America has never had a problem in choosing the best player in a sport – and as a sports writer in the US turns to an MVP of Comedy, Nica Burns and the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Awards have drawn a lot of flack in trying to do the same.
Bill Simmons takes up the American reins, and goes through the list, with notes, in a recent ESPN mailbag. He had his ground rules, with perhaps a bit too much emphasis on Saturday Night Live (but it is the FA Cup Final / Superbowl / World Series of US comedy, so he gets a pass on that one), and it makes some interesting reading.
1977 and 1978: John Belushi
Replaced Chase as SNL’s meal ticket in ’77, then had the single best year in Funny Guy History a year later: starred on SNL (in its biggest year ever, when audiences climbed to more than 30 million per episode); starred in “Animal House” (the No. 1 comedy of 1978 and a first-ballot Hall of Famer); had the No. 1 album (the Blues Brothers’ first album). No. 1 in TV, movies and music at the same time? I’m almost positive this will never happen again. And also, if you put all the funniest people ever at the funniest points of their lives in one room, I think he’d be the alpha dog thanks to force of personality. So there’s that.
There’s one Brit on the list, Sacha Baron Cohen picks up his comedy ring for 2006, and this has got me wondering if we have anything similar in the UK?
Given we don’t have such a focus on choosing the best footballer of the year I think the British reserve means highlighting individuals is not as acceptable. The comedy award at the Edinburgh Fringe (yes we all think of them as the Perrier’s) is a yearly award and comes closest, but it is still quite a limited scope.
Nic Burns awards is the best place to start – yet the British sense of fair play rears it’s head again. With sponsors Fosters proudly in the title, they’re looking to find the best comedy act ever, from all their nominees. Stewart Lee is not happy, and told Burns in an open email:
Think about the logic of it for a moment. Who among those you are asking to vote has even heard of (1984 nominees) The Frank Chickens, who for all anyone under 30 knows may be the best act on the list? It is not possible for the outcome of this vote to have any credibility. How dare you proceed with this farcical, selfish idea “There is so much good stuff you could use your corporate funding for, and instead, year in, year out, you make these crass decisions….The whole thing will blow up in your face.
Still it’s good news for The Frank Chickens, the avante-garde Japanese/English musical act is in first place ahead of “currently on the TV and someone Fosters would like to be associated with” Michael MacIntyre, Tim Minchin and Russell Howard.
Frank Chicken member Kazuko Hohki gets the last word. “It is very funny. The whole thing should get award. British people are funny.”