Opinion: Why Don't The Olivier Awards Have a Stand-Up Category? By David Baddiel

As a few of you will know, my show, My Family: Not The Sitcom was nominated for an Olivier Award this year. It didn’t win it, the award for that category going to Matthew Bourne’s beautiful ballet, The Red Shoes. 

Now some of you might be wondering what a beautiful ballet was doing in the same category as a show in which I shuffle around the stage telling frankly disreputable, too-much-informationed stories about my mum and dad. Well, it’s because we were both in the Entertainment And Family Category. Which again, may make you wonder, as anyone who has seen my show will know that although it is very much about family, it is practically the opposite of a family show. If anyone does bring their nine year old, they, and the nine year old, will be deeply traumatised. 

So this isn’t sour grapes. I was very honoured to be nominated for The Oliviers, and I’m absolutely sure The Red Shoes is a worthy winner of that category. But the reason I think my show was crowbarred into that category is: The Olivier Awards don’t have a category for comedy. Well. They do. But it’s comedy plays. There is no category for stand-up. Or, if you want to make that broader, one man/woman shows. So that means, for example, no category for Dawn French’s beautiful Thirty Million Minutes, which played at The Vaudeville Theatre for ages.

Dawn’s and my show do incorporate theatrical elements. But to be honest, I don’t think it matters. Stand-up is an art form. Not only is it an art form, it’s a vital art form, arguably much more vital than conventional drama. It doesn’t have to be supported by grants from the Arts Council. It’s watched by young people. It's written by the person performing it. It takes many forms. And it takes place, often, in a theatre. I saw Eddie Izzard in the West End in the ‘90s. It was one of the most brilliant nights in the theatre I have had. But obviously, it would not have got nominated. 

Many stand-ups do the West End now. Some, like Bill Bailey, regularly. And many others do what is considered off-West End, like Soho Theatre, all the time. There is no reason for these amazing performers not to have a category at our country’s premier stage performing awards. Stand-up IS theatre. Just not as you know it, Laurence. (Actually he did know it because he played Archie Rice...)

So as I say, not sour grapes. I just think The Oliviers needs to have a category called Best One Man or Woman Show, or hey, why not: Best Stand-Up Show. Which I might then have won. Bugger, now it sounds like sour grapes.

David Baddiel's My Family: Not The Sitcom is at the Playhouse Theatre, London until June 3. Tickets here.



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