Paddy Young

Paddy Young

Scarborough-born, London-based comedian who was nominated for best newcomer at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe for his show Hungry, Horny, Scared and was a finalist in the BBC New Comedy Award the same year.
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BBC New Comedy Award 2023 final

Review by Jay Richardson

A recurring tongue-in-cheek complaint that's heard increasingly at new act competitions is that comedy is now full to bursting, with established acts wishing failure on the seemingly endless waves of talented newcomers crashing onto the scene, threatening their livelihoods.

And so it proved at this year's BBC New Comedy Award final in Glasgow, with host Rosie Jones and a judging panel of Zoe Lyons, Darren Harriott and Josh Pugh joking, but only to an extent, about the door being locked and no further comics admitted. Happily, another vintage year of rookies for the BBC showpiece ensured their insecurities were well-founded.

Any advantage Dean T Beirne enjoyed as a Scotsman performing in his home country was balanced by him landing the tricky opening spot. But there were no sign of nerves in his smoothly assured set, as he's clearly someone adept at adapting to new environments and making a strong first impression.

Raised in foster care in Aberdeen, brought up in Dubai after being adopted by mixed faith parents, before returning to Scotland, he's bisexual, autistic and cheerfully nerdy, holding a strong hand of intersectionality and knowing how to exploit it.

His ironic characterisation of himself as the superhero character Autism Boy is excessively contrived, while his good-natured but mocking disdain for straight culture as a quirky fringe fad is not the most original. Still, these are minor quibbles for a set that radiated likeability, ease on stage and a rock-solid sense of self.

For most of this show, Jin Hao Li looked set to be the night's wildcard, a Chinese comic who's arrived in the UK via Singapore specialising in a sort of pastiche of gnomic Eastern wisdom. With exceptional mastery of pauses and misdirection, blurring dream states and reality, he quickly but rather beautifully established his alternative universe with such concrete robustness that he was capable of a superb, rug-pulling callback that made plenty in the King's Theatre jump out of their seats.

For all his worldly, philosophical mien, he's embracing solipsism and self-centred spite. Reverse engineering a major cause of disease in the developing world as justification for an altruistic humblebrag, and spinning concern about plastic in the environment into a lyrical, American Beauty-style meditation that yet ultimately prioritised his petty vindictiveness over ecology, I'd love to see what intricate storytelling tapestries he might weave in a longer showcase.

Regardless of being the only woman in the line-up, Chantal Nash was destined to stand out anyway with a pithy, perfectly contained account of multi-generational parenting, seguing between ethnicities, blended family and the differences between traditionally white Dagenham and the greater multiculturalism of modern London.

Waggishly denigrating being raised by a white stepdad, this black woman feigns youthful pomposity in knowing how to raise her own young children better. Delivering an amusingly touchy rebuttal to anyone questioning her extended breastfeeding, she also offers a genuinely touching snapshot of childhood that gets in another slight of her step-parent, the casual afterthought-ness of it making it all the more damning.

Building on her aforementioned 'aah' moment, she then offers a lengthy, considered reflection on her strengths and failings, trials and tribulations as a mother, taking time to prostate herself on the stage in a striking, mindful moment of self-reassurance, only to then rudely whip away the conceit with a harsh interjection and crushing personal revelation. Delightfully done.

The only underwhelming act on the night proved to be Belfast drag queen Hester Ectomy, who cut a glittering figure and brought distraction via his trumpet, but whose identity-focused routines were too vague and unfocused in places, the gags too forced in others.

Though coyly addressing gender in his introduction, the outré flavour of his sexuality was clunkily expressed with lines about saunas and bondage equipment. The oppressiveness of Establishment heteronormativity meanwhile, expressed through The Man's (seemingly innocuous) oversight of swimming pools, afforded only the broadest slab of satire.

Ectomy was also caught between performing for the live Glaswegian audience before him, presumably largely cognisant with Belfast's Sectarian strife and marching bands, and the future television audience across the UK who might be less familiar. Uncertainly charting a path between the two in his setup, a single, dirty trumpet pun couldn't redeem a closing routine that mostly served to foreground his musical skills.

Paddy Young's appearance in the final may have raised a few eyebrows, considering he already has an Edinburgh Comedy Award best newcomer nomination and a UK tour announced. But in a cost of living crisis, he's potently expressing the frustration of anyone for whom a rung on the property ladder is but a distant dream.

Squeezed into ten minutes, he dispenses with the North-South ​divide resentment of his Edinburgh show to focus wholly on the deprivation of his London flatshare, retaining his ill-disguised bitterness towards homeowners.

With a cartoonish pathos and moist-eyed, imploring demand not to be ignored, the cramped conditions Young describes are Dickensian, and yet at the same time absolutely 21st century, his awareness of a better life on some far horizon enabled by his internet connection.

Making light of a serious issue that appears likely to impact successive generations for a good while yet, he entertainingly plucks at his metaphorical tiny violin with nimble aplomb, crafting pitiful images of just about surviving in soul-corroding squalor, rolling his eyes and raising his arms heavenwards in flouncing futility. A little guy loser you can empathise with, better days surely await in his professional future.

Last but by no estimation least, Frankie Monroe, aka the unsettling creation of  2021 Chortle Student Comedy Award-winner Joe Kent-Walters, seized the final spot to make a huge impression. Sidling backwards on stage and only belatedly revealing a face inexplicably plastered in thick, white, nappy rash cream, the effect recalls nothing so much as the masks of Alan Moore's graphic novel V For Vendetta.

Seemingly born from an ungodly union of Phoenix Nights and The League of Gentlemen, with perhaps just a dash of Vic and Bob, Monroe (pictured above) sports a diabolic red shirt and shabby suit with big, awkward shoulderpads.

Speaking in a thick, gravel gargle of a voice that recalls the League's transgender cabbie Barbara, and purportedly the owner of a working men's club in Rotherham that doubles as a portal to Hell, Monroe is once seen, never forgotten.

Indulging in some venerable magic tricks, old school variety repertoire and mild audience discomfort, the character physically commands the stage and beyond, even when his set-pieces supposedly go awry. Indulging in rough, hilarious slapstick and a barnstorming nonsense musical number, the holes in and countless questions about his backstory only make him more compelling.

Who the judges crowned winner though, you'll just have to wait until next week's broadcast of the contest to find out.

• The final of the BBC New Comedy Awards 2023 airs on BBC One and iPlayer at 10.40pm next Wednesday.

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Published: 7 Nov 2023

Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Paddy Young: Laugh, You Rats!

Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Paddy Young: Hungry, Horny, Scared


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