The Ryan Awards

Stand-up John Ryan suggests some alternatives to the Chortles...

It’s Chortle award time again. The comedy industry is happy as, when the winners are announced on Tuesday night, we will all know whom the best acts and venues are, after talking about the nominations in car journeys, dressing rooms and pubs up and down the country. But are the Chortle awards relevant? Do they really know what we, the acts know? I don’t agree with all the shortlists or the categories, but then they aren’t my awards to give. But if they were? Welcome to the Ryan Awrds

It’s all well and good judging a comic by his performance on stage but first you have to get to the venue. This is a vital part of the night as it affects your mood for the entire evening.

So my first award will be for the Best car to get a lift in:

  • Simon Evans always has his car at the right temperature and leather seats.
  • Jason Wood has a magic Van. I always ask him to go the long way so I can sit in comfort for longer.
  • Tony Hendrix has the best range of music and will sing all the way to the venue.
  • Chambers and Nettleton share food, songs and the steering wheel.

But what if you are the driver and not the passenger? The person you are giving a lift to has to be polite, on time and not boring. It is vital that they don’t just whinge the whole way. My favourite passenger award nominations would be:

  • Jarred Christmas as he always brings a selection of sweets.
  • Dougie Dunlop who will spend hours reciting alphabetical lists of capital cities of the world.
  • Tom Craine uses lots of big words and knows a lot of interesting stuff.
  • Steve Gribbin can talk about football for days.

If you are not in the industry you would be surprised by the amount of tightwads that think that because you have a car, you won’t mind bringing them. Though the driver may not want a contribution you should always offer. Poorest excuse for not sharing costs award:

  • You were going that way anyway.
  • I don’t pay petrol okay.
  • I got the train there and if I pay you I won’t have made any money.
  • I will pay you next time.

I looked at the Chortle shortlist and there was no mention of that category so I thought I would revisit one of theirs: Best Compere. Hmm. Well I guess the role of a compere is to settle a room, get it focussed ready to receive an act and set the night up.

  • Chris Gilbert looks smart and gets them ready.
  • Simon Bligh can settle a couple of hundred squaddies for the night ahead.
  • Windsor and his performing table tennis bat. I watched him in front over several thousand laughing people in Trafalgar Square.
  • Mick Ferry and his magic hands. It might be a rowdy room before he starts but he has it under control in minutes.

Hang on, if we can’t decide on the best compere how about an award for Worst Compere:

  • That bloke who does half an hour between the acts, but always apologises.
  • What’s his name that does material he knows that you are about to do.
  • The guy that did the gag about ‘anal rape’ to a stunned audience and then introduced you to silence.
  • Him off the telly that doesn’t bother to remember anyone’s name.

Looking at that last one, I thought it all looked a bit bitchy but believe me it is tame compared to what goes on in the dressing rooms. Ah the dressing rooms, the glamour of our lives is boundless. But where is their award? Best Green Room:

  • Leicester Jongleurs always has toys, papers and a kettle.
  • The Amused Moose gives you a sectioned off swanky bar to yourself.
  • The Kings Head in London lets you into the world of Peter Graham. His room is almost as much fun as the gig.
  • The Comedy Club Zurich lets you write on the walls and they give you soup. 

Maybe Green room awards aren’t given yet so I tried thinking about proper awards again like who is Best Headliner? Well that is tough as there are so many top acts, Terry Alderton, Gina Yashere, Sean Collins, Steve Gribbin, Curtis Walker, Rudi Lickwood? I could go on but then it occurred to me that you can only have that award because – let’s face it – promoters don’t know what they are doing do they? Surely the acts should organise the finale? I have heard some cracking reasons why someone is better than the actual headliner: The best gripe about not closing award:

  • ‘ I should be the headline because I have been gigging longer than him’
  • ‘He is just a compere’
  • ‘How can they have a woman headline?’
  • ‘Yeah but take away the guitar and what has he got?

There are loads of good acts and the hand of fame doesn’t always pick the right people from obscurity. I think we generally like to see the nice people do well but let’s face it there are some people on the circuit that we would never want to see on TV. What about the ‘Please don’t let them be famous’ award.

