'Naked Racist' wins top Edinburgh comedy award

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The Independent Culture

Festival stalwart Phil Nichol has won Edinburgh's blue riband comedy award for his show, described by the critics as "thermonuclear", which culminates in the comedian running into the audience naked.

Critics have praised Nichol's fresh take on established ground in his show, The Naked Racist, an account of a debauched weekend in Amsterdam which details run-ins with drug dealers, taxi drivers and racists. Nichol strips at the end in an obscure nod to a naked protest by a Christian sect, the Doukhobors, against the Tsar in late 19th-century Russia.

Critics have described his performance this year as "thermonuclear" and "pin-you-in-the-seats stuff".

The annual awards have been renamed the "if.comeddies" after the company Intelligent Finance took over sponsorship from Perrier.

Scottish-born Nichol, who is in his late thirties, was brought up in Canada and was first nominated for the prize in 1993.

Nica Burns, producer of the awards, said Nichol was a "flamboyant comedy character on the Fringe who blew everybody away with an outstanding show".

The Best Newcomer award went to the only female nominee, Josie Long, 24. Judges said her "off-the-wall" show, Kindness and Exuberance, was "inspired".

A new award, the if.comeddies Panel prize, which celebrates those who capture the "spirit" of the festival, was given to Bristol comedian Mark Watson, who staged a 36-hour stand-up marathon and held comedy workshops with the audience. Both comedians won £4,000.