Since it began in 1988, So You Think You're Funny? has kick-started the careers of dozens of the country’s top comics including Dylan Moran, Peter Kay and Tommy Tiernan.
espite going on to work with massive names such as Frasier’s Kelsey Grammer, Sketch Show star Lee Mack reckons the night he won the contest a decade ago was one of his most thrilling moments. ‘From the bottom of my heart, nothing has been as exciting as that moment when they said, “The winner is Lee Mack”. In terms of excitement, that was the pinnacle of my career.’
The competition was created by Karen Koren, founder of the Gilded Balloon Fringe venue in Edinburgh, who set up the competition simply to find fresh talent to feed the booming demand for stand-up. In the first year, the prize was £250 and the possibility of a TV commission. Indeed, the very first winner, Bruce Morton, landed a series on the Seven Deadly Sins.
Now sponsored by Foster’s, the competition is open to new acts, who have been performing for less than 18 months and who have yet to have been paid for a comedy gig.
Several heats are held around the country in late spring. Each night is not a direct competition, with judges instead selecting the best acts they have seen over the entire run to take part in one of seven heats at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Winners of each of these go forward to a final at the Gilded Balloon at the festival.
Previous winners and finalists
1988: Bruce Morton
1989: Phil Kay
1990: Trio Brothers (Rab Christie and Greg Herchill)
1991: Alan Francis
1992: Rhona Cameron
1993: Dylan Moran
Finalists: Steve Furst (runner-up), Michael Smiley
1994: Martin Trenaman
1995: Lee Mack
1996: Tommy Tiernan
Finalists: Valentine Flyguy, John Henderson, David Keay, Patrick McDonnell, Lucy Porter
1997: Peter Kay
Finalists: Nick Doody, Paul Foot, Jonathan Gunning, Stephen Morrison, TJ Murphy, Rod Woodward
1998: Rob Rouse
Finalists: Moz, Caroline Quinlan, Stuart Stanley, Dan Antoploski,Alex Zane, Reginald D Hunter, Nadine Lennard, Kevin Hill
1999: David O'Doherty
Finalists: Josie Long, Juliet Cowan, Andy Zaltzman, Richard Morris
2000: Drew Rokos
Finalists: included Des Clarke (runner-up), Mark Dolan, Mat and McKinnon, Francesca Martinez and Les Hommes Sans Noms
2001: Miles Jupp
Finalists: Stefano Paolini (2nd), Alan Carr (joint 3rd), Michael Downey (joint 3rd), Seymour Mace, Hils Barker, Inder Manocha, John Bishop, and The Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III
2002: Mathew Osborn
Finalists: Mark Watson (2nd), Nina Conti (3rd), Michael Anderson, Andy Bone, Greg Davies, Rhod Gilbert, Rufus Hound, Greg McHugh.
2003: Tom Wrigglesworth
Finalists: Andrew Lawrence (2nd), Stuart Hudson (3rd), Anna Crilly, Michael Fabbri, Anne Keirle, Matt Kirshen, Rodney Marques, Ed Petrie.
2004: Nick Sun
Finalists: Russell Kane (2nd), Chris McCausland (3rd), Rob Collins,Jarleth Regan, Zoe Lyons, Susan Taylor, Rose Heiney, Lee Bannard
2005: Tom Allen
Finalists: Sarah Millican (2nd), Joe Wilkinson (3rd), Charlie Baker, Kevin Bridges, Robert Broderick, Emma Fryer, Stuart Goldsmith, Josh Thomas.
2006: Wes Paker
Finalists: Hannah Gadsby (2nd), Ginger & Black (3rd), Andrew Watts, Alan Bennett, Caroline Clifford, Raph Shirley, Holly Walsh, Marlon Davis
2007: Richard Sandling
Finalists: Ben Davis (2nd), Joanne Lau (3rd), Toby Whithouse, Carl Hutchinson, Daniel Rigby, Gar Murran, Jack Whitehall, James Marsh
2008: Daniel Simonsen
Finalists: Seann Walsh (2nd), Sara Pascoe, Ahir Shah, John Gavin, Josh Widdicombe, Gearoid Farrelly, Richard Perry, Daniel Sloss, Doc Brown
2009: Ivo Graham
Finalists: Kevin Shevlin (2nd), Naz Osmanoglu (3rd), Richard Bowen,Winston Smith, Robin Bucklow, Mark Simmons, Jim Campbell, Kai Humphries
2010: James Kirk
Finalists: Liam Williams (2nd), Rob Beckett (3rd), Alex Clissold-Jones, Romesh Ranganathan, Chris Turner, Matt Richardson, Laura Carr, Pete Dobbing
2011: Tommy Rowson
Finalists: Dayne Rathbone (second), Fern Brady (joint 3rd), Lucy Beaumont (joint 3rd), Andy Clark, Stuart Hossack, Nicola Mantalios-Lovett, Darren Connell, Alex Kealey
2012: Aisling Bea
Finalists: Jonny Pelham (second), Wayne Mazadza (joint 3rd), Murdon Haggs (joint 3rd), Amir Khoshsokhan, Conor Neville, Glenn Moore, Ingrid Dahle, Nick Dixon
2013: Edd Hedges and Demi Lardner (joint winners)
Finalists: Laura McLenaghan (runner-up), Nicky Wilkinson, Tom Taylor, Alasdair Beckett-King, Russ Peers, Jenny Collier, Andrew McBurney
2014: Aidan Strangeman
Finalists: Elliot Steel (runner-up), Joe Hart (3rd), Mark Daniels, Jim Smith, Benji Waterstones, Christopher MacArthur Boyd, Eshaan Akbar, Gary Meikle/p>
2015: Luca Cupani
Finalists: Yuriko Kotani (runner-up), Ed Day (3rd) Ben Pope, Yumna Mohamed, Neil O'Rourke, Matilda Wnek, Red Richardson, Stephen Lawson, AJ Roberts