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Monday, August 24, 1998 Published at 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK


Talents who sparkled in comedy's Hall of Fame



For 17 years, the highlight of most comedians' year has been the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe - marking the best talent of the year.

For some, the Award has been a leg-up to national, even international, stardom. Other winners have not been so lucky - finding instead a niche in obscurity.

BBC News Online has tracked down the winners, checked out how their fortunes have fared over the years, and got tips for future hopefuls from some of the big names.

Click on the list of winners below to find out where they are now.

1997 The League of Gentlemen
1996 Dylan Moran
1995 Jenny Eclair
1991 Frank Skinner
1989 Simon Fanshawe
1985 Theatre De Complicite
1981Cambridge Footlights
The rest, how did they fare ?

1997 The League of Gentlemen

[ image: The league are Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Sheersmith and  the unseen Jeremy Dyson]
The league are Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Reece Sheersmith and the unseen Jeremy Dyson
"A sketch based team, specialising in black comedy and definitely not Oxbridge" is how the winining quartet described themselves.

Their brand of sketch-driven humour, which is not particularly PC, showed that stand up, at least last year, may have died on its feet.


Mark Gatiss :"For the first and only time in my life I tried to pull rank"
Since winning the prize, the boys have been moderately successful, including their first obligatory engagement - a Perrier season at the Haymarket in London's West End. The thousand-strong audience received them well.


Life after the Perrier, according to the Gentlemen
A BBC Radio 4 commission followed - On The Town with the League of Gentlemen, broadcast last December, won a Sony Radio Silver Award.

These gents won't be at Edinburgh this year because they are currently recording their first television series for broadcast at the beginning of January 1999 on BBC Two.

Their tip for the top: "Do the show that is going to make people laugh the most, don't drink too much, don't take it too seriously and take a coat as it is cold in Edinburgh despite being August."

Return to Perrier roll call


1996 Dylan Moran

[ image: Moran jokes combine the everyday with an element of fantasy]
Moran jokes combine the everyday with an element of fantasy
By the time Dylan Moran was awarded the Perrier Prize in 1996, few doubted his talents as a funnyman.

Scooping the Channel 4-sponsored So You Think You're Funny award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1993 sent him surging up the comedy ranks.

Post Perrier, Dylan managed to pack in two TV comedy series, was Indisposed on his solo tour in '97, schmoozed at the Montreal, Vancouver and Kilkenny comedy festivals and Hay Literary Festival before Gurgling for Money at last year's Fringe.

A regular contributor to the Irish Times, his comic appeal relies on mixing everyday events with an element of fantasy - all delivered with his laconic Irish lilt.

Earlier this year he took to acting, co-starring alongside Charlotte Coleman (of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame) in Simon Nye's comedy-drama How Do You Want Me? A new series will begin production in November '98.

He can be currently seen Poncing About at this year's Fringe.

Return to Perrier roll call


1995 Jenny Eclair

[ image: Eclair :
Eclair : "Win the Perrier with a bit of grace..."
"Every dog does has its day", is Jenny Eclair's philosophical view behind winning the Perrier prize.

She burst onto the circuit in 1982 with a selection of self proclaimed "poor jokes", then refined her humour to the plain bawdy and won the Perrier.


Jenny Eclair : "I was suddenly in the public eye"
Her success can be measured by the number of credits she has managed to acquire in three years: a stand-up video, a West End debut in Steaming, and an abundance of panty liner commercials. She has completed Baby Street, her third radio series for BBC Radio 4 and a grand stand-up tour.

This year sees a diversion from stand-up to drama at the Fringe. Jenny Eclair is Mrs Nosey Parker, a straight character that she is proud off.

Her tip for the top : "Keep hammering away and if you do win it, win it with a bit of grace. There is no point being ungracious about winning it, it spoils the night and it is not worth spoiling it."

Return to Perrier roll call


1991 Frank Skinner

[ image: Frank has given us football, football and more football]
Frank has given us football, football and more football
Frank Skinner, sometimes known by his real name of Chris Collins, had "his road to Damascas moment" in 1986 following a trip to Edinburgh. He became inspired, embarked on a career as a stand-up comic and hasn't looked back since.

Endless gags delivered in pokey venues finally paid off when Frank won the Perrier in 1991.

In 1994 he teamed up with fellow comic David Baddiel, and combining their passions for football and comedy, came up with the hit television show Fantasy Football League.

Their other memorable contribution to mankind was their contribution to the infectious Euro '96 single Three Lions, with the Lightning Seeds, which topped the charts for five weeks.

