Kay's winning formula ­ no politics, no sex and mum's seal of approval

He avoids jokes about sex and politics, never swears and is renowned for getting his mum's seal of approval for his work. And, a survey shows, we love Peter Kay for it, shunning other comedy greats to vote him our favourite comedian.

He avoids jokes about sex and politics, never swears and is renowned for getting his mum's seal of approval for his work. And, a survey shows, we love Peter Kay for it, shunning other comedy greats to vote him our favourite comedian.

The mastermind behind Phoenix Nights and its spin-off Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere beat Billy Connolly, Ricky Gervais and Eddie Izzard in a poll by Jongleurs Comedy Clubs, believed to be the largest of its kind carried out in Britain.

Heavyweight comedians, such as Peter Sellers, Tony Hancock and Eric Morecambe were curiously absent from a list of our 21 favourite comedians, derived from a survey of 10,000 audience members made by the comedy club.

With the exception of Tommy Cooper, who came in 11th, and Bill Hicks, listed at number 20, the audiences voted for relatively young acts still performing, ignoring old favourites.

Laurence Miller, managing director of Jongleurs, said the focus on new talent may be because voters were asked to think of their own favourites rather than be presented with a prepared list, but he is upbeat about the results.

"It is a very exciting list of people who are very much contemporary and working in the business. If you look back, comedians have always used past acts to inspire them.

"The Crazy Gang led to The Goons, you then had Inspector Clouseau and Monty Python following on from that. Comedians today still use older comedians for their acts. If you look at Lee Evans, his work has a direct line to Norman Wisdom. Peter Kay's comedy draws very much on the gentler observational humour of past decades.

"The thing with Peter is that he does his work on TV, but he also does a lot live, which is so important in keeping fresh and knowing what is going to make audiences laugh. It is true of all of those in the top five; they all appear regularly on TV, but they are doing stand-up too. It's a really important part of keeping your work fresh."

Kay, 31, has had a meteoric career. His latest DVD, That Peter Kay Thing, was the fastest-selling title of last year. Peter Kay Live at the Bolton Albert Hall pulled in audiences of millions when it was broadcast last summer, and was the fastest-selling live comedy act when it went out on DVD.

The comedian, who still lives in Bolton, Lancashire, remains modest about his success, saying: "I show everything to my mum. If she doesn't get it, I cut it out or reshoot it."

The poll also showed we are more likely to be tickled by local talent. Kay was favourite in the North, Billy Connolly won the vote in Scotland, and Lee Evans was number one in the South. The Office star Gervais was favourite with comedy fans in London and Wales.

Gervais said: "I'm very flattered. It's great to be liked in London where I live because now I know it's safe to walk the streets. It's even better to be number one in Wales because I've always wanted to see Max Boyce angry. Did he at least beat Anne Robinson?"

THE TOP 21 COMICS

1: Peter Kay

2: Billy Connolly

3: Lee Evans

4: Ricky Gervais

5: Eddie Izzard

6: Jack Dee

7: Roy Chubby Brown

8: Graham Norton

9: Jo Brand

10: Jimmy Carr

11: Tommy Cooper

12: Bill Bailey

13: Dawn French

14: Frank Skinner

15: Steve Coogan

16: Al Murray

17: Lee Hurst

18: Harry Hill

19: Jasper Carrott

20: Bill Hicks

21: Lily Savage

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