Both of the top prizes for being funny at the 2022 Edinburgh fringe festival have gone to foreign talent. The Australian comedian Sam Campbell is the winner of Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, the prestigious competition that celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer.
Campbell, 30, from Queensland, is the fifth winner of the best show award to come from Australia, overtaking winners from Ireland, who have scooped the prize four times.
And this year’s Edinburgh newcomer award went to Mexican-born American Lara Ricote, for her show GRL/LATNX/DEF. “You are being so nice to me. This is crazy!” said the 25-year-old, who has impaired hearing and talks about her disability on stage.
Ricote’s show tackles her “multiple minority status”, as well as the fact hers are not all visible categories. “Being a minority is very in now,” she joked after winning her award. “I’m a girl, young, a Latina and have a disability, so I tick a lot of boxes. But I have to be very vocal about the minorities I’m in. I’m in an interesting place and in a very privileged place.” Ricote also won the funny women award for stage performers last year.
The show that earned Campbell the £10,000 main prize is the more simply titled Comedy Show. “I deserve the award and I was expecting it,” he told the crowd, before correcting himself. “No. It was a big surprise. It’s insane.” The comedian added that he was going to use the prize money “to be taller”.
Campbell’s midnight show, which ran only for the second half of the festival, came with a special “warning” from the comic: “I want to be a worldwide performer. I hope you do not mind but this show will pretty much just involve me going up there and being nice.”
A former award winner at the Melbourne international comedy festival, Campbell beat nine other fringe contenders, including Alfie Brown, son of Dead Ringers star Jan Ravens, Seann Walsh, the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant, and Jordan Gray, the competition’s first transgender nominee.
Among those applauding the judges’ verdicts was Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright, who tweeted how much he enjoyed Ricote’s festival show. Campbell, he added later, is a “total lunatic”.
The support organisation Best in Class, which helps performers from working-class backgrounds, won the prize for spirit of the fringe, an award that is not made every year. Pointing out the difficulty of funding a fringe show, Sian Davies, who runs the organisation, said: “People can’t afford to live at the minute, let alone come up here. Best in Class is a sticking plaster at best. The fringe is full of systematic bias.”
Her message met with approval from Campbell, who said: “It’s fucked when people can’t afford to do this. I’m not an expert, but for anyone who loses money here, that stinks.”
Davies explained that in 2018 she had been asked to audition for a fringe showcase. When she succeeded she was told she would need to pay £1,800 to secure her place.
“When I tell people this, they roll their eyes. They can’t believe it,” said Davies. She was dropped by her promoter as a result, despite her friends’ efforts to raise the money. At first she said she “got angry”, then decided to bring up her own showcase for working-class comics. “I don’t charge anyone for the privilege of coming and they’re paid,” she added. “When you give us a seat at your table, we can do this.”
Saturday’s ceremony in the city’s Dovecot Studios art gallery was introduced by the award’s producer, Nica Burns, who argued the festival doors were “open to all” and said: “Together we have built the best comedy industry in the world. Our doors are open to everyone. All they need to be is super-talented and, above all, funny.”
This year the panel for the award, formerly known as “the Perrier” and now sponsored by the comedy TV channel Dave, was chaired by Sky Studios comedy producer Adnan Ahmed, and included Dave’s channel director, Cherie Cunningham, and Channel 4’s commissioning executive, Joe Hullait.