Record number of women in running for Fringe's top comedy award

Edinburgh Comedy Awards director says it is "unprecedented" for four women to be nominated for the main prize for best show.
Edinburgh Comedy Awards director says it is "unprecedented" for four women to be nominated for the main prize for best show.
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More women than ever before are in contention for the main comedy award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for

Elf Lyons, Hannah Gadsby, Mae Martin and Sophie Willan are all in the running for the £10,000 Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize.

A record nine nominees will be battling it out, one more than in 2015 and 2016. None of the contenders for this year’s prize, the winner of which will be announced on Saturday, have previously been shortlisted.

The best comedy show honour at the Fringe has only previously won by four women, although only three - Bridget Christie, Laura Solon and Jenny Eclair - were for solo shows.

The most female nominees there have been for the award in any one year in the past were two - in 2010 and 2012.

Ahir Shah, John Robins, Jordan Brookes, Mat Ewins and Spencer Jones are the other candidates on the shortlist, which features four shows drawn from “free Fringe” venues.

Awards director Nica Burns said it was “unprecedented” that gender equality had almost been achieved in the nine-strong nominations list.

Three of the eight contenders for the best newcomer prize are also female. Just 20 per cent of eligible shows for the awards feature female solo comics this year.

Ms Burns, who took over the running of the event in 1984, said the judging panel had been gender balanced for most of her tenure as director, but said she had resisted any pressure to introduce any kind of quota system for nominees.

She said: “It’s really important that all these women know that they got their own merit. It was a delightful surprised when we saw the voting papers.

“The old chestnut about whether women are funny has been well and truly buried now. For women to make up almost half of the shortlist is absolutely extraordinary. We also have a very diverse set-of women, including comics from Canada and Australia.

“The picture is looking absolutely great now - it’s very exciting. It’s brilliant that this has happened in a year when we’ve been talking a lot about gender and identity.

“It’s definitely the year of the ladies. I think it’s down to a combination of confidence and the fact that more women are doing stand-up comedy.

“The number of female comedians have definitely grown in the last five years or so. When I started working on the awards in the early 1980s something like five per cent of comedy shows were solo female stand-ups.

“That figure grew very slowly and things only really started to change in the 21st century. It’s taken that long to get where we are now. We had a female winner as part of Cambridge Footlights with Emma Thompson in 1981, but it was not until Jenny Eclair in 1995 that we had a female solo winner. It’s been a fight and it’s taken a long time. to get here.”


Ahir Shah: Control

Elf Lyons: Swan

Hannah Gadsby - Nanette

John Robins: The Darkness of Robins

Jordan Brookes: Body of Work

Mae Martin: Dope

Mat Ewins Presents Adventureman 7: The Return of Adventureman

Sophie Willan: Branded

Spencer Jones: The Audition


Chris Washington: Dream Big (Within Reason)

Darren Harriott: Defiant

Ed Night: Anthem for Doomed Youth

Kwame Asante: Open Arms

Lauren Pattison: Lady Muck

Lucy Pearman: Maid of Cabbage

Natalie Palamides: LAID

Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead