In a city splitting its sides with puns and one-liners, anecdotes and catchphrases, one man has emerged victorious as the teller of the funniest gag of the Edinburgh Fringe.
Rob Auton has taken the title with his gentle joke about a chocolate bar, seeing off tough opposition from the likes of Tim Vine and Marcus Brigstocke.
Auton, from York, told the joke during his poetry show, raising a belly laugh among the audience. It came to the attention of a panel of judges who added it to their shortlist of the 20 best jokes of the Fringe, before leaving it to the public to cast their votes.
The 30-year-old won 24 per cent of votes for his one-liner: “I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa.”
Now Auton, who has been doing stand-up since 2008 and recently quit his job selling paintbrushes in London’s Soho to perform full-time, has won Funniest Joke of The Fringe.
Other contenders for the top prize included Alex Horne’s “I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was sole-destroying” and Liam Williams’ “The universe implodes. No matter.”
Auton said: “I am honoured to receive this award and just pleased that a joke that tackles the serious issue of the invention of a new chocolate bar can be laughed at by the people of Britain.”
His performance, The Sky Show, features jokes and poetry about “clouds, birds, balloons and weather” and is billed as being “suitable for people who have seen the sky and enjoy looking up”.
The judges sat through hours of material before nominating their favourite three gags for the shortlist. The award, officially known as Dave’s Funniest Joke of The Fringe, after the television channel Dave, has been going for six years.
“Before I came up here, people said ‘good luck’ and I think I must have had a bit of luck, in that of all the thousands of shows and jokes staged at the Fringe, someone was in mine and obviously liked it,” Auton told The Scotsman.
“Winning a prize like this can’t be a bad thing and if it can help me book gigs. I’d love that. I’m not a one-line merchant and much of my show is poetry, so I’m obviously delighted to win.”
Kate Copstick, chief comedy reviewer at The Scotsman, described Auton’s show as “wonderful”, but said in her opinion the annual competition is too focused on “tweetable gags” and did little to reward storytelling comics.
“In the case of this year’s winner, the lovely Rob Auton, it will send people along to his show who just want a gagfest of quotable and tweetable one-liners”, she said.
She also suggested that plucking single quotes from a variety of shows did little to accurately represent the selected artists.
“Rob’s show is the polar opposite of a gagfest and a roomful of people waiting for the big laughs will be disappointed,” Copstick added.
Steve North, general manager of TV channel Dave which sponsors the award, said that Auton was a “very worthy winner”.
“Now celebrating its sixth year, Dave’s Funniest Joke of The Fringe continues to highlight the best one-liners coming out of the Fringe. This year’s top ten is quick, sharp, witty and clever, and Rob is a very worthy winner,” he said.
Last year, Canadian comic Stewart Francis won the same award for the wisecrack: “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.”
Auton is playing at The Banshee Labyrinth, part of the PBH Free Fringe, every day at 4pm until next Monday.
The top ten
1. Rob Auton: “I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa.”
2. Alex Horne: “I used to work in a shoe-recycling shop. It was sole destroying.”
3. Alfie Moore: “I’m in a same-sex marriage . . . the sex is always the same.”
4. Tim Vine: “My friend told me he was going to a fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him, ‘Don’t be Sicily’.”
5. Gary Delaney: “I can give you the cause of anaphylactic shock in a nutshell.”
6. Phil Wang: “The Pope is a lot like Doctor Who. He never dies, just keeps being replaced by white men.”
7. Marcus Brigstocke: “You know you are fat when you hug a child and it gets lost.”
8. Liam Williams: “The universe implodes. No matter.”
9. Bobby Mair: “I was adopted at birth and have never met my mum. That makes it very difficult to enjoy any lapdance.”
10. Chris Coltrane: “The good thing about lending someone your time machine is that you basically get it back immediately.”
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