The main comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been shared between two acts for the first time in its 37-year-history.
John Robins and Hannah Gadsby took to the stage together at the Dovecot Studios today after The League of Gentlemen announced that there would be two winners of the main Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize for the first time.
Nica Burns, director of the awards, said both acts would be awarded the £10,000 prize money.
Gadsby, one of the leading Australian performers at the Fringe, won with a show in which she announces she is quitting stand-up comedy.
English comic Robins bases his show around his break-up from fellow stand-up Sara Pascoe, who also tackles their relationship in her own show.
The 10-strong judging panel could not be split after an initial voting round and an agreement was reached with Ms Burns to honour both acts. Ms Burns said the two shows “could not be more different, were hotly debated and fiercely fought for.”
Ms Burns added: “An outstanding shortlist has resulted in an unprecedented decision. It is fitting something extraordinary has happened in the Fringe’s 70th anniversary year.”
US actress Natalie Palamides, a Fringe debutant, was named best newcomer, ensuring women took home the two major prizes for the first time.
Gadsby is only the fourth female performer to win the main award with a solo show, after Jenny Eclair, Laura Solon and Bridget Christie.
Gadsby, whose show was inspired by anger at the debate over same-sex marriage in Australia, said: “I’d like to not thank the circumstances that caused me to write this show. I’d give this back in a flash if my community were discussing what they know about homosexuality. It’s a very bittersweet honour.
“You can’t just stop doing the only thing you’re good at. In terms of live performance, I’ll always be involved be in some sort of humour and comedy.
“But the stand-up lifestyle has taken a toll on me. It’s not great for people trying to look after their mental health. I’m backing away from that aspect of it. But this show wouldn’t have had an impact in any other art form. I’m not turning my back on comedy.”
Robins said some of the media coverage of his show and his award nomination was at “best disappointing and at times very distressing.”
He said: “The first person who called me to congratulate was Sara. She is an artistic and creative force of which I’ve never witness before. I’m incredibly proud of her.
“On this day, many comedians feel they have somehow lost. For many years, I felt embarrassed and ashamed I was not on a list. But then I realised we’re part of a community striving to deal with the challenges of the world with action, creativity and bravery.”