TheamuaIPerrier-Awardforflle hottestcomedianontheFr-ingoisno laughingmatter. DamyWallacelooks atthisyear’scontenders-andsome Festivalcomedyawards.

randing someone ‘best’ in almost any art form pretty much guarantees a dash of good, solid controversy. Edinburgh’s annual seal of comic approval has proved itself no different whatsoever. Last year’s Perrier Award winner - the peroxide and primed Sue-Pollard-on-speed with the bitchy backchat and shamelessly savage line in ruthless self-criticism, Jenny Eclair was, for many, a strange and undeserving choice. There was a similar reaction the year before when the award was thrust upon a happy Lano and

And the winner is. . .


Woodley —- a gleeful, yet virtually unheard-of Australian double act. They have remained a virtually unheard-of Australian double act ever since.

The judging process is less of a mystery than many seem to think. A gang of industry insiders, journalists and members of the public run giddily around Edinburgh seeing as much comedy as their poor, aching eyes can take, after which they sit around a big table and chat in loud, authoritative voices. They bang out a shortlist, and then they choose a winner. Marvellous.

But attitudes towards the Perrier will always remain divided. The Guardian’s comedy critic and ex-Perrier panellist William Cook once said, quite cleverly: ‘Some comics swear by the Perrier Award - others swear about it.’ Although seen as divisive and elitist by some, however, the Perrier remains the much-coveted and sought-after trophy it’s always been.

And, despite on-stage backslapping and backstage backstabbing, it’d take a hard and cold heart to claim that the Fringe would be the same without it. The countdown to 24 August has begun . . .

Although confidently pointing someone out as a potential Perrier Award-winner is more-or-less the same as a feisty, pre-performance yell of ‘Macbeth!’ in a theatre, certain stand-ups do stand out from year to year. So who to keep your cheeky comedy eye on in 1996? Weeeeell . . .

Fresh from a world tour that’s taken him through Australia, England, Ireland,

Bin Bailey

for long.

Hawaii and Hong Kong, Rich Hall’s appearance at this year’s Festival Fringe b

will be his second consecutive summer spent in Edinburgh . . . and maybe even his best. He’s worked with Billy Crystal, won an Emmy Award for his writing. is a near-regular on the David Letterman Show, and has been called ‘the new Bill Hicks’ by various quick-to-label but in-the-know industry experts. As a comic he’s downbeat, fine-tuned as well as though the word would no doubt annoy him - ‘quirky’, and his street-performance background has ensured he can work even the hardest of rooms. So, on paper, a man who holds a very good chance of a nomination . . . but in practice? One of America’s foremost political comics, Will Durst, said last year that an American would never be allowed to win the Perrier Award. Rich could well

Rich Hall (Fringe) F reewheelin ', Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh (Venue 38) 013] 226 215/, until 3] Aug (not 18, 25), 10pm; 25 Aug, llpm, £7.50 (£6).

prove him wrong.

It’s hard to describe exactly what Bill Bailey really, truly is. Comedian (obviously), pianist (convincingly), psychedelic surrealist (blatantly), cabaret artiste (subtly),

a shadow puppeteer (apparently), superfunk guitarist (more than adequately), one- bloke show (undeniably), and world’s funniest man (probably) explain only part of Bailey’s appeal. The rest should really be seen to be appreciated. Or, indeed, to be understood. His last Edinburgh show, Cosmic Jam, failed to bring him the kind of recognition he so obviously deserves, and, when he took the highly ‘expen'mental’ show, Rock, to the festival with fellow London stand-up Sean Lock, both were largely and needlessly ignored, perhaps thanks to the difficulties thrown up from trying to categorise an act like Bailey’s. He remains, however, highly and heartin recommended, and this year’s judging panel will be hard-pressed to overlook him

Bill Bailey (Fringe) Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh (Venue 3) 0131 226 2428, until 3] Aug (no! 29), 9pm, £4.50/£8.50 (£3.50/£7.50).


The List I6-22 Aug l9961t