GOOD GADD! Fringe comedy award winner covers sex assault

Gag meister Richard Gadd
Gag meister Richard Gadd

The first Scot to win Edinburgh Festival Fringe biggest comedy award for three decades, has vowed to keep performing in tiny venues to keep emotional power of his work.

Richard Gadd, whose material explores impact of suffering a sexual assault four years ago, is first home-grown act since Arnold Brown in 1987 to collect coveted Edinburgh Comedy Awards prize.

The Fife comic, who has built a cult following on the Fringe with his deeply intense and personal performances, is performing a free show in an underground cavern with just 40 seats every night.

But he fears his impact of his shows would be lost if he was appearing on stage before several hundred people.

Gadd, who latest show also explores mental health problems and masculinity, was close to tears as he collected his award at the Dovecot Gallery.

He said: “The darkness I was in, I cannot tell you how bad it felt. The worst thing my abuser did was take my confidence away from me. I feel that this goes some way to getting it back.”

A unique Scottish double win was celebrated at the awards - formerly sponsored by Perrier and now backed by Lastminute.com - when rising Glasgow star Scott Gibson was named best newcomer.

The former call centre worker’s debut Fringe show at the Gilded Balloon charts his recovering from a brain haemorrhage seven year ago and his decision to pursue a career as a stand-up.

Comic Bob Slayer’s project, Iraq Out & Loud, which saw the entire Chilcot Report read out aloud by more than 1000 performers and members of the public over 284 hours, won the “spirit of the Fringe” panel prize award.

Gadd, who wins £10,000 in prize money, vowed not turn his back on the “free Fringe” - which has produced two of the last three winners of the award - because of its anarchic, experimental and “anti-authoritarian” nature.

Gadd spends the majority of his latest one running on a treadmill, in front of an image of a man in a gorilla suit. His show - Monkey See Monkey Do represent the “very real monkey” he had on his back for years, linked to his abuse trauma.

Nica Burns, director of the awards, described Monkey See Monkey Monkey Do as a “highly-original, highly-experimental show, which combines hilarity and heart.”

Gadd’s show is one of the most sought-after on the Fringe, with audiences queuing outside the Banshee Labyrinth hours in advance to try to secure a seat and hundreds being turned away.

Gadd, from Wormit, said: “I want the message to be clear in my shows.If you’re in a room that’s too big and you’re just a dot on the stage then the message is going to be unclear.

“When you’re pressed up against 40 people in a room and you’re up in their face and they can see your facial expressions and your mannerisms and all the nuances then the comedy comes through more powerfully. Comedy isn’t supposed to be done in a big venue.

“It’s not about the numbers or the money for me. If it was I would go and get a better job that’s more stable. It’s more to do with the art.

“It’s never been the ego of filling a big room. It just doesn’t appeal to me. I like to know what I’m getting and I like to know what I’m giving and most of all I like knowing that the shows will land.”

The comic insisted he was reluctant to move into bigger venues because of the way the ‘free Fringe’ offered prioritised paying its performers.

He said: “I owe the free Fringe so much for how much it has helped me down the years. I would definitely come back to it. I’d maybe go to 80 seats at the most.

“The free Fringe has got anarchy at its heart. It is fundamentally experimental in its nature. It is anti-authoritarian. It places the artist first.

“You’ve got all these big venues which pop up around Edinburgh. They support artists where they can, but they have these massive over-heads and they take a big chunk of the ticket gate.

“The artist suffers. It’s not all about the money, but in the world’s biggest arts festival I feel the artist needs to be at the forefront and making money first and foremost before everyone else gets paid.

“The only way they can do that is if they do the free Fringe, which is philanthropic and puts the artist first. That is so important in among the PR machine that is the Fringe.”

Gadd, 26, said he was “shocked and surprised ” that he was the first nominee for the main award to emerge from the Scottish comedy scene for 23 years - when both Phil Kay and Parrot were shortlisted - and suggested it was down to the Fringe being too “London-centric.”

He added: “I think the industry is waking up to the talent that is in Scotland now.

“For a long time, Scottish comedy was seen as too parochial. Despite happening in Scotland, this festival is London-centric and is focused on and obsessed with London. Scotland has been over-looked as too parochial. These awards have probably tarred Scotland with the Scotland brush, for the want of a better phrase.”

In his acceptance speech Gibson, 32, admitted Scottish comics had had a difficult relationship with the Fringe in the past.

Gibson, the first Scot to be nominated best newcomer since Kevin Bridges in 2009, said: “We like to tell ourselves that we’re not part of it, strangely, but hopefully this will show that we can come up and tell our stories.

“The story of main show is about me having an aneurysm removed, those three weeks that I spent in hospital, getting better and starting doing comedy.


“I’ve always loved comedy and knew I wanted to do it for a long time, but I didn’t do it until I had the brain haemorrhage. It’s really what pushed me into doing stand-up.”