Sometimes comedians get lucky. Two years ago emerging Blackpool stand-up Mark Grimshaw wrote a set about the failures of Northern Rail. By now it should have been well past its sell by date, but thanks to the ongoing debacle which is the northern train network the material has never looked more timely.
Coupled with a deadpan delivery, which Grimshaw puts down to his autism, it made him the worthy winner of this year’s New Comedian of the Year Final at the Great Yorkshire Fringe which continues to go from strength to strength.
While the festival programme always includes previews from big names like Stephen K Amos and Reginald D Hunter using York as a covenient warm-up before August in Edinburgh, a key part of the week-long is the search for new voices and this year’s final once again showed the depth and breadth of talent we have up here.
Deftly compered by Mick Ferry who is a bit of veteran of these gigs, each of the eight finalists delivered five minutes of polished material. All held their own, but it was the more leftfield performances which ultimately won the audience – and the judges – over.
My own personal favourite was Lois Mills mainly because she had the nerve to strip down to a tight black leotard for the bulk of her surreal set, but sadly she didn’t make the cut. Instead the official plaudits went to impressionist Charlie Hopkinson, who should be a shoe-in for the next series of Dead Ringers, Charlotte Brooke, whose musical take on gluten free diets channelled the spirit of Victoria Wood and Samuel Serrano, a proud, lipstick wearing 18 year old whose deliberately provocative set was uncomfortable and laugh-out-loud funny in equal measure.
It was Grimshaw who rightly edged it though, walking away with a first prize of £800, and if the trains don’t let him down it shouldn’t be long before he returns to York a headliner in his own right.