Tim Key has won this year’s main Edinburgh Comedy Award.
Key won the award for his show, The Slutcracker, a mix of poetry, unconventional stand-up and film.
A former member of the Cambridge Footlights, Key first came to the Fringe with their 2001 Edinburgh show Far Too Happy, which also starred Mark Watson and was nominated for the Perrier award for best newcomer.
He also featured in Alex Horne's best-newcomer nominated Making Fish Laugh in 2003, and is part of the four-man sketch troupe Cowards. His solo Edinburgh debut came in 2004, with the tragic one-man comedy play Luke & Stella, which was made into a Radio 4 series called All Bar Luke.
His poetry has also feature on Radio 4’s Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better and Charlie Brooker's Newswipe.
On receiving his award from last year’s winner David O’Doherty, he said: ‘Good stuff. Bit overwhelmed… This is quite humbling. Thanks, everyone.’
Award producer Nica Burns said: 'Tim Key is a one-off; an adorably diffident performance poet and stand-up. His charming show is full of surprises. Tim has funny bones and is a star in the making.'
Best newcomer Sweet – who is to play a young David Cameron in theforthcoming More 4 film Oxford Blues – is also a former member of the Cambridge Footlights, the team that won the first-ever Perrier in 1981. He and his writing partner Joe Thomas perform together with Simon Bird as House of Windsor.
Burns said his show, Mostly About Arthur, was 'a delicious hour of character comedy from 24-year-old newcomer Jonny Sweet, celebrating the life of his ficticious brother Arthur, a book blurb writer. Unexpected, highly original, very funny. Watch out for him.'
Of his panel prize, Free Fringe supremo Peter Buckley Hill said: ‘In one sense this goes to all the acts on the Free Fringe. They did it, I merely bullied them. In a second sense, I’m keeping it.’
Awarding the panel prize, panel chairman Tim Arthur, Time Out’s comedy Editor, said: ‘Some of the most exciting, creative, unique pieces are on the Free Fringe.’
Buckley Hill founded the Free Fringe in 1996, with his own variety show, but it has expanded hugely in the past two years, even spawning a rival organisation. The ethos is that performers do not pay for their venues and audiences only make voluntary donations for the shows they see – an attempt to break the model where comedians can end up thousands of pounds out of pockets while festival-goes pay ever-rising ticket prices.
Frank Skinner made the announcements in Edinburgh this lunchtime – breaking with the recent tradition of unveiling the winners at a late-night party.
Key receives £8,000, with the others receiving £4,000 each. Producer Burns, a West End theatre owner, is funding the prizes to the tune of £150,000 after failing to attract a sponsor to replace Perrier and Intelligent Finance.
The shortlists had attracted some controversy, as no women were nominated and because almost all the shows were on at one of the Pleasance venues.
Burns said earlier in the week: ‘On a personal basis I can’t help but be disappointed that no women made the list this year despite them representing 15 per cent of all comedy shows.’
Key will also be invited to perform at the Just for Laughs comedy festivals in Montreal, Toronto and Chicago.
The full shortlist for the main award was:
Idiots Of Ants: This is War
John Bishop: Elvis Has Left The Building
Jon Richardson: This Guy At Night
Russell Kane: Human Dressage
Tim Key: The Slutcracker
Tom Wrigglesworth’s Open Return Letter to Richard Branson
While those nominated for best newcomer were:
Carl Donnelly: Relax Everyone, It’s Carl Donnelly
Jack Whitehall: Nearly Rebellious
Jonny Sweet: Mostly About Arthur
Kevin Bridges: An Hour To Sing For Your Soul
Pete Johansson: Naked Pictures Of My Life.
Tim Key receiving his award:
Here is Peter Buckley Hill receiving his panel prize:
Jonny Sweet receiving the best newcomer award: