Mock the Week star Ahir Shah has been announced as the winner of this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award for Sky Best Comedy Show.
The comedian, 32, had previously been nominated for the top comedy prize at Edinburgh Fringe festival in 2017 and 2018. Beginning his stand-up career aged 15, Shah has appeared on various TV panel shows including Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, as well as on BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz.
He won this year’s comedy prize for his show Ends, which received five stars from The Independent’s critic Isobel Lewis.
”Generational sacrifice might not seem like the most obvious topic for an Edinburgh Fringe show, but Shah as a lot to say on the subject; about what we owe the generations before us,” Lewis wrote in her review.
“In his award-nominated show Ends, Shah pulls it off. This is an astonishing comedy hour about using the past to take a more positive view of the present, one that takes audiences to the highest of highs of human emotion.”
Shah dedicated the prize to his wife-to-be, and to his late director Adam Brace, who died in May this year, aged 43.
“Turns out he was really holding me back.” Shah joked. He described his win as the “second best day” of his year, after his wedding, which is taking place this autumn. He also remarked on the achivement for south Asian representation: “F*** me, we got No 10, now Best Newcomer and Best Show,” he said.
The Best Newcomer award went to Urooj Ashfaq, the Mumbai-born comic making her UK debut and performing in her second language, English.
“Likeable, edgy and with charm in abundance, she’s thoroughly engaging and gives us an evening full of laughter,” a press release announcing the win said. “Her show covers everything from her parents’ divorce (shocking within her culture) and her Muslim identity to her thoughts on pornography. ‘Oh No!’ is a show that’s honest and understandable, offering a new perspective to British audiences. Urooj is a fresh, exciting addition to the UK comedy scene.”
Meanwhile the Victoria Wood Award went to Show for Gareth Richards, a show dedicated to the Fringe favourite who was killed in a car accident on his way home from a gig. Organised by his close friends and fellow comedians, Mark Simmons and Danny Ward, it featured a daily mixed bill involving more than 80 of the UK and Ireland’s biggest names in stand-up, including Frank Skinner, Dara O’Briain, Jack Whitehall and Shaparak Khorsandi.
Nica Burns, Director of Edinburgh Comedy Awards, says of this year’s winners: “Two outstanding shortlists, fielding so much talent, led to very intense lively judging debates. It was nail-biting to the final votes. All our shortlisted comedians will be an important part of the comedy scene for years to come.
“Congratulations to Ahir whose blending of his family’s personal story is funny yet emotional, political yet positive, clever and engaging, powerful and tender. His craft as a comedian is so extraordinary that he inspires both tears and laughter. It’s the most wonderful experience.
“Urooj’s arrival in the UK is a breath-taking success story. Working in her second language she’s never experienced a UK audience before. Her ability to engage us immediately demonstrated her natural instinct as a comedian. She is a delightful personality who makes you smile even before she tells you the joke that will make you laugh. Bringing a fresh, new voice to our comedy scene she has a very exciting future.”
The Victoria Wood Foundation says: “’A Show for Gareth’ is an extraordinary initiative by his fellow friends and comics Mark Simmons and Danny Ward and embraced by the comedy community and audiences alike. Victoria would have been part of it had she been here. We are delighted that this is the first of the Victoria Wood Awards and combines her spirit with that of the Fringe.”
The prize money for the Sky Best Comedy Show is £10,000, with £5,000 each for the DLT Entertainment Best Newcomer and the Victoria Wood Award winner.