compared to Alan Bennett, he can go out in front of an audience of 500 drunk people at Edinburgh and silence a heckler at any time."

Kitson rarely does interviews and carefully manages his own career, preserving artistic control over his output. His new work has increasingly veered towards theatre and few people expect him to return to television any time soon.

Speaking after the Brooklyn launch of Gregory Church in January, he said he had no regrets about his career strategy: "I think it's increasingly important to have an audience that is your audience. It's better to have 50 people who are into the thing than 200 who aren't.

"In my stand-up, I don't embellish. I am quite strict with telling the truth. I am interested in engaging people emotionally, and I don't want that to be duplicitous," he added.

His only other TV appearance was as a teenage contestant on Blockbusters in which he told presenter Bob Holness that he wanted to be a comedian – an ambition he fulfilled when he took part in the National Student Drama Festival aged 16.

Among the survey's other findings was that while previous generations of comedians may have feared playing the Glasgow Empire, modern comics dread performing in Liverpool more than any other city.

Nearly one in five said Merseyside had the hardest audiences to crack, with stand-ups claiming that comedygoers there liked to think they were funnier than the act. Nottingham was voted the second hardest place, followed by Maidstone in Kent.

A third of those surveyed said they had suffered such severe stage fright that they had been physically sick before shows.

More than half said they had been the victim of joke-stealing by their peers, although 25 per cent saw this as a form of flattery and something they could do little about.

Critical view

Daniel Kitson is the best comedian working in the world today. I was with another comedian and at the end of the gig we just looked at each other as if to say: "What's the point in us carrying on?" He's the sort of comedian that makes you feel bad, because he's doing what you ought to be doing, and doing it brilliantly. Kitson once told me that he was doing a run at the Soho Theatre. Sitting in a toilet cubicle one night, he overheard some of his audience at the urinals talking, didn't like them and realised he would have to refine his fan base.

Stewart Lee, comedian

His way with words is extraordinary. "Who among us doesn't enjoy the word 'Toboggan'?" He demands before listing off some more immutable facts: "Cows have pretty eyes. And marshmallows are delicious, if strangely moreish." Observations on love and life are beautifully drawn: falling in love is like hearing a new song, then going straight out and buying everything in the band's back catalogue; loneliness is baking a cake and then having to spend the whole of the next week eating it.

Alice Jones, 'The Independent', 13 August 2010

There are comedians who set benchmarks of quality and then there is the uniquely gifted Daniel Kitson. The 2002 Perrier Award winner is so far ahead of the game that the rest of the Fringe might as well pack up. The only reason that Kitson is not a household name is that he shuns large venues, television and publicity.

Bruce Dessau, 'Evening Standard', 20 August 2009

Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
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.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album