Comedy awards: how they start, how they get credible & where they may lead

Desperate pose with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Desperate posing with Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award

Comedy awards seem to be a growing industry.

In this blog a couple of days ago, Brian Damage and Vicky de Lacy mentioned that, at the Edinburgh Fringe one year, they had given a Derriere Award in competition with the then Perrier Award.

I have been giving my own increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards since 2007 and they will continue until 2017 when I run out of the increasingly prestigious trophies made by increasingly prestigious mad inventor John Ward.

This week, the British Comedy Awards announced their nominees for 2014. And, on Thursday, there is the announcement of the 3rd annual Gareth Morinan Alternative New Act of The Year Award, seldom known by its acronym The GMANAOTYA.

“I hear your annual award is becoming increasingly prestigious,” I told him.

Gareth Morinan talked to me at Soho Theatre

Gareth Morinan talked to me at the Soho Theatre

Surprisingly Credible is the line I go for,” he told me. “because no-one expects anyone to care about any…erm… definitely not my awards.”

“I was surprised two years ago,“ I said, “when a couple of people were clearly very pissed-off at not being nominated for my awards. I thought But it’s only the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards!

“I take them very seriously,” said Gareth. “I’m still working towards winning one day.”

Fringe Report,” I said, “once gave me an award for being the best awarder of awards. Frankly, I’m saddened I have never been nominated for your award.”

“There is a strict application process,” explained Gareth. “The main thing is you have to apply. I put up an advert; I get maybe 50 responses; and then I pick the 10 or 12 acts that sound most interesting.”

“Pity I’m not an act,” I said. “So what type of acts do they have to be?”

“Interesting.” said Gareth. “It’s for people who are doing something a bit different. Interesting. That’s the criteria I tell people to judge on and that’s what I book the acts based on.”

“I set up the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards so I could get free tickets to shows,” I said. “That was before free shows got started at the Fringe. Now I mainly go to free shows because they tend to be the more interesting and original ones. So I needn’t have bothered to set up the Awards in the first place.”

The show that started the Gareth Morinan Awards

The show that started Gareth’s Awards

“The only reason I set up my awards,” said Gareth was to get an audience for a preview of my debut Edinburgh Fringe show two years ago. I had a double preview booked, the other performer dropped out and I thought: Shall I book another act who will probably bring two of their friends? Or shall I just announce a ‘new act’ competition which means ten acts will turn up bringing their friends? It was the best-attended preview I had ever done.

“I thought that was pretty clever. But what is not clever is then carrying it on as a serious competition for two years after.”

“Especially,” I said, “as it might risk becoming prestigious.”

“I think it has become credible,” said Gareth. “Maybe in several years time it will become prestigious.”

“Why has it got credible?” I asked. “Because you chose the right people?”

“Well,” said Gareth, “people reviewed it last year and the winners of my award always go on to get nominated for a better award. Adam Larter, who won the first year, got nominated for a Chortle Award. Michael Brunström won last year and went on to be nominated for an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award.”

“What is happening this year?” I asked.

“On Thursday,” said Gareth, “it might actually be a proper gig. Barry Ferns has given me his Angel Comedy Club for one night, so there will be an actual audience there who will not know what to expect, which will be great. Everyone gets a vote, including the acts.”

“But,” I checked, “they are not allowed to vote for themselves?”

Acts can vote for themselves this Thursday

Acts can vote for themselves this Thursday – if they want to

“They can,” said Gareth. “Everyone in the room gets three votes.”

“Do acts often not vote for themselves?” I asked.

“All the votes are equally weighted,” said Gareth. “So the really bad acts who have voted for themselves only get their own votes.”

“How many acts?”

“Twelve this year.”

“Just one award?”

“Yes, though we might also have a Judges’ Choice which will be just my choice, We might also have the Previous Winner’s Choice, because Michael Brunström will be headlining.”

“So you might have three awards. Any trophies?”

“Oh no. There’s absolutely nothing. This is why it’s surprisingly credible. There are no trophies but people still bother to apply. Last year the first prize was £1, the second prize was 50p and the third prize was the last half of my pint of cider.”

“Have you won awards yourself?” I asked.

“No. That’s why I set it up.”

“Did we nominate you?” I asked.

“You nominated me for the Cunning Stunt Award last year.”

“Oh yes,” I said, “so we did. You’re Gareth Morinan. I wondered who you were. Well, hopefully this blog will publicise your awards.”

Gareth Morinan in Soho yesterday, shocked by his memories

Gareth faces the prospect of people turning up for his Awards

“They’re at Angel Comedy on Thursday,” said Gareth, “but it’s always really crowded, so I would not recommend that people come to see it, because they won’t get a seat unless they turn up really early. But I have another show in two weeks, on 25th November – a new type of improvised comedy show that involves stand-ups. It’s got Pat Cahill and John Kearns and Harriet Kemsley. The Chronicles of Pat Cahill.”

“And why is it original?” I asked.

“Well,” said Gareth. “It may or may not be. The Advertising Standards Authority may sue me. It’s in The Proud Archivist in Haggerston.”

“That’s suddenly got very trendy,” I said. “But it’s the back of bleedin’ beyond.”

“Well, it’s in the trendy East London area,” said Gareth.

“It’s the back of bleedin’ beyond if you live in Borehamwood,” I said.

“Basically,” said Gareth, keeping on-message, “we will tell the life story of Pat Cahill.”

Pat Cahill, winner of an Amused Mose Award

Cahill, time-travelling winner of  Amused Moose Award

“What?” I asked. “every week?”

“No,” explained Gareth, “it’s a different person every week. And, when I say week, I mean month. So that’s why it’s unique: there’s no consistency and it’s like having people who can improvise do a story but the main character is a relatively well-known stand-up comedian.”

“Award winning,” I said.

“Multi-award-winning in Pat’s case,“said Gareth.

“How are you telling his story?” I asked.

“Well,” said Gareth, “to be honest, it’s not exactly his life story… It’s going to be more about him being a time traveller who saves the world or whatever.

The show that does not exactly tell Cahill’s story

The show that does not exactly tell Cahill’s story

“But it will be loosely based on his life story. It’s gonna just be a bit of fun, anything can happen and the audience can get involved. The audience will be like a Council of Time who get to decide what happens.

“It will be sort-of like the improv show you saw in Edinburgh. It’s sort of like that but better because there will be more people in it and I won’t be on stage. It will be almost worth £4”

“What are you doing next year at the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

“That is a good question,” replied Gareth. “I will probably be screaming more and the line between comedy and tragedy will become blurred.”


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