Scottish Comedian of the Year Final 2021, Rotunda Comedy Club, Glasgow ****
In the 15 years that the Scottish Comedian of the Year competition has been running, I struggle to recall a stronger line-up than this final. Without a duff performance from the ten acts competing, the result was heatedly debated, and three comics failed to secure a podium place despite having vocal champions among the judges: Darius Davies, Ross Leslie and MC Hammersmith can all consider themselves slightly unlucky that their well-received sets didn't land them higher.
Coming third, Bylgja Babýlons was assured, ambitious and distinctive. Dry and sardonic, the Icelandic import's culture clash routines about her three years living in Scotland are just a little hard-edged and reflect the xenophobia she's encountered. Bolder still, she has no hesitation in focusing on the gynaecological, culminating in her disclosure of cancer and chemotherapy, mining these for rich, engaging laughs while suggesting she has greater potential to fulfil with her unique backstory.
Grabbing runner-up spot, Richard Pulsford's puns have consistently earned him recognition in best joke lists at the Edinburgh Fringe. However, within the parameters of his one-liner shtick, it's heartening to see an act really develop. And the Fife-based comic now seems looser and more capable of surfing an audience's energy than the last time I saw him. Immediately establishing himself as a safe pair of hands, reminiscent of a master like Milton Jones, his (justified) confidence in his material shone through.
Up last, but finishing first, Paisley's Liam Farrelly will struggle to shake comparisons with Kevin Bridges, both in terms of appearance and general demeanour. He was a big crowd favourite and rightly so. Capably identifying the quirkiness of his aunt being a nun and escalating that to imagining God's awkward role in his family, he's a compelling, down-to-earth voice who nevertheless leans hard into foregrounding the ridiculousness in his life, entertainingly marvelling at being a father at the tender age of 21.
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