Edinburgh Fringe Review: BBC New Comedy Award Final 2017, BBC

The second final on the same day in Edinburgh came courtesy of the BBC. Six more aspiring stand-ups were in competition for quite a nice prize. The winner takes home £1000 and a 15-minute script commission from BBC Studios.

First up to the mic was Andy Field, who has been getting a lot of good word-of-mouth recently. Field’s speciality is nifty wordplay and one-liners. Sometimes both at the same time. Apparently the man who invented the umbrella was going to call it a “brella” but hesitated. I was not sure if this fast-talking stoner was consistent enough to win (there was a warning from compere Mark Watson that smoking weed is bad after his set, not that that counted against him) but there is no doubt that he has a keen comic brain. 

Second up was Morgan Rees from Wales, who joined the final line-up as a last-minute replacement for Yumna Mohamed who had to withdraw due to a family emergency. It would have been a lovely story if Rees had won and he was certainly in the running with an off-the-wall sense of humour and rug-pulling gags that surprised the audience. For Rees “stay-at-home mother” is another term for “electronically tagged”. He didn’t win, but certainly justified his wildcard place in the last six.

Jacob Hawley from Stevenage is 25 but has a mature, sharp wit, a relaxed manner and an undertow of political passion. His main anecdote concerned a local St George’s Day party that felt a bit Ukip-y. His dad organised it yet didn’t even send him a birthday card. This span out into thoughts about lad culture ("an oxymoron?") Gary Lineker's tweets about refugees and the fact that the dragon slayed by St George may have only been a lizard. Clever and different and, for me, the most political act in the final.

Heidi Regan is from Newcastle in Australia, the same town where Sarah Kendall is from, but Regan has a stand-up style of her own. The bulk of her short set was her comedic take on what you would do if you could pop into a time machine and meet up with little Hitler and have the chance to re-educate him. Would you watch Harry Potter with him? And would he spot which character is a bit like him? It was a playful, slow-burn, distinctive routine and Heidi Regan was duly crowned the winner of the competition. Newcastle, Australia has now spawned two very good comedians. 

Aaron Simmonds had to explain that he was in a wheelchair for radio listeners tuning into then live Radio 4 broadcast as his brief appearance was largely about someone saying that they could make him walk again. As it happens Simmonds can walk a little bit so the helpful Jesus-alike was in for a surprise when Simmonds got out of his chair. The story came with a few crisp twists and turns. It sounded like it was based on a true story but was neatly embellished a little – I assume - to keep the audience both listening and laughing.

The final act was Sikisa from Barbados. People sometimes think she is African because of her name, she explained. When they ask she jokes “I am free now.” She has just turned 30 so after a strong, original start a large chunk of her material covered the familiar area of biological body clocks and finding the right man, or any man, on Tinder. Her confidence and amiability made familiar-sounding subjects feel a little fresh, but not quite fresh enough to win her the competition. 


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