Musical comedian Aidan Strangeman has won the 2014 final of the So You Think You're Funny? new act competition, now in its 27th year, beating off competition from eight regular stand-up comedy acts. It is open to comedians who have been performing for less than 18 months.
The final took place at the Guilded Balloon venue at the Edinburgh Fringe tonight with eight other contestants joining Aidan, who had each made it through the regional contests and Fringe-based heats. Previous winners of the prestigious comedy competition include musical comedian David O'Doherty and stand-ups Peter Kay, Lee Mack, Tommy Tiernan, Miles Jupp, Dylan Moran, Tom Allen, Aisling Bea, Phil Kay, Tom Wrigglesworth, Rhona Cameron, Rob Rouse and 2013 co-winners Demi Lardner and Edd Hedges
Elliot Steel, who is the 17 year-old son of veteran stand-up comedian Mark Steel and who is already represented by one of the country’s biggest comedy agencies, Off The Kerb, came second, winning £2,000; with Southampton's Joe Hart third receiving £1,000 for his efforts. Acts had just eight minutes on stage to impress the judges, and Aidan's set focused on some of the embarrassing things that had happened to him; including when used to get a Strange Feeling.
The event was hosted by Zoe Lyons, and when Aidan collected the award and £5,000 prize money sponsored by Foster's, he modestly thanked the judges, saying "there was no way I was best on the night! I’d like to thank my mother and father and wife, who hates me for doing this – and the judges who have made a massive mistake". The judging panel comprised of comedian Jason Manford, Gilded Balloon boss Karen Koren, Universal's Angela Squire, Melbourne Festival's Susan Provan, Just For Laughs's Zoe Rabnett, Helen Hawkins from The Sunday Times, and Bruce Dessau from the London Evening Standard.
The running order was: Elliot Steel, Mark Daniels, Jim Smith, Benji Waterstones, Aidan Strangeman, Christopher Macarthur Boyd, Eshaan Akbar, Joe Hart and Gary Meikle. In profiles released in advance of the final, Aidan Strangeman wrote: "Stand back everyone, Aidan Strangeman has a bomb: A musical comedy bomb! You'll be hilariously maimed by his destructively catchy songs before you finally succumb to horrific, rib-shattering happiness. You're welcome. Front row not recommended."
UPDATE: An understandably tired, but elated Aidan, said to JOE.IE of winning, "I still haven’t quite taken it in. I was happy enough with my performance, but in no way did I think it was going to win me the award. I was more relieved that I didn’t disgrace myself".
"When they were announcing in reverse order and who had won third and second, I was convinced this other guy was going to win as I felt that at the very least he would be placed. When they called my name out as being the winner, I was stunned, gobsmacked. For about two hours afterwards I felt like I was having some sort of out-of-body experience."
Aidan can now expect to receive gig offers all over the place, commenting, "it was so bizarre at the after-party as so many people gave me their business cards, promoters, agents etc. I even spoke with Eddie Izzard’s manager which was a bit surreal. I spoke to David O’Doherty and he was extremely generous with advice and congratulations".
Asked what's next for him, he said "the main woman behind the competition Karen Koren, who is responsible for a lot of the great shows at the Guilded Balloon, has challenged me to write a new hour long show for next year’s Edinburgh Fringe and that she will help me promote it. In the short-term, I am part of the cast of Singlehood, and I will be fulfilling another personal ambition of mine by performing that show at the Olympia in Dublin on September 11th, 12th and 13th. It’s a show I am very proud to be part of and I hope we can fill that famous old venue for the three nights we are there. I told Eddie Izzazrd’s manager to come over and see us!".
Aidan's real surname is Comerford, and he noted that "funnily enough, they handed the cheque to me after I won last night, but it had my stage name Aidan Strangeman on it. I’ll have to get them to change it!”.