Egyptian promise

First Richard Pryor winner named

Egyptian-American comic Ahmed Ahmed has won the first Edinburgh award aimed at ethnic minorities.

He was presented with  £1,000 and the inaugural Richard Pryor Award, judged by the legendary stand-up himself, by Pryor’s wife Jennifer Lee last night.

He said: “I came up here not expecting any award, not expecting any hype or press. The fact that Richard Pryor would honour me? Wow.

"This is an honour, I'm really flattered. God bless the Fringe festival."

Pryor chose the winner from wathcing tapes of the nominees' live shows. The other shortlisted comics were Stephen K Amos, Matt Blaize and Danny Bhoy.

In his praise for the winner, Pryor said:  “He will only grow better and better.

 “He makes people confront their racism and small minds. I see genius in this man.”

Mrs Lee Pryor told the crowd: “This [award] is authentic, it comes from the heart.”

She revealed that the award would return next year with an additional category, but would not disclose what that would be.

She added: “Richard is enjoying a respite from the disease and he really enjoyed watching all the tapes. We try to keep him laughing, and this is fantastic for him.”

Organisers of the award were disappointed in how few comics were eligible. Of 400 comedy shows at the Fringe, only 16 were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Reginald D Hunter had previously criticised the award as the wrong way to bring diversity to the festival.

But Mrs Lee Pryor said: “The person who gets this award gets it because he’s a great comic, not because of his ethnicity.”

From his California home, 63-year-old Pryor said: “You are all too white over there! I like that this is opening things up a bit.”

Award host Junion Simpson said of Pryor, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986: “He is the greatest comedian ever. If any comic wants a blueprint of how perfect stand-up should be, they should get a copy of Live In Concert.”

Pryor gave citations for all the shortlisted acts.

Of Stephen K Amos he said: “He comes from a very warm place. He’s not only funny, but very touching. I loved his personal appeal to the audience.”

He praised Danny Bhoy for being “original and heartwarming”, adding that his vulnerability made him cry.

And of Matt Blaize’s “engaging, larger-than-life persona, he said: “You command the audience and wrap them around your finger.”

The shortlist of nominees was chosen by comedy critic Stephen Armstrong, BBC executive Lucy Lumsden and comedy actress Mina Anwar.


Pictured (from left): Mina Anwar, Stephen K Amos, Jennifer Lee Pryor, Ahmed Ahmed, Junior Simpson

Published: 26 Aug 2004

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