The results of this year's Midlands Comedy Awards have been announced at a ceremony in Birmingham. Comics Tom Binns and Barry Dodds (pictured) walked away with the top prizes, but the biggest surprise of the night was Voodoo Stands Up, from the Lincolnshire village of Stamford, beating regional heavyweights Just The Tonic and The Glee Club to secure the Best Comedy Club prize.
Birmingham acts and clubs featured heavily in the list of winners last year. However, 2016 saw a huge turnaround with seven of the eleven prizes being awarded to East Midlands acts and clubs.
Derbyshire-based Tom Binns beat off stiff competition from Birmingham’s Barbara Nice and Andy White to win Best Act and Barry Dodds, based in Nottinghamshire, pushed last year’s winner Andy Robinson into second place for the Best MC prize.
Nottingham’s Scott Bennett took home the Best Live Show award, commenting: “The comedy scene in the Midlands is currently going from strength to strength. There is a rich and diverse range of comedy talent and well promoted, well attended comedy clubs that offer every genre of live comedy. It’s a great privilege to be amongst such talented people.”
For the second year in a row, Warwickshire native Josh Pugh was recognised as Best New Act – a prize he had to share with fellow newcomer Tom Christian in 2015.
Leicester-based Lucy Thompson, who is relatively new on the scene, beat several very experienced finalists to secure the Breakthrough Act award, pushing Brummie punsmith Masai Graham into second place. Graham also placed second in the Best Live Show category and won the newly-created Online Comedy prize, voted for by the public.
The Alternative Act award, another new category introduced for this year, went to Shropshire prop-meister Roger Swift, with Black Country favourite Johnny Sorrow as runner-up.
Also new this year was the Best Small Club prize, which was a two-way fight between a couple of independent comedy club chains, with the long-established Funhouse Comedy pushing FAF Comedy into second place to secure the title.
The Best Open Mic Show award was a three-way battle, with The Holly Bush, well known for being a comedian favourite and home of the World’s Smallest Comedy Festival, eventually winning the category. Runner-up was Birmingham’s Roadhouse Comedy.
Black Country chain CAN Comedy, run by brothers Andrew and Paul Nightingale, was runner-up in the Best Comedy Club category and subsequently received recognition with the subsidiary title of Best West Midlands Club.
The final award of the evening went to Suzanne Rowland from Leicester Fridge, who received the Outstanding Contribution prize for dedication to her local grassroots comedy scene.
Introducing her to the stage, Alex Hylton, from The Exchange Comedy Club, explained: “Suzanne is at the very heart of the growing Leicester scene and is very much an unsung hero. She's in the background of almost every comedy night in Leicester, be that as show manager, promoter, sound tech, accountant, or very occasionally as a performer. She is the beating heart of Leicester's comedy scene.”
Comedian Ian Hall, who runs Club Smashing, said: “Suzanne is just relentlessly supportive. That goes from the ideas and input into Leicester Fridge meetings to actually making it happen i.e. taking to the streets in costume to promote it, front of house, tech-ing, keeping performers informed about what’s happening, even accounting! She's a fab performer and is happy on stage but selfless in putting others first. She’s always enthusiastic, and always there when you need her. Basically, if Sooz is involved, you know things will run real smooth.”
Dave McGuckin, from the Comedy & Cocktails club, added: “Suzanne Rowland is the invisible heart and soul of Leicester’s comedy scene (and probably most of the brains as well). She has been at the forefront of some of the best comedic entertainment in this city for years; currently taking the form of her work with the Leicester Fridge, which simply wouldn’t function without her. She demands no thanks or recognition for the effort she puts in, which is exactly why she deserves it more than anyone else. She has dedicated herself to making people laugh in everything she does – be it through the organisation of comedy events, or attending a funeral in a chicken costume, Leicester’s comedy scene in 2015 has been supported, advised or organised by Suzanne at nearly every turn.”
Brummie comedian Jay Islaam, who heads up the Awards Committee, commented: “The Midlands Comedy Awards were established to recognise the huge number of hard working and talented people in our regional comedy community. These are the individuals who bring laughter to thousands across the Midlands and beyond every year, and this Awards Gala is our big annual celebration for the regional scene.
“The inaugural awards last year were very well supported by the industry and the public, with more than 1000 votes cast, which was amazing. However, this year has far exceeded all of our expectations. In total we received more than 4000 votes, which is truly astonishing, and it’s wonderful that so many people have taken part. I’d like to congratulate all of the winners. I’d also like to thank the hundreds of people in the comedy industry, as well as the wider public, who took part in selecting the finalists and deciding the final results.”
Winner: Tom Binns
Runner-up: Barbara Nice
Third place: Andy White
Winner: Barry Dodds
Runner-up: Andy Robinson
Third place: Jason Neale
Best Live Show
Winner: Scott Bennett
Runner-up: Masai Graham
Third place: Jon Pearson
Best Comedy Club
Winner: Voodoo Stands Up (Stamford)
Runner-up: CAN Comedy (Black Country)
Best West Midlands Comedy Club
Winner: CAN Comedy*
Winner: Lucy Thompson
Runner-up: Masai Graham
Third place: Patrick Draper
Best New Act
Winner: Josh Pugh
Runner-up: Stu Woodings
Third place: Thomas Rackham
Winner: Roger Swift
Runner-up: Johnny Sorrow
Third place: Daniel Nicholas
Winner: Masai Graham
Runner-up: Club Smashing
Third place: Mike O’Callaghan
Best Small Club
Winner: Funhouse Comedy
Runner-up: FAF Comedy
Best Open Mic Show
Winner: The Holly Bush (Cradley Heath)
Runner-up: Roadhouse Comedy (Birmingham)
Third place: NCF Canal House (Nottingham)
* As runner-up in the “Best Comedy Club” category, CAN Comedy was awarded the subsidiary title “Best West Midlands Comedy Club”.