If.comedy shortlist long on quality

This article is from 2008

Little to argue with over judges award selection

The rant was already prepared. How could they possibly let A on there when B has put together a far more impressive hour? C was absolutely hilarious: why have they let D & E in when they were funnier three years ago? And yet the good people sitting aboard the if.comedy panel have only gone and produced a list that there can belittle argument with, plumping for four strong shows on the main list. Welshman Rhod Gilbert is the bookies favourite for his Award Winning Mince Pie which has garnered universal praise and sell-out shows while Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler charmed audiences with their quirky sexual tension show, Double Down Hearts. Essex boy Russell Kane deserves a slot for his excellent exposition of human imperfection while everyone's favourite lo-fi comic songsmith David O'Doherty proudly represents The Stand on the list.

And what of the newcomers? Geordie stand-up Sarah Millican and multi-character act Pippa Evans put on solid Pleasance shows while the dark horse of the bunch is Mike Wozniak with a warmly surreal set about penis problems, shrew-death and being a twin at the very chilled-out cushioned setting of Medina & Negociants. Most notable is that he is best described as Richard Herring having just won a Tom Selleck lookalike competition.

So, what's missing? A place could easily have gone to Jason Cook for his moving yet hilarious tale of parental death while the buzz factor and a clutch of five-stars might have helped edge in Victorian gents Penny Dreadfuls and rude puppet master Sammy J.Jon Richardson put on a breezily brilliant show about being dogmatic, but his time will surely come. It turned out to be a very good year for sketch comedy and we could have been celebrating a victory by any one from Idiots of Ants, Pros from Dover, Jonny & Joe Show and Pappy's Fun Club while the newcomer list wouldn’t have felt wrong with an appearance from all-female sketch squads Lady Garden or Angry Puppy.

But a cast around past shortlists will certainly raise one other question: why only four nominees? Word has it that the act who would have nabbed a fifth spot was close in popularity among the judges to the sixth and seventh placed acts and way behindnumber four; with no chance of winning, why raise their hopes? So, as eyes become focused on the announcement in the early hours of Sunday 24th August, the smart money is on a Rhod Gilbert/Sarah Millican dream team. But if you’re a gambler, it might be worth risking a flutter on a Schaal & Braunohler/Wozniak upset.