Letters To A Young Comedian

Monday 21 March 2005, The Stage

The abundancy of awards ceremonies these days means that already this sentence, even uncompleted, has been nominated for two prizes - Best Opening Sentence in a Monthly Column Aimed at Entertainers and Most Interesting Use of the Word Abundancy in an Article Published in the Middle of March. Iíd like to thank my agent, the printers, all the staff at The Stage, my mother and the nice boys in the newsagents who sold me the pen with which I write.

Last week I attended the Chortle Awards and reflected that when I first did a comedy gig there were no new act competitions for me to fail to enter and no comedy awards for me to avoid. The Perrier Award was the mother of all the subsequent prize events and remains the most prestigious but you need only look through the lists of previous winners to see several acts that have never been heard of since. Similarly, a rota of performers eligible for the award but who did not win, nor were even nominated, will make you realise that, professionally, the thing has little relevance.

In my opinion, attending an awards ceremony is, apart from hanging upside down being electrocuted, the most dismal way of spending an evening. They nearly always go on too long - if youíre not nominated itís a bit boring and if you are its probably going to be disappointing. Even if you win youíre liable to ruin your night out by making an arse of yourself during your acceptance speech. In addition to this, if itís a big do, you have to endure Jonathan Ross doing his empty smart-assery and once again defining the word Ďpratí.

I am myself often the prat at the microphone, having been the presenter of various corporate awards dos. ĎAnd now the moment weíve been waiting for as we hear the nominations for Most Improved Unit Trust of the Year.í Although you are invited to make a few jokes at the expense of the MD, youíd better make sure you donít belittle the ceremony too much or nominees may become frightened that their excitement is meaningless. These ceremonies exist so that people can feel there is a point to what they do. We feeble humans require that others endorse us so that we know we exist.

Having MC-ed a couple of actors awards ceremonies I have learnt to liven the event up by creating a couple of awards of my own. Biggest Hissy Fit in a Dress Rehearsal, Most Drunken Performance in a Matinee, Least Promising Newcomer, the Brian Blessed Award for Hair of the Year etc.

Actors are good to give awards to since they gush entertainingly and are so obviously pleased. At the Chortle Awards some comedians were suspicious of the event and were trying not to take them seriously. This is a reasonable response since pomposity and self-importance are anathema to the true comic. Nevertheless I was pleased to witness the whole hearted delight of Andrew Maxwell and Mark Watson when their victories were announced.

I have just heard that my opening sentence didnít win anything in the end so my acceptance speech is, like my bed, again unmade. Sod the lot of them. I didnít want to win anyway.

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