Edgy, off-beat newcomers compete for comedy awards

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The unnerving off-beat humour of Little Britain and Nighty Night will vie with comedy classics including Have I Got News for You at the 2004 British Comedy Awards.

The unnerving off-beat humour of Little Britain and Nighty Night will vie with comedy classics including Have I Got News for You at the 2004 British Comedy Awards.

Last year's best newcomer David Walliams and his Little Britain colleague Matt Lucas step into the big time with nominations for best comedy actor against Martin Clunes in his latest incarnation as Doc Martin and Ricky Gervais for The Office Christmas Special. But Julia Davis's monstrously cruel sitcom Nighty Night is the striking inclusion this year.

Davis plays the evil beautician Jill Tyrell but also wrote the series, which, like Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh, proved a triumph of experimentation for the BBC's oft-criticised youth channel BBC3. Nighty Night was also a brilliant rehabilitation vehicle for Angus Deayton after his sex-and-drugs embarrassments.

The show is nominated for best TV comedy against Little Britain and The Office Christmas Special and best new TV comedy against Doc Martin and Life Begins. Davis herself is shortlisted as best comedy actress against Caroline Quentin, the star of Life Begins, and Catherine Tate.

Tate has spent years appearing in other comedy sketch series, and as Dawn French's sidekick in the sitcom Wild West. But she is also in the running for best newcomer.

And Jonathan Ross, who won his first British Comedy Awards gong last year after more than a decade of losing, is in with two chances. But he will face strong competition from Paul Merton whose Have I Got News for You wit remains as popular as ever.

The darker Shameless, Channel 4's series about an anarchic family in Manchester, is in the running for best comedy drama and one of its stars, James McAvoy, is shortlisted for best newcomer.

BBC4/E4's Curb Your Enthusiasm, the final series of Sex and the City and The Simpsons are competing for best international comedy show. Best comedy film will be between Shaun of the Dead, the home-grown British zombie movie written by Simon Pegg, Shrek 2 and School of Rock.

The awards, now in their 15th year and selected by TV executives, are usually an organiser's nightmare. Michael Barrymore once unplugged and threw away presenter Jonathan Ross's autocue.

WHO WILL HAVE THE LAST LAUGH?

Best TV comedy actor

Martin Clunes (Beauty/ Doc Martin, ITV1); Matt Lucas & David Walliams (Little Britain, BBC2); Ricky Gervais (The Office - Christmas Special, BBC1)

Best TV comedy actress

Caroline Quentin (Life Begins/ Von Trapped, ITV1); Catherine Tate (The Catherine Tate Show, BBC2); Julia Davis (Nighty Night, BBC2)

Best comedy entertainment personality

Ant & Dec (Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway/ I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, ITV1) Jonathan Ross (Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, BBC1); Paul Merton (Have I Got News For You, BBC1/Room 101, BBC2)

Best comedy newcomer

Catherine Tate (The Catherine Tate Show, BBC2); James McAvoy (Shameless, Channel 4) Julian Barratt & Noel Fielding (The Mighty Boosh, BBC3)

Britain's best new TV comedy of 2004

Doc Martin (Buffalo Productions, ITV1) Life Begins (Granada, ITV1) Nighty Night (Baby Cow Productions, BBC3)

Best TV comedy

Little Britain (BBC2 / BBC3) Nighty Night (Baby Cow Productions, BBC2) The Office - Christmas Special (BBC1)

Best TV comedy drama

Doc Martin (Buffalo Productions, ITV1) Jonathan Creek (BBC1) Shameless (Company Pictures, Chan 4)

Best comedy entertainment programme

Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (Granada, ITV1); Have I Got News For You? (Hat Trick Productions, BBC1); I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (LWT Factual, ITV1)

Best international comedy show

Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, BBC4/E4) Sex And The City (HBO/Channel 4); The Simpsons (20th Century Fox,BBC2/Sky One/Chan 4)

Best comedy film

School Of Rock, Shaun Of The Dead, Shrek 2

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