Edinburgh Comedy Awards boss hails most diverse ever line-up of awards contenders

Nine contenders have been announced for the coveted best show honour at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
Nine contenders have been announced for the coveted best show honour at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
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The director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards has hailed its shortlist of contenders as the most diverse in its history.

London Hughes, who is in the running for the main best show prize, and Sophie Duker, who is shortlisted for best newcomer, are the first black British women to make the two lists.

Four shows starring female comics are in the running for each of the main prizes in the long-running awards, while seven performers of colour, including acts originating from Malaysia, Lebanon and Thailand, have been shortlisted in total.

Awards director Nica Burns said she believed the #meetoo debate had helped boost the confidence of female performers at the Fringe in recent years.

Birmingham-born Darren Harriott, is also up for the main comedy award, which was last year won by a solo female performer of colour, Rose Matafeo, for the first time.

The strong showing for international acts has also seen Australian comic Demi Lardner make the best comedy show shortlist, while New York comic Catherine Cohen, who performs cabaret in Scottish star Alan Cumming’s club, is in the running for best newcomer.

Two “pay what you want” shows staged by the Monkey Barrel, a year-round comedy club which opened last than three years ago, are in the running for the main award, while a sketch show staged in Brazilian theme bar Boteco is up for best newcomer.

The winner of the main award, won previously won by the likes of Frank Skinner, Sean Hughes, Lee Evans, Al Murray and Jenny Eclair, will be announced on Saturday by Stephen Fry, who shot to fame in 1981 when he was honoured alongside Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Emma Thompson for their Cambridge Footlights show.

Seven of the nine nominees for the main comedy show prize are in the running for the first time, including the four female comics - London Hughes, Jessican Fostekew, Demi Lardner and Amy Gledhill, who is shortlisted for her double-act The Delightful Sausage, with Chris Cantril.

Both Fostekew and The Delightful Sausage are at the Monkey Barrel, which opened its doors on Blair Street in December 2016 and has helped make the thoroughfare one of the popular draws for free and pay-what-you-want shows.

The other acts shortlisted for the main comedy awards prize are Henry Perryment and Joe Barnes’ double act Goodbear, Ivo Graham, Jordan Brookes and Spencer Jones. Both Brookes and Jones made the main shortlist in 2017.

The best newcomer contenders are sketch show Crybabies, Catherine Cohem, Helen Bauer, Huge Davies, Janine Harouni, Michael Odewale, Nigel Ng and Sophie Duker.

Ms Burns said: “I think this is the most diverse set of nominations so far. We very much reflect the diverse population of the UK among the younger generations.

We also have a very international line-up of nominees across the two shortlists.

The awards have always been open to performers from all over the world to reflect the international nature of the whole Fringe."