‘A complacent celebration of outright mediocrity’

THE BRITISH Comedy Awards return next week, and Paul Whitelaw is not amused.

If, like me, you regard yourself as a passionate, analytical comedy fan – a nerd, as noughties funnyman Ricky Gervais might say – then you’ll know that the annual unveiling of the British Comedy Awards nominations is a time of sombre contemplation and much gnashing of novelty wind-up teeth.

Some might find it ironic that an event celebrating the nation’s mirth-makers inspires such despair among those at whom it is presumably aimed – but we’re not the ones who have decided that, not only should the likes of John Bishop be allowed to roam unfettered on television, he should also be awarded for his efforts. Comedy is an art – the British Comedy Awards are the engine heart of an industry steered by producers called Jed who would sneer at such a notion.

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Particularly in the entertainment categories, the BCAs are a complacent celebration of outright mediocrity. By nominating the likes of Alan Carr, Jack Whitehall and Leigh Francis/Keith Lemon – who isn’t a comedian, just a bleached moustache with some catchphrases attached – they seek to legitimise an idiotic TV culture of not-remotely-entertainment formats filled with ubiquitous hack comics and C-list celebrities.

This year I personally enjoyed Simon Amstell’s Grandma’s House and Sharon Horgan’s Dead Boss, neither of which are included in the Best Sitcom or Best New Programme categories (sadly, the great Getting On aired too late to qualify in the former). And while I’m pleased to see nods for the likes of Peter Capaldi, Graham Norton and Olivia Colman – although she’s unfairly nominated twice in the Best Female Actress category, such is our apparent dearth of great female comics – I wish the BCAs would draw more attention to our wider breadth of comedy talent, not only on TV, but on radio, online, and in print.

Otherwise the whole thing is a massive, pointless waste of time.

• The British Comedy Awards live ceremony airs on Wednesday 12 December on Channel 4 at 9pm. britishcomedyawards.com