A former call centre worker has won the biggest comedy prize at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a show he claims he is unhappy with.
Merseyside comic Jordan Brookes has won the coveted best comedy show award at the event just four years after making his debut before average audiences of just six people, but insists he is unsure if it is any good.
Brookes, who mixes stand-up with absurdist comedy, has followed in the foosteps of Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan, and Lee Evans by winning the main Edinburgh Comedy Awards honour with a show hailed as “utterly unique”.
But the 33-year-old insisted he is still not happy with the show he has been performing at the Pleasance Courtyard every night, which has been hailed as “stand-up’s answer to Waiting For Godot” and “one of the comic coups of the Fringe”. He admitted his show has been a “constant battle” with his audiences, but Brookes, who describes himself on stage as a “hipster Nosferatu”, has won over critics with a show in which he gives the impression he is constantly “killing time”.
Nica Burns, director of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, said the show had been recognised for Brookes’ “originality, his playfulness with the audience, his timing and his sheer laughter count”.
New York comic Catherine Cohen was named best newcomer at the awards.
Brookes, one of nine nominees for the main award, mixes around 40 minutes of prepared material with 20 minutes of “improvised moments of tension and expectation” in his winning show.
After being presented with his award by stage and screen star Stephen Fry, Brookes said: “The show works more often than it doesn’t, which is a huge surprise. It is a constant battle. Sometimes the audiences are a bit reserved. I can’t do my act to nothing. If the audience isn’t engaging, I have to change gear and come in a bit harder, or try to play with them.
“Every audience is fun and thrilling, every show is a unique experience, because it’s a negotiation with that particular crowd to get the best response.
“There’s probably about 40 minutes of prepared material, which I do in different orders. Sometimes I drop bits or move stuff around for a laugh. It allows me to go off-road whenever I want.
“I just wanted to do a show where I was loose and free with it and not feel trapped in a structure. I really didn’t think it was good show. I still don’t think it is, to be honest.
“I came up with what I thought was just over half a show, but I knew that I wouldn’t know if it was going to work until I got here because of the audiences at the Fringe. I’ve not really been reading reviews. I’ve just been focusing on doing the show and having fun in the moment.”
Who is Jordan Brookes?
Born in Merseyside, Jordan Brookes has been performing comedy for eight years. Until recently an NHS call centre worker, he has also been a barman and shoe shop worker.
In 2012 he reached the semi-finals in the Chortle Student Awards and won the Welsh Unsigned Stand-Up Award. He was shortlisted for the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2013 and 2014, and has also written for the BBC Radio Wales sketch show Here Be Dragons.
He made his Fringe debut in 2015, when he performed at the Grassmarket Community Project and made his breakthrough two years ago with an Edinburgh Comedy Awards nomination for a free show.