Skinner went on to interview UK Prime Minister Tony Blair on his own TV series The Frank Skinner Show. He has completed a 100 date UK tour and recently entered the Guinness Book of Records for Britain's biggest solo comedy performance, in front of a 6,000-strong audience.

Frank adorned screens again this summer reprising the Fantasy Football League for the World Cup. In November he returns to BBC One with a third series of his own show.

Return to Perrier roll call


1989 Simon Fanshawe

[ image: Simon Fanshawe realised stand-up wasn't for him]
Simon Fanshawe realised stand-up wasn't for him
"I do love it, but I don't love it enough to go through the kind of ritual humiliation you do have to go through in order to make it right."

Simon Fanshawe came to this stark realisation that stand-up wasn't quite for him after winning the Perrier award. He decided instead to delve into the worlds of broadcasting and journalism.


Fanshawe : "My major contribution to mineral drinking was..."
Up until his Perrier victory he was a columnist for Time Out and for Punch. His broadcasting career has spanned classics such as the BBC consumer affairs programme That's Life, which he stresses was a 'nightmare' experience.

He moved swiftly to Radio 4 and presented the daily Arts programme Kaleidoscope. After that he had his own successful radio series on Radio 5 and presented on Talk Radio. He has had intermittent TV appearances, hosted an arts show for Meridian TV called The Pier and wrote a documentary about Brighton.


Fanshawe :"You have to be really single minded about stand-up"
He currently writes for Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard, and The Guardian. He also presents Live From London, a discussion programme on Radio 4. His verdict on the show is: "It doesn't make me feel ill or throw up"

His tip for the top :In order to survive Edinburgh you need a credit card, a change of underpants and access to a sauna.

Return to Perrier roll call


1985 Theatre De Complicité

[ image: McBurney (Top) :
McBurney (Top) : "Don't totally embarrass yourself but above all, enjoy yourself."
"We would not win it now, because we were so far off the wall, that is why they wanted to give it to us " reminisces Simon McBurney, who won the Perrier with an upbeat version of A Winter's Tale.

He co-founded Theatre De Complicité two years prior to his win with Annabel Arden and Marcello Magni.


Mcburney :"We were so far off the wall that is why they wanted to give it to us."
The award raised their profile and now they are a collective of up to 60 theatre artists, touring all over the world.

The group has stayed true to its roots within theatre. As McBurney points out, the group try to strike a balance with the visual language in drama,

"I like action. . .there is much importance in the language in what I do as there is on the action, it so happens that the two things have equal importance."


Simon Mcburney :"After the Perrier It kind of exploded, the whole project went off in different directions..."
Their productions include The Visit by Fredrich Durrenmatt, The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol an adaptation from John Berger's short story, The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Brecht and The Chairs by Ionesco.

McBurney is currently in Canada with his production of A Street of Crocodiles a production based on the writings of Bruno Schulz, which he will then take to Tokyo.

McBurney's tip for the top : You have to make sure that you don't totally embarrass yourself.But above all you have to really enjoy yourself. In Edinburgh an ability not to sleep is a good trait which you can obtain pretty much by drinking coffee.

Return to Perrier roll call


1981 Cambridge Footlights

[ image: Emma Thompson, one of the first winners of a Perrier Award]
Emma Thompson, one of the first winners of a Perrier Award
The first recipients of the comedy award prompted one Perrier promoter to say: "We would have loved to have discovered a totally unknown struggling company who were brilliant but unfortunately that didn't happen." But that does not mean that they did not discover stars.

By the time they were nominated in 1981 Cambridge Footlights was a dominant, well-versed performance troupe, with a 98-year history.

The group consisted of then, little known actors, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Tony Slattery, Penny Dwyer and Paul Shearer. Their prize - a modest 1,000 and a season at New End Theatre in Hampstead.

The first five household names have a string of West End credits, literary careers and Baftas between them, and Hollywood has also beckoned.

Thompson has completed the film Judas Kiss, Fry has just made A Civil Action, Laurie is currently filming Stuart Little, Atkinson, having quit Mr Bean, is taking a rest, and Slattery is now a rector at Aberdeen University.

Penny Dwyer has gone on to bigger things too, playing a key role in the construction of the Channel Tunnel as a metallurgist.

Shearer found moderate success acting in Heineken commercials, and is a regular on the BBC's Fast Show. He is now developing a comedy series with the BBC.

Return to Perrier roll call


But how about the rest?
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