The shortlist meeting for the awards this year was record-breakingly lengthy and no wonder, what with a rather unwieldy list of eight newcomer nominees. Many of the buzz acts made the cut, and of the main six nominees (Adam Riches, Andrew Maxwell, Chris Ramsey, Josie Long, Nick Helm and Sam Simmons), four have already been reviewed on this page and Simmons is covered below.
Chris Ramsey (Pleasance Courtyard PPP) puts together a solid hour about extraneous information, basing it on newsletters sent by an estranged relative of his mum. His inclusion is not totally out of the blue, although his likeable act is still ripe for further development.
The newcomer nominations include Holly Walsh, Humphrey Ker and his fellow Penny Dreadfuls sketch pal Thom Tuck, all previously reviewed. They are joined by the 30 Rock writer Hannibal Buress (The Hannibal Montanabal Experience, Pleasance Courtyard PPP) whose languid pace is no bar to neat gags ("People say, 'I'm taking it one day at a time.' You know what? So is everybody. That's how time works") although the soporific pace of the act becomes irresistible, in the wrong way, about halfway through his set. Josh Widdicombe (If This Show Saves One Life... Pleasance Courtyard PPP) is only half a gear up in terms of pace. Listening to him for an hour is a bit like listening to a more languid version of the Spitting Image take on David Coleman. Bright moments, then, but not a striking debut.
Elsewhere, the character comedian Cariad Lloyd (The Voodoo Rooms PPP) has some memorable lines – "Does anyone else watch Loose Women and think we didn't deserve the right to vote?" – and a pace that goes to the opposite, almost schizophrenic, end of the scale. Lloyd looks like a young Catherine Tate and her loopy creations, including a murderous cockney, could be likened to Tate's work, with a dash of Julie Walters thrown in.
Flying the flag for sketch comedy are the New York outfit The Chris and Paul Show (Just the Tonic at The Store PPP). The duo offers a sometimes silent, and often serene, series of skits that are gentle, yet occasionally disturbing. Initially light-hearted scenarios are subverted with violent, tragic or sinister events, with 1940s muzak adding an extra surreal layer. The Eton-educated duo Totally Tom (Underbelly PPP), meanwhile, offer a high-octane start to some intriguing ideas including a sardonic and laconic strip club announcer pulling the strings of a gyrating dancer. Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton have plenty of charisma and strong acting skills, and have duly already been signed up for Channel 4's next raft of Comedy Labs.