Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Would you sponsor the Edinburgh Comedy Awards? – Vladimir McTavish

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The awards formerly known as Perrier have had a chequered history

News emerged this week that there may be no Edinburgh Comedy Awards at the 2023 Fringe, after TV channel Dave ended their association. Director Nica Burns announced that she is without a sponsor and pleaded for “potential heroes to step forward” and stump up the eye-watering sum of £200,000 she claims she needs. If you ask me, I reckon she’d be more successful asking for a deranged idiot to put their hand up. It’s hard to know what the sponsor would actually get in return for their two-hundred grand.

Previous winners of the award have included Jeremy Hardy, Frank Skinner, Sean Hughes and Lee Evans. However, if questioned, I’d be hard-pressed to name any of the winners from the past five years. And I work in the business, so I’m guessing Joe Public has even less of a clue.

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My feeling is that the award actually began to lose its cachet over a decade-and-a-half ago when the original sponsor pulled out. Perrier bank-rolled the competition from its inception in 1981 until 2005. And for years afterwards, most people continued to refer to them as the Perrier Awards, oblivious to the change in sponsorship. The awards have not been free of controversy over the years. When Perrier was taken over by Nestle, a number of comedians including Rob Newman and Stewart Lee organised a protest movement called Baby Milk Action.

Lee Evans is a famous winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award (Picture: Ian Nicholson/PA)Lee Evans is a famous winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award (Picture: Ian Nicholson/PA)
Lee Evans is a famous winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award (Picture: Ian Nicholson/PA)

From 2006, they became officially known as the if.comedies and later the if.comedy awards, as sponsorship was in the hands of Intelligent Finance. This caused much hilarity in the comedy industry at the time. At a festival where many of the performers can lose several thousand pounds producing their show, there was an enormous irony in the winner of the best one receiving a prize from a company called Intelligent Finance.

Having already been branded by one gassy, tasteless drink, the awards were supported by another fizzy, flavourless liquid when Foster’s Lager took over the sponsorship for five years. I would imagine that during this period, comics would have been falling over themselves trying not to be nominated. I personally would not want to be photographed holding a trophy advertising a beer I would never be seen dead drinking. Only a “hero” would do that.

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