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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Lone Brit on Perrier list
Howard Read and Little Howard
Howard Read brings sidekick Little Howard to life on a computer
Stand-up comedian Howard Read is the only Briton on the shortlist for this year's Perrier Award, the UK's most prestigious comedy prize.

The Perrier - which set comics like Steve Coogan, Al Murray and Frank Skinner on the road to stardom - also has no female nominees for the second year running.

The other nominated acts on this year's five-strong list are Australian Adam Hills, who is favourite to win, American comedians Demetri Martin and Reginald D Hunter, the first black solo performer to be shortlisted, and New Zealand pair Flight of the Conchords.

New Yorker Martin is seen by some as a "safe bet" to take the award when the winner is announced on Saturday.

The Perrier is given to the comedy act that is judged the best of the Edinburgh Fringe festival.

Bookmakers have installed Hills as the evens favourite after he was nominated for a third year running.

Ladbrokes gave odds of 3/1 for Martin, 4/1 for Flight of the Conchords, 5/1 for Hunter and 6/1 for Read.

Read, 28, performs with an animated sidekick, six-year-old Little Howard, who has been taught to interact with the audience.

"I'm absolutely chuffed. I keep on forgetting and then remembering again and going 'wahey!'" Read told BBC News Online.

"There are are some amazing people on the list and it's just great to be thought of in the same breath as them."

Demetri Martin
Demetri Martin, from New York, is seen by many as the favourite
Martin, a Greek-American Yale dropout, is widely seen as having created the biggest buzz at this year's Fringe.

He "wrings a strange beauty from geekiness and is at times gloriously funny", according to one critic.

Hills has been nominated twice before while Hunter, from Atlanta, Georgia, has been described as the Samuel L Jackson of stand-up.

The final shortlisted name is Flight of the Conchords - a musical duo.

Last year's prize was won by Daniel Kitson while Dylan Moran, Jenny Eclair and The League of Gentlemen have also been winners in the past decade.

Earlier on Wednesday, Eclair - the only female winner in the award's 22-year history - said she thought comediennes were "having a very good year".

But hotly-tipped female performers including Lucy Porter, Julia Morris and Janey Godley did not make it into the final five.

adam hills
I would love Adam Hills to win it - he is masterful this year
Kate Copstick
Perrier judge
In 2002, the all-male list was denounced by some as "a disgraceful example of male chauvinism".

Some of the Fringe's biggest names, such as Jimmy Carr, Rob Brydon, Dave Gorman and Dara O'Briain, were ineligible because they have had their own TV shows.

Award judge Kate Copstick said the nomination process was "unbelievably democratic".

The judges had seen "just about" every comedy show on the Fringe, she told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland show.

There were two comics in a class of their own this year - Adam Hills and Reginald D Hunter, she said.

"I would love Adam Hills to win it. He is masterful this year," she said.

"People think that Adam is just a nice Aussie bloke with some nice jolly stuff, but he's not. He is a masterful comic."

And Hunter "rocked my world and my world takes some rocking", she said.

Meanwhile Alex Horne, Miles Jupp, Gary Le Strange and Michael McIntyre made the Perrier best newcomer shortlist, also announced on Wednesday.


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