Bridget Christie freely admits in her award-winning show that she was ready to give up on stand-up last year. To bang the final nail into the coffin of her career, she jokes, she decided to perform an hour-long show about the emancipation of women at 11am in a venue on the “wrong side” of town at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.
Happily, her plan failed. From the very earliest days of the festival, A Bic For Her – an impassioned and hilarious 60 minutes of surreal routines, jokes and daft mimes about feminism and everyday sexism – was one of the most talked-about and critically acclaimed shows in town. My fellow judges and I may have broken the record for the longest panel meeting in the history of the awards, but the debate over Christie's inclusion on the shortlist was done and dusted in minutes. This was clearly a top-class offering in a year characterised by strong stand-up. It had it all – intelligent writing, sustained routines, an important message and, crucially, lots of terrific jokes.
We felt that, after a decade on the circuit, Christie had finally, gloriously, found her voice – warm, witty, winning, a little off-the-wall. In talking about a subject so close to her heart, she has found a way to merge the personal and the political without ever being strident.
Much will be made of the fact that Christie is the first female comedian to win the award since 2005, and only the third in its 33-year history. With the Panel Prize going to Adrienne Truscott, 2013 will go down as a good year for women. Perhaps now everyone will stop asking whether they can be as funny as men.
I am delighted that they have broken the mould. I am equally delighted that John Kearns, voted Best Newcomer, is the first performer from the Free Fringe to win. But in truth, these headlines never came up once at the judging table. In the end, after thousands of hours sitting in darkened rooms and debating over coffee and crisps, it simply came down to the shows that thrilled the most and made us laugh the loudest.
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