LA hosts British Comedy Awards

Promoting UK talent to Hollywood

The British Comedy Awards will be held tomorrow – in Los Angeles.

Bafta has launched a US version of the accolades, which ITV1 last year decided not to screen, in a bid to promote UK talent in Hollywood.

There are only three main categories – best film, best TV show and best performance – plus a Charlie Chaplin lifetime achievement award.

The Bafta/LA British Comedy Festival is part of BritWeek 2008, created by producer Nigel Lythgoe, who said he felt compelled to bring the idea to Los Angeles after Tony Blair was persuaded to appear in a sketch with Catherine Tate for Comic Relief.

‘She actually got him to say, “Am I bovvered?”,’ Lythgoe said. ‘I thought, here's this wonderful character, Catherine Tate, and her catchphrase that nobody over here has ever heard of. So this awards show was really an excuse to bring successful new comedy over here and introduce it to both the public and the executives.’

Bafta assembled judges, led by British Comedy Awards founder Michael Hurll, to come up with the shortlists for academy members to vote on. The final list of nominees is:

Films: Hot Fuzz; Magicians; Run, Fatboy, Run
TV shows: Extras; Gavin & Stacey; Little Britain; The IT Crowd
Performers: Simon Pegg; Harry Hill; Mitchell and Webb

Winners will be announced at the Four Seasons Hotel, Los Angeles, tomorrow night.

Bafta chief executive Donald Haber, said ‘We're flying over most of the nominees, and it's an event that we fully intend to grow over the next few years.

‘Obviously it's exciting for people in L.A. who love British comedy, but we're hearing that it's also generating a lot of excitement in London.’

To coincide with the awards, influential trade paper Variety has published a feature on the rising British comedy stars catching Hollywood’s attention headlined ‘Who will be the next Ricky Gervais?’

Russell Brand heads the list, following his performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, followed by Omid Djalili, who is starring opposite Mike Meyers in The Love Guru, and plans to tour the US this year.

Other names mentioned are Kevin Bishop from Star Stories, Alexander Armstrong and Rob Brydon - any of whom may follow in the footsteps of Ashley Jensen, of Extras and now Ugly Better, and John Oliver from the Daily Show in having US exposure.

One Hollywood talent-watcher said: ‘To me, funny is funny in any language, so it's more about their original voice and that likeability factor. And those who cross over here do so for the same reason certain American comedians cross over in other countries: because they're appealing and they tap into something universal.’

ITV1 dropped last year’s British Comedy Awards because of problems with a phone vote two years earlier – in which thousands of votes were not counted for the People’s Choice award, even though viewers were charged for their calls.

The broadcaster is expected to be hit with a £4million fine from Ofcom this week for a string of phone-vote scandals, including deception on such high-profile shows as The X Factor and Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway

Published: 30 Apr 2008

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