We named him Best Comedian in 1996, and his ineligibility this year gives me the opportunity to celebrate the live circuit's other most brilliant performers. I was one of the Perrier judges this August, so you might not be surprised to read that several of those performers were on the award's shortlist. Honourable mentions go to some of the people who were very nearly on it - Dave Gorman, Rich Hall, Adam Bloom, Dominic Holland and Arj Barker - but my favourites were three of the runners-up.
Ross Noble is a sensational young stand-up whose intergalactic flights of fancy should make other so-called improvisers very nervous. If you're going to interact with your audience while dressing all in white and sporting a haircut that even Michael Bolton has given up as a mistake, you have to be faster and funnier than anyone else in the room. Noble is.
A very different comic is Simon Munnery, who appears as The League Against Tedium. His technological, multimedia, fairly lunatic comedy really does break new ground. And the best duo to emerge in years is Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding. They take a double-act dynamic - one the bitter, self- deluding big brother, one the dopey dreamer - and transpose it to a landscape of yetis, ninja postmen and post-apocalyptic oracles.
And the award goes to ... Barratt and Fielding, because that way I have to discard only two names from my list, not three. They are all fantastic. Let's hope terrestrial TV gets to them before Sky does.
1993 Lee Evans
1994 Harry Hill
1995 Phil Kay
1996 Al Murray's Pub Landlord
1997 The League of Gentlemen
1993 Tommy TiernanReuse content