Bookies' choice Burns crowned Festival's king of the comics

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Brendon Burns was, literally, backflipping with joy last night as he was crowned king of the comics and winner of the if.comedy award... after 11 years of entertaining and shocking audiences at the Fringe.

Last night, the man who cried with joy when he was nominated for the comedy prize, formerly sponsored by Perrier, pledged to backflip with delight over his win. He heard the news at midnight, then rushed off in a limousine to perform a specially delayed gig at the 800-seat Pleasance Grand venue.

Burns, who was the bookies' favourite after nominations were announced on Wednesday, said: "I know it is a cliché but I am home and hosed. This is all I wanted, and I said I would do a backflip if I won... It is brilliant. This year was my last shot at it because there is an 80 per cent chance that I'll go professional and would be ineligible."

Burns' show, So I Suppose This is Offensive Now, has been described as the "must-see of the Fringe", winning rave reviews and packed houses – but always pushing at the boundaries of taste. The prize was presented by actor Christian Slater and last year's winner, Phil Nichol, with Culture Secretary James Purnell among a celebrity audience in Edinburgh.

Arthur Smith's comic show Arturart, at the Institute of Zoo Logic, won the special panel prize for "most capturing the spirit of the Fringe", and best newcomer was won by Tom Basden for his show Won't Say Anything.

Nica Burns, director of the Intelligent Finance comedy awards, said: "It has been a terrific year ... Brendon Burns was very close before and he has written an extremely good show this year and taken a step forward. He is extremely dangerous and edgy."

Comedian Phill Jupitus's show, Waiting for Alice, as a play, was not eligible for the awards. Nor can it win theatre awards because, along with other plays by comedians, such as Rich Hall's Best Western, it has been classified as comedy.

Jupitus, annoyed that his show was not listed as theatre, said: "We are talented individuals. Why not stretch that a little further? Imagine the sort of play Brendon Burns would write."