Scots comic first to win top award at the Fringe since 1987

The first Scot to win the biggest comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for three decades has vowed to keep performing in tiny venues '“ to keep the emotional power of his work.

Fringe award-winner Richard Gadd. Picture: Toby Williams
Fringe award-winner Richard Gadd. Picture: Toby Williams

Richard Gadd, whose material explores the impact of suffering a sexual assault four years ago, is the first home-grown act since Arnold Brown in 1987 to win the coveted Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize.

The Fife comic, who has built a cult following on the Fringe with his deeply intense and personal performances, is performing a free show in an underground cavern with just 40 seats every night.

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But he fears the impact of his shows would be lost if he was appearing on stage before several hundred people.

Gadd, from Wormit, whose latest show also explores mental health problems and masculinity, was close to tears as he collected his award at the Dovecot Gallery.

He said: “The darkness I was in… I cannot tell you how bad it felt. The worst thing my abuser did was take my confidence away from me. I feel that this goes some way to getting it back.”

A unique Scottish double win was celebrated at the awards – formerly sponsored by Perrier and now backed by – when rising Glasgow star Scott Gibson was named best newcomer.

The former call-centre worker’s debut Fringe show at the Gilded Balloon charts his recovering from a brain haemorrhage seven year ago and his decision to pursue a career as a stand-up.

Comic Bob Slayer’s project, Iraq Out & Loud, which saw the entire Chilcot Report read out aloud by more than 1,000 performers and public over 284 hours, won the “Spirit of the Fringe” panel prize award.

Gadd, who wins £10,000, vowed not turn his back on the “free Fringe”, which has produced two of the past three winners of the award, because of its anarchic and experimental nature.

Gadd spends the majority of his latest one running on a treadmill in front of an image of a man in a gorilla suit. His show – Monkey See Monkey Do – represent the “very real monkey” he has had on his back for years, linked to his abuse trauma.

Nica Burns, director of the awards, described Monkey See Monkey Do as a “highly original, highly experimental show, which combines hilarity and heart”.

Gadd’s show is one of the most sought-after on the Fringe, with audiences queuing outside the Banshee Labyrinth hours in advance.

In his acceptance speech Gibson, 32, admitted Scottish comics had had a difficult relationship with the Fringe in the past.

Gibson, the first Scot to be nominated best newcomer since Kevin Bridges in 2009, said: “We like to tell ourselves that we’re not part of it, strangely, but hopefully this will show that we can come up and tell our stories.

“The story of the main show is about me having an aneurysm removed, those three weeks that I spent in hospital, getting better and starting doing comedy.”