Banned pub landlord in last chance saloon

THIS YEAR'S race to win the Perrier Comedy Award entered its final stage yesterday when five acts were named in a shortlist. The winner will be declared on Saturday.

The award, for the most original and hilarious act at Edinburgh, is regarded as a virtual guarantee of instant fame and fortune. It has led to national success for Steve Coogan, Frank Skinner, Jenny Eclair, Lee Evans and, last year, Tommy Tiernan.

"After last year's award Tommy Tiernan's manager was immediately knee deep in faxes from people wanting to work with Tommy," says Nica Burns, the award's director.

The final five are, she says, a wide range of comedy acts, from stand- up to surreal and "scripted stuff". Stand-ups Terry Alderton and Ross Noble have made it, with surreal acts Arctic Boosh and League against Tedium (no relation to the League of Gentlemen who won in 1997, and secured a BBC television series).

Most controversially, however, Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, has secured a place as a finalist - despite the efforts of Ms Burns, who had argued that he was already too well-known to be considered. Her pronouncement dragged the Perrier Award into a dispute as fierce and bitter as those that regularly occur over the Booker Prize for literature.

Mr Murray, who acts the part of a xenophobic, little-Englander pub landlord, delighting audiences with jokes against the French and Scots, is represented by Avalon, one of the biggest agents in the comedy business. When Ms Burns disqualified Mr Murray, Avalon was incensed and challenged Ms Burns's view that its client should be excluded simply on the basis that he could already draw a good audience at "a mid-scale venue".

Two weeks ago Ms Burns decided to back down. Mr Murray, who is widely regarded as one of the strongest acts in Edinburgh, has now made the shortlist, but must wait until Saturday to learn whether his victory over Ms Burns and her edicts is to be complete.

Although Perrier is still the most highly regarded of the ever-increasing number of sponsored awards at Edinburgh, it has not been infallible in spotting future successes. Eddie Izzard and Jack Dee both failed to win it, as did Graham Norton, the gay Irish comedian who was shortlisted in 1997. With failure behind him, Norton has secured a contract with Channel 4, become one of the TV Times "50 coolest people on television", and has entered the heart of the establishment with his own show on BBC Radio 4.

But in the 1990s, only one act has gone from Perrier winner to utter obscurity. In 1994 aknockabout slapstick act from Australia called Lano and Woodley won the trophy, beating Harry Hill and Alan Davies, who have both subsequently secured television shows. "There are times when the Perrier loses its fizz," said a comedy agent. "They made the wrong decision - it happens."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk