Steve Bennett on the Chortle Comedy Awards - "The bar tab alone cost me a fortune."
In 2001 the Chortle Awards was nothing but a big booze up in the bar of the Comedy Café and the winners got a piece of wood that Steve Bennett himself had nailed the Chortle logo to. In 2013, the press was lining up outside of the Café De Paris on Leicester Square to catch a glimpse of some of the many a-list celebrity guests that were all attending the now very classy event. Stewart Lee, Phil Nichol, Paul Sinha, Tony Law and Nick Helm were to be spotted in the crowd alongside very non-comedians Dappy, Helen Flanagan and Lee Ryan and Duncan James from the boyband Blue. It goes to show that the Chortle Awards is no longer just a piss-up in a bar – it’s a high profile, respected and established piss-up in a bar. Comedy Chords had a talk with the man behind Chortle.
“The comedians – as an audience – were quite chatty about it and talked a lot, but they did have some respect for the show. But it has always been like that.”
A panel of judges that includes Steve Bennett