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Saturday 23rd August 2008

So I won the if.comedy Spirit of the Fringe award tonight. To be honest, it's about time I was recognised for my commitment to this bloody Festival. Unfortunately I was not the only one. The panel decided to give the prize to every comedian working on the Fringe this year. They're putting the prize money behind the bar for a party on Monday. I expect they thought that such a decision would be greeted with whoops of delight from the room full of comedians, but it proved to be something of an damp squib. I think, far from looking like a magnanimous celebration of the comics, it actually looked like the panel were saying - "To be honest, no-one epitomised the spirit of the Fringe this year, so we're just going to give it to you all." In a year where there were fewer shows nominated than usual, which already gave out the signal that the panel thought there were only seven shows in the whole Fringe good enough to be on the list, it only felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth that they couldn't think of anyone to give the prize to. It is of course meaningless if everyone is given the award and a bit of a patronising cop out, but it'll be interesting to see how many people put "if.comedy winner" on next year's poster, which of course, we are all entitled to do.
I think we would rather have seen one of our number get some recognition than all of us get a drink on a night when we will all be tired and thinking about going home - or in my case, actually be at home.
I bumped into Nica Burns who organises the whole thing and said it was nice to win and all, but rather than getting a drink that I wouldn't be here to have I would just prefer the money. She gave me twenty pounds. I don't think she'll be doing that for everyone, but it was cool to walk away with a concrete prize at last, after 17 Fringes and 24 unacknowledged shows (apart from, of course, my coveted Daily Telegraph Worst Comedy Experience of 2005).
I think it would have been less humiliating to the comedians at the Fringe if the panel had announced that we had all won and that the £4000 would be shared, and then the money was released from a big net above us and we all had to scrabble around to get as many of the tenners as we could. We'd be punching each other, fighting over tiny amounts of cash. It would be a perfect metaphor for the way that having a competition to determine the best comedian screws up the whole festival. In fact to make it perfect there should probably be a businessman (in his suit and tie) from intelligent finance standing on the balcony above us, urinating down on the comedians as they grasp at the bank notes, laughing at us, covering us in his effluent.
But this didn't happen.
Maybe it's just me and the fact that my superstar status apparently makes me ineligible for the main award anyway (I wish someone would let the British public know how successful I am though), but this award doesn't quite seem to taint the festival as much as it used to. Comedians don't take it as seriously as they used to and if someone gets a nod it seems like a pat on the back for a few of our number, rather than something to get wound up and angry about if you're not nominated. Perhaps some people still feel, as they certainly did a few years ago, that their time here has been wasted if they don't get a nomination, but I think most comics are up here for the right reasons - to try and do as good a show as they can and to better themselves and perhaps get a small amount of extra work if their show does well enough. Since it stopped being called the Perrier (officially at least) the award has lost a bit of its power and now most of us seem to enjoy the chance to have a party at the end, paid by some men from the city, where we can get pissed and socialise with our fellow comedians and toast the end of another year. I certainly had a fun time chatting away to people and necking champagne and eating ice cream and not worrying about the consequences.
My car is now parked outside my flat (unvandalised - thanks Edinburgh hoodlums) and I have almost packed and I am looking forward to being in England at around about midnight tomorrow. If God be willing in his Heaven above.
It's been a great year. And my £20 prize goes some way to compensating for the tens of thousands of pounds that I have flushed down the toilet over the last 21 years.
And Andrew J Lederer, my choice for spirit of the Fringe, was involved in an argument on the steps of the party, that led to him being fined forty pounds by the police. I think that might make him my spirit of the Fringe winner even more than before. So he finds himself forty pounds down rather than £4000 up. I will donate my twenty quid prize money to him next time I see him. It will be good to know that the panel will be paying half of his fine at least.
I hope he goes to the bar on Monday and drinks at least a thousand pounds worth of booze. He deserves it. Good on you Lederer you gigantic mentallist.

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