Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 15:49 UK

Comedy awards line-up announced

There are more than 350 shows eligible for the comedy awards
There are more than 350 shows eligible for the comedy awards

The nominees for this year's Edinburgh Fringe comedy award have been unveiled.

The prize, formerly known as the Perriers and the If.comedies, is without a sponsor for the first time in its 29-year history.

About 400 shows were eligible for the award, with the shortlist including Tom Wrigglesworth, Tim Key, Russell Kane and Idiots of Ants.

The other nominees for the awards - this year called The Eddies - are John Bishop and Jon Richardson.

The comedy awards also gives a prize to the best newcomer.

This year's nominees for that prize are Carl Donnelly, Jack Whitehall, Jonny Sweet, Kevin Bridges and Pete Johansson.

The winner of the main prize, which will be announced on Saturday, is awarded to the best performer doing a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Comedy festivals

"Star" names, who have already had TV series or can perform in a 500-seat venue under their own name, are not eligible.

The winner receives £8,000 and an invite to appear at international comedy festivals in Montreal, Toronto and Chicago.

The award was first made in 1981 to a Cambridge Footlights cast which included Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Emma Thompson - all future comedy stars.

Its golden age came in the early 90s when it was won by Frank Skinner, Steve Coogan and Lee Evans.

Awards producer Nica Burns has spent about £120,000 of her own money to keep the prize going without a sponsor.

She said she had offers of sponsorship but one was a conflict of interest which could have compromised the independence of the awards and a second was "not the right brand".

The producer said she was confident a sponsor could be found for next year, as she could not afford to pay for it herself a second time.

She said the shortlist was "very strong" but it was "disappointing" that there were no female performers named.

Only two females - Jenny Eclair and Laura Solon - have ever won the prize outright.

Ms Burns said she hoped that performers such as Sarah Millican - last year's best newcomer - were having a "development year" and they would come back even stronger over the next few years.

She said: "It is disappointing but I am hoping senior female performers will keep encouraging women and they will come through and reach the top."

The nominees are:

• Idiots of Ants: This Is War

• John Bishop: Elvis Has Left The Building

• Jon Richardson: This Guy At Night

• Russell Kane: Human Dressage

• Tim Key-The Slutcracker

• Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Return Letter to Richard Branson



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