Sunday, 23 January 2011

The British Comedy Awards 2011: Winners

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The British Comedy Awards have always been my favourite awards ceremony, for a number of reasons:

  • They're the only awards bash I've seen every year, since they started in 1990.
  • I tend to have seen most things nominated, which means I have a more rounded opinion on everything.
  • It's usually the funniest awards bash of the year, as you'd probably expect.
  • There's a sense of danger to it (especially when it's broadcast live), and its moments of anarchy have gone down in British comedy legend.
So was 2011 a vintage year for the BCA's last night? Well, no. It didn't help that there's been so much hype from Channel 4, who poached the awards from ITV. They ran a huge number of promos for it, ensured most of the nominees appeared on shows like Chatty Man, then commissioned a week-long series with Bill Bailey interviewing comedians about their favourite comedies. You couldn't escape knowing the BCA's were live on Channel 4 last night, which was great, but this feverish hype was too much for the show to live up to. A similar thing appeared to happen with the blanket hype given to 10 O'Clock Live earlier this week, too. Hopefully Channel 4's marketing department will learn something from this.

It's also become a struggle for the BCA's to meet expectations, as many people tuning in are waiting for a memorable moment of anarchy (like Julian Clary's joke about a sex act that got him banned from TV for years, Michael Barrymore unplugging the autocue, Spike Milligan calling Prince Charles a "grovelling bastard", etc.) There was nothing to rival those gems this year, which for some people will be a big disappointment in itself. Still, there were some amusing moments; such as Goldie Hawn's misjudged praise of the comedians in the room, seconds after admitting she hasn't seen anything nominated for awards (which Ross branded a "churlish" statement to her face). I also loved the acceptance speeches of writers Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, who managed to get a swipe in at the ludicrous lack of nominations for sitcom Whites ("... nothing for Whites? The show, not the racial group"), and Russell Brand's pre-recorded speech was surprisingly funny. It was a shame Brand couldn't be there in person, reunited with Ross on TV for the first time since their "Sachsgate" phone scandal.

I was unsure what to make of writer Roy Clarke accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award; it was thoroughly deserved (he wrote all 295 episodes of the world's longest-running sitcom, Last Of The Summer Wine), but there was an odd atmosphere because most of Clarke's sitcoms are a style of show that's long since fallen out of favour. And his handful of hits were arguably most memorable for the performances than the writing (e.g it's Ronnie Barker and Patricia Routledge people remember about Open All Hours and Keeping Up Appearances, not really the jokes or storylines.) That said, Clarke was definitely someone who could craft a great comic character on the page, which good actors breathed extra life into.

Below is a full list of the winners, with a reminder of who I predicted would win each category, and some brief thoughts on each result:

Best Comedy Panel Show

  • Have I Got News For You
  • Shooting Stars
  • Would I Lie To You? WINNER PREDICTED
My thoughts: A deserved winner, especially when the best clip they could muster of Shooting Stars was Vic n' Bob bouncing around the studio like 12-year-old boys. You can argue that HIGNFY is still the more relevant show, which is true, but WILTY has become the funniest.

Best Comedy Entertainment Programme

  • Harry Hill's TV Burp PREDICTED
  • The Graham Norton Show
  • Newswipe WINNER
My thoughts: I wanted Newswipe to win, I just didn't think it would and couldn't be sure of its quality in 2010 because most episodes slipped my by. But I'm very glad to see something meaningful and intelligent take the award from the easy choice of celebrating the family-friendly comedy of Harry Hill.

Best Comedy Entertainment Personality

  • Ant & Dec
  • Charlie Brooker
My thoughts: Maybe Harry's win here is to soften the blow of losing to Brooker for Best Entertainment Programme? Still, it was a worthy win; you don't have to even like TV Burp to realize Harry has a naturally funny personality.

Best Male Comic

  • David Mitchell
  • Harry Hill
  • Michael McIntyre WINNER PREDICTED
My thoughts: This was a weird triptych of nominees, as Mitchell isn't what I'd call a comic, so McIntyre was destined to win. He's in the odd position of being so incredibly popular there's already a backlash in the industry towards him, which is actually very unfair. You sensed a bit of that when he accepted his award over a live-feed to Liverpool, where he's currently filming Britain's Got Talent, which probably irritated a few comedians who believe he's an overrated sell-out.

Best Female Comic

  • Jo Brand WINNER
  • Sarah Millican PREDICTED
  • Shappi Khorsandi
My thoughts: Oh dear. I just don't see why anyone would think Jo Brand is funny. Did she include a joke about overeating during her awards speech? Yes, of course she did, that's all she's ever done since the '80s. I was very disappointed the BCA's didn't reward Sarah Millican, whose relatively newborn career would be aided by a win.

Best New British TV Comedy

  • Grandma's House
  • The Trip
My thoughts: I was poised for a big upset here, but the popular vote managed to win. Miranda is primed for a horrible backlash, though, once the novelty of having an old-fashioned sitcom back on TV wears off. You know I'm right.

Best Male Comedy Breakthrough Artist

  • Jack Whitehall
  • Kayvan Novak
My thoughts: This was the natural choice, because Bishop's made more serious inroads to mainstream popularity in 2010 with the BBC, whereas Novak is still just a minor cult for E4, really.

Best Female Comedy Breakthrough Artist

  • Isy Suttie
  • Samantha Spiro WINNER
  • Sarah Millican PREDICTED
My thoughts: I admitted that Spiro was a blindspot for me, so I didn't see her win coming, although I do now realize she appeared in Grandma's House. I'm not convinced she made more of a breakthrough than Millican, seeing as most people I know have never even heard of her.

Best Sketch Show

  • Harry & Paul
  • Horrible Histories WINNER
  • The Armstrong & Miller Show PREDICTED
My thoughts: The big shock of the night, because Horrible Histories is a children's sketch show that most people haven't even seen (unless they're under-10 or have kids.) There was something rather marvellous about this show beating the adults at their own game, even if I haven't seen it so can't vouch for its quality. But people tell tell me it's very good.

Best Sitcom

  • Miranda
  • The Inbetweeners WINNER PREDICTED
  • The Thick Of It
My thoughts: A well-deserved win for the teen-comedy, which has become something of a phenomenon in three short years. I bet there are some E4 executives desperate to find a way to keep The Inbetweeners on the TV, despite the fact the four stars are now in their mid-'20s. Hey, US teen shows are commonly full of people aged 27, so it might work...

Best Comedy Actor

  • James Buckley (The Inbetweeners)
  • Peter Capaldi (The Thick Of It) WINNER
  • Rob Brydon (The Trip)
  • Tom Hollander (Rev) PREDICTED
My thoughts: I was torn between Hollander and Capaldi, but somehow didn't expect Capaldi to win because Rev's a newer show that needs some support. But still, very deserved.

Best Comedy Actress

  • Jo Brand
  • Katherine Parkinson
My thoughts: Of course! A great night for Hart.

Best British Comedy Performance In Film

  • Aaron Johnson (Kick Ass)
  • Kayvan Novak (Four Lions) WINNER PREDICTED
  • Nigel Lindsay (Four Lions)
My thoughts: As expected. Well, it wasn't going to be Johnson, was it!

Writers' Guild Of Great Britain Award
Sam Bain & Jesse Armstrong

British Comedy Academy Lifetime Achievement Award
Roy Clarke OBE

Outstanding Contribution To Comedy Award
Russell Brand