Critics' Awards 1999 - Comedy: Two in the Boosh is worth an accolade

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The Independent Culture
Al Murray would be more than justified in looking back at 1999 as his year. He won the Perrier award on his fourth time on the shortlist. Within a few days, he'd also picked up the Edinburgh Fringe People's Choice Award, landed a sitcom development deal and become a dad. Admittedly, the fatherhood part probably didn't have much to do with his comic aptitude, but the other achievements certainly did. His tours de force as the Pub Landlord are astonishing on every level: energy, ideas, characterisation, spontaneity, you name it. It's a scandal that it took Sky to get him on television.

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.

Previous winners

1993 Lee Evans

1994 Harry Hill

1995 Phil Kay

1996 Al Murray's Pub Landlord

1997 The League of Gentlemen

1993 Tommy Tiernan