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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 03:11 GMT
Smith wins for Royle performance

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Liz Smith

Veteran star Liz Smith has been named best actress at the British Comedy Awards for her final performance as Nana in The Royle Family.

The 85-year-old actress said she was "thrilled to bits" to win, and praised the show's creator Caroline Aherne.

BBC Three romantic comedy Gavin & Stacey took three gongs for its writers and co-stars Ruth Jones and James Corden.

But it lost out to Peep Show in the best comedy category. Peep Show also won best actor for David Mitchell.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks won two awards - best comedy entertainment programme and an award for host Simon Amstell - while Stephen Fry won a lifetime achievement prize.

Amstell, who took the show's helm last year, said: "Thanks to Mark Lamarr for leaving!"

Business as usual

The star-studded awards ceremony, which took place at the London Television Centre, was not broadcast live following a phone-in irregularity which was uncovered on the 2005 show.

The lack of coverage prompted Amstell to plead "can everyone tell my friends what's happened?"

But it was perennial host Jonathan Ross who made this the driving thrust of his caustic and controversial opening monologue.

Alan Carr
I was just drinking white wine, and then when they called my name, I stood up - and then it hit me. I was paralytic
Alan Carr, best stand-up winner

"We don't know for sure if this will ever go out or not, so if you win an award this year, like most of the telephone votes, it doesn't really count and you will still be charged," he quipped.

He added that the show's organisers were "more nervous than the teddies at the Sudanese branch of Hamleys", while actor Chris Langham was also part of the gag.

It was a performance which indicated it was business as usual, while the show - which was no less glamorous - was recorded as live for possible later transmission.

The cream of comedy talent gathered for the event were aware the show was not being beamed into homes across the land.

Gavin & Stacey's James Corden - who won for both co-writing and acting in the show, said: "It will be such a shame if this isn't broadcast because there were some big laughs."

Best comedy actor David Mitchell said that the lack of TV coverage failed to make him any more relaxed, explaining it was still "a big room full of all the people we've worked with or have yet to work with."

"The day 1,000 people in a room don't make me panic will be a sad day," he added.

'We've done it!'

Octogenarian star Liz Smith, who beat Catherine Tate and Ruth Jones to win best comedy actress, lost an earring in the excitement, and had warm words for her role as Nana Royle.

"I'm just so privileged to have had someone so brilliant as Caroline [Aherne] to have cast me," she explained.

"I'll very much miss it. My favourite parts these days are sitting on a sofa or in a bed."

While a veteran actress was warmly applauded, newcomers and new comedy were also celebrated.

Gavin & Stacey co-writer and co-star Ruth Jones said she "could not compute" the comedy's trio of successes at the ceremony, but said its lack of cynicism and everyday dialogue were its strengths.

Cast of Gavin & Stacey

"When we used to write the show we used to think 'we could win an award for this'. And now we've done it!" said the first-time comedy writer.

Alan Carr was named best stand-up comic, but he and Friday Night Project cohort Justin Lee Collins had to make do without the award for best entertainment personality.

Carr, famed for his buck teeth, spectacles and line in camp repartee, confirmed that another traditional part of the comedy awards was still in full flow, despite the absence of a live broadcast.

"I was just drinking white wine, and then when they called my name, I stood up - and then it hit me. I was paralytic."

The comedian added that Ross's opening gambit had been "risque as normal" but was "very funny" and an integral part of the show.

This year's awards may have been denied the magic of live television, but retained all the hallmarks of a show which has become notorious for its controversy, high jinks and comic talent.

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