The Critics' Awards 1998: Comedy - The Holy Grail goes to Father Kev

It was the year in which comics wanted to be taken seriously. Ardal O'Hanlon wrote a novel; Gareth Hale, today's Benny Hill, followed the lead of Eddie Izzard and appeared on Question Time; Lee Evans, Britain's answer to Jim Carrey, starred in a couple of films ... and in that digital TV ad.

On television, Paul Whitehouse and Harrys Hill and Enfield were everywhere. The latter even sat in sober judgement on the Telegraph's Open Mike Awards. Prizes multiply every year, but the Perrier remains the Holy Grail. Tommy Tiernan, this year's winner, was previously better known as Father Kev in Father Ted.

This was another year in which the cheeky chappy school of Oirish stand- up was "in". But the movement's mentor, Dermot Morgan aka Father Ted, passed away into the comic afterlife. (The year's most appropriate joke, courtesy of Lee Mack: "Irish lilt? I always thought that was a totally tropical drink infused with Guinness and potatoes.") That other ethno- specific series, Goodness Gracious Me won the Best Comedy Series in the British Comedy Awards.

Finally, Steve Coogan so turned into the pop ego he parodied, that the opening night to his autumn show was all fur and frills, as supermodels and pop stars laughed along. In terms of packing them in, Coogan is comedy's answer to Nicole Kidman, racking up a record 110,000 ticket sales in 10 weeks. Comedy, more than ever, is a slick business.

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