  • The coke bloke, you know the bitter bitch - could have been on the telly but it didn’t work out because ‘I was too funny’.
  • The one that studied drama and sees comedy as a way of getting noticed.
  • Anyone who claims to be controversial but is actually a very nice boy.
  • People who say ‘but erm’ or ‘and erm’ to fill the silence between gags.

Bookers try to balance a bill to make the show run smoothly and acts don’t always realise this. Why should we, being selfish and self-cantered is part of why we do what we do. We don’t spend enough time together to let it boil over unless you are on tour and that can be tense.

I guess the Chortle judges can only nominate shows that they have seen, however no one that has been part of it could be in any doubt that the best touring show are the Combined Services Entertainment gigs for the troops. They can turn a disused shed into the London Palladium and back in a matter of hours. ‘The show must go on’ is the old saying and this one does even in the most barren parts of the globe. There you have it, nomination closed.

Okay we could make this award more interesting by having a ‘can you put in a word with them for me’ trophy. This could be given to anyone of a dozen people who will ring, text, email or ask every time they see you. As if any booker will take my word for it!
The ways of asking someone to recommend you to a booker award:

  • Get drunk and poke them repeatedly at the Phoenix/comedy café/Jongleurs bar.
  • Remind them that ‘I got you in at the Banana in 2003’
  • Bombard their facebook wall.
  • Turn up at a gig and loiter.

I guess we are all looking for a breakthrough but what does it mean? Is it someone who is unknown and going to be ‘big’ or is it someone you don’t know but now by virtue of a nomination, you do? The ‘They should be bigger than they are award’:

  • Steve Shanyaski is hilarious.
  • Gareth Berliner can make you laugh and cry for all the right reasons.
  • Lloyd Langford is a comedy wizard.
  • Liz Carr shows that there is nothing that you can’t make funny.

Do you need an award for breakthrough? Surely to get on in this game you need to realise that it is not just about being funny. You also need to be at the venue on time. I have heard some brilliant excuses for being late. The best reason for being late award:

  • ‘The train caught fire!’ This from an act that was booked on the same train as the rest of us but met a girl in the bar at Paddington station.
  • ‘Did you say Woking? I thought you meant Wokingham!’ was a cracking reason not to turn up.
  • ‘My diary blew out the window and I didn’t know that I was meant to be gigging tonight!’
  • ‘I put diesel in an unleaded car by mistake’.

These were all excuses from acts that have been performing for a while and should have known better. Lying on your feet is something that newcomers have to learn is vital if you want to get on. Why not? Promoters do it all the time. Award for the best excuse for canceling a gig excuse that I have ever heard:

  • The building has flooded. This would have been acceptable if it wasn’t for the fact that an acts girlfriend worked there and revealed that they hadn’t sold enough tickets.
  • Possible snow! Not actual snow, or forecasted snow. No. ‘It might snow and we can’t take the risk of you getting stuck!’
  • ‘It was written in pencil and must have faded’. An act asked me if this sounded odd.
  • “But I thought you comics brought the lighting and sound system with you”.

I see that Chortle has an award for the best small club, but no mention of the worst clubs award:

  • The ‘cheque to follow’ club. What is it following, the Titanic? Cos it hasn’t turned up yet.
  • The ‘if you can drive here, you can gig here’ club, for which the acts will chip in for petrol.
  • The one where the booker is a poor act who can’t get work elsewhere.
  • The one run by the mate of the bloke you had an argument with.

Anyway, does winning an award make you successful or is it about being true to your art? Should we measure success by accolades, gig lists or bank balances. Personally I am a working comic who gets to travel the world and watch a lot of people who are funnier than me for free. That can’t be bad can it? I will keep on gigging away and maybe one day make enough money to pay Janey Godley to host a night at the Waterfront comedy club in Chelmsford. I could pay Dan Evans, Gavin Webster and Craig Campbell to entertain me and hope that the people I didn’t book aren’t put out – which of course they will be. Until then I shall just have to let the Chortle readers decide on the awards. At least then I can moan about their choices. Sláinte

Published: 17 Feb 2009

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