Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2014 shortlist: Introducing the nominees

Comedy Award judge Alice Jones profiles this year's nominees

There are 3193 shows at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Of those at least a third are classified as comedy. And of those, just over half are eligible for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award. This year, for a second time, I have joined the 10-person judging panel for the prize, previously known as the Perrier, which has set winners like Harry Hill, Steve Coogan, Frank Skinner, Tim Minchin and Sarah Millican on the path to superstardom.

How do you find the next Fry or Kitson in amongst 639 shows? Slowly, sometimes painfully and with the help of an indefatigable team of scouts,  a rigorous timetable of 6 or 7 shows a day for the panellists (between us, we have clocked up 1451 viewings since the start of the month), espresso, snacks, Lemsip, late-night huddles and three very long breakfast meetings.

On Wednesday morning, after much debate, we drew up the shortlists. The 13 names are a diverse bunch from all corners of comedy - stand-ups, character comics, a double act, a sketch troupe; they hail from Australia, America, from London and Manchester, Kettering and Hull.

Three of the main award nominees - John Kearns, Liam Williams (both, notably, performers on the Free Fringe) and Romesh Ranganathan - have graduated from last year’s newcomer award shortlist. No second album syndrome here. All three have made giant leaps in their craft and confidence in just a year; all three can leave you gasping with laughter.

Ranganathan, a former maths teacher, is the most mainstream of the three. His stand-up has swagger, but not too much. Born to Sri Lankan Tamil parents, his eagle-eyed observations about UK attitudes to race are particularly on the money but horse-racing, parenthood and cereals also get fresh treatment. A slick, watchable hour.

Williams, 26, is still a prickly fish but his stand-up presence has blossomed into something compelling. No wonder the queue for his show stretches halfway down the street for an hour before his lunchtime show. Capitalism is bright, zeitgeisty stand-up about what it means to be a young man in 2014 - protests, student debt, Spotify-soundtracked heartbreak and angst. He looks dour but his show is packed with jokes and pin-sharp comic writing.

Kearns, whose queues rival those of Williams, is quite unique. His show roams from his own journey from tour guide at the Houses of Parliament to full-time to comedian, to Paddington Bear and elegiac stories about his Nan. If some people can read out the telephone directory and make you laugh, Kearns can silently read Frankenstein to himself and make you howl.

Comedian Sara Pascoe Comedian Sara Pascoe Also taking a leap this year is Sara Pascoe with her most fully-formed and focussed hour yet. Ostensibly a show about boys, it takes in a vast array of topics from sexual anthropology and pubic hair to Miley Cyrus and teenage crushes. She has found her voice and it’s a delight to listen to it. 

James Acaster has a characteristically dazzling show dedicated to random minutiae like ovengloves, Dr Pepper (“Drink it every night. Still don’t know what flavour it is.”) and Torvill and Dean which he somehow ties together in the end.

Fringe event shows come in the shape of Sam Simmons’ unhinged adventure in which he plays a surfer stranded at sea, talking to himself, and Alex Horne’s crazed mission which involves building a giant machine on stage. Both shows conjure up a whole world in 60 minutes.

Alex Horne builds an elaborate contraption at the Edinburgh Fringe Alex Horne builds an elaborate contraption at the Edinburgh Fringe As for the newcomers, stand-up comes from New Yorker Alex Edelman who offers up youthful millennial neurosis, and Dane Baptiste who tells tales from Lewisham and his parents’ homeland of Grenada.

Hull’s Lucy Beaumont tells old-fashioned jokes with a twist, like a mini Mrs Merton. Lazy Susan are a gifted pair of female performers who are improbably good at playing men while Gein’s Family Giftshop offer dark, twisted anarchy (some nudity) in their sketches; Ed Easton’s mistimed dance to “My Sharone” is possibly the funniest two minutes on the Fringe.

Meanwhile, Steen Raskopoulos, a new character comic with charm and talent to burn makes his audience do the silliest things.

The results are announced on Saturday. Before that, I’m off to watch them all again. Even at three weeks and 89 shows in, I can’t wait.

Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
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.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines