A host of celebrities descended on a chilly television studio on Friday evening for The British Comedy Awards 2011, and as Beehive City arrived to take its place in the press room, hordes of British comedy’s finest stars flocked down the hallways to take their places for the live broadcast.
In its 22nd year, The British Comedy Awards attracts not only the luminaries of funny business, but a good host of international stars, and dressing room placards were awash with familiar names, from Jeff Goldblum to Kylie Minogue, Dame Helen Mirren to Dr Vince Cable, all presenting the “creepy clown” (the Comedy Awards icon) to their winners.
With no less than 17 awards on offer, and only 2 hours to get through them all, Jonathan Ross had a task on his hands as he took on hosting duties for yet another year – a task he inevitably failed. Even speedy speeches from Best Female Television Comic Victoria Wood and a non-appearance from the night’s big winner Stewart Lee failed to keep the show to time, and Best Comedy Drama Pscychoville and Best Comedy Sketch Show Horrible Histories had to be shoe-horned into the after-party broadcast.
Still, the mood of the event was more jovial than previous years, as the comedy world enjoyed a successful year. Debutants Fresh Meat, the relatively-unknown Twenty Twelve and Spy all picked up an award, as did the hilarious Dan Skinner, better known as Angelos Epithemiou from Shooting Star.
Angelos was a one of a plethora of comedians, reality TV stars and international treasures that graced the press room for a bit of a chat. Revealing his ever-present plastic bag contained, amongst other things, a change of socks, he was asked if he was prepared for the attention his Best Comedy Breakthrough award would get him from the ladies. “I’ve got a stick to beat them off with,” he replied, revealing a foldable cane. “I’ve come prepared.”
With the future of Shooting Stars uncertain and Channel 4 logos emblazoned on the walls, a coy journalist asked Angelos if they would take the show “somewhere else”:
“What? Like outside? Yeah, we’d do a show outside…” confirmed the man who only moments earlier had made legend Freddie Starr crack up on stage.
The evening saw several achievement awards handed out. Armando Iannucci, winner of The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain Award, go chatty backstage, having used a part of his speech to petition the BBC to re-commission Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, winner of two awards.
Lee Evans won The Channel 4 Award for Special Contribution to Comedy. The thrilled Evans reassured us that despite his success, he wouldn’t be calling it a day just yet: “It’s a lifetime achievement award, but this isn’t the end – there’s more to come.” And despite being a Hollywood star, the comedian revealed he’d be spending Christmas morning at the church in which he got married.
That’s the great thing about The Comedy Awards – no matter how stratospheric their stars may rise, comedians are down to earth and stay in touch with the public. Miranda Hart, Greg Davies, Jack Whitehall all breezed through the press room, as did Dame Helen Mirren. Frankly stunning in a D&G dress, the screen legend is no stranger to comedy, having starred in Arthur earlier this year. Having presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Have I Got News for You, the screen legend revealed her favourite comedy of recent years to be Gavin & Stacey, and confirmed she would appear again with co-star Russell Brand “if he asked me”.
Stars of the evening, however, were always going to be The Inbetweeners. Presented with The British Comedy Academy Outstanding Achievement Award by Kylie, the team enjoyed another year at the pinnacle of British Comedy.
After a photoshoot with the singer – one in which Joe managed to obscure BC’s shot of Kylie’s revealing dress (damn you!) – the boys chatted at length about the award, the show and the future. Still early in the evening, Joe Thomas’ Fresh Meat had just beaten Simon Bird’s Friday Night Dinner to Best New Comedy Programme. Asked if continued success for Fresh Meat might lead to any animosity between the pair, James Buckley quipped:
“Oh, it will get physical. There won’t be a fight. But it will definitely get physical.”
Despite clutching the award as they proceeded along the press line, Simon Bird was quick to point out: “It’s not really our award, frankly – we’re just here for the show. Damon Beesley and Iain Morris are the brains behind it.”
Talk swiftly turned to this summer’s film, and whether they had been asked to do a sequel. “Well, we’ve already been asked four times this evening. Now it’s five,” Bird said, giving nothing away. But The Inbetweeners were quick to set the facts straight about the film’s success:
Interviewer: “How does it feel to have the fastest selling DVD this year. 600,000 in a week…”
Simon Bird: “ It was a million in 4 days actually. But go on.”
James Buckley: “We know because we bought them all”
Asked if it was an easy Christmas present for them to give, , Joe and Adam all confirmed that they hadn’t got any from the studio. Blake Harrison, slipping easily into his slow-witted Inbetweeners character Neil, then piped up: “Oh, have you not got any yet? I might have yours. I’ve got boxes of them.”
But their biggest achievement to date has to be getting Kylie (and later Dame Helen Mirren) to say “Clunge!” on stage.
Buckley speaks for us all: “It was surreal.”