New name, old style: classic stand-ups vie for Edinburgh prize

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival's premier comedy award has returned to traditional stand-up comedy in its shortlist choices.

This year's nominees for the Intelligent Finance Comedy Awards, announced yesterday, included a "joyously silly" trio, a "naked racist", a GP, a storyteller with a Yamaha keyboard and a sharp improviser.

The awards were formerly known as the Perrier Awards, and the new sponsor comes on board after criticism in recent years over links between Perrier and Nestlé.

Nica Burns, producer of the awards, said this year's shortlist reflected a "huge breadth of comedy talent".

"What we've seen this year is a return to traditional stand-up with fewer acts working through characters," she said. Last year's winning act by Laura Solon consisted of a series of character sketches. Solon was only the second woman to win the award in a solo act.

Nominated this year, Paul Sinha's show, Saint or Sinha?, centres on his cultural identity as both an Asian and "a gay man who does not always fit in with other gay men and loves beer drinking and sports".

Sinha, the first Asian to be shortlisted, is also a part-time GP. In his show he recounts the years he waited before telling his father he was homosexual. The show's subject, he said, was ultimately confessional.

The comedy sketch trio We Are Klang in Klangbang, comprising a former teacher Greg Davies, former call-centre worker Steve Hall and Marek Larwood, came together three years ago after meeting on a comedy course in London. They describe their brand of comedy as decidedly "silly".

Phil Nicol's The Naked Racist is a daring show delivered at break-neck speed about a weekend in Amsterdam. The Canadian comic tells the story of a surreal night with drug addicts, killers and racists in a quiet little hamlet. In 2002 his show, Things I Like I Lick, was nominated for the Perrier Award.

The Dublin-born David O'Doherty, who was nominated as the Perrier best newcomer 2000, describes his misfit worldview in his acts, in which he makes use of a Yamaha keyboard.

Also on the shortlist is Russell Howard, from Bristol, returning to the Fringe with his third successive solo show, Wandering. Hisstand-up, based on sparky improvisation, has been described by critics as "like a chat around a campfire".

"It's about me, and about not fitting in," he said. "It's really comedy about an unusual place in the world and not quite fitting in."

Winners of the awards, which include a best newcomer category and a new panel prize, where judges name the act which captures the comedy spirit of 2006, will be named at midnight on Saturday. Past winners include The League of Gentlemen, Lee Evans, Steve Coogan and Frank Skinner.

Comedy award nominees and their gags

We Are Klang

"We have a character based on a pastiche of Derren Brown and David Blaine called Derren Chillblane who attempts a lot of impressive feats. There is one sketch which is based on Derren Brown's 'Russian Roulette' in which he attempts to drink five glasses of spring water and avoid the one glass with piss in it."

Paul Sinha

"I don't consider myself old but when I was at school, the closest thing we got to a computer was a little Sri Lankan kid who was really good at maths."

David O'Doherty

"I like the Ten Commandments but I have a problem with the ninth. It should be: 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's ox, except in scrabble'."

Phil Nicol

"Political correctness is a primarily Marxist concept introduced so that university students wouldn't step out of the party line."

Russell Howard

"I read something the other day about a guy who got put into prison for three days because he refused to stop kissing his boyfriend on a plane to South Africa. It's completely true and I liked the idea of being put in prison for love. It evoked images of him in latex, the others saying, 'stop doing that, it's not natural', and him saying, 'you're flying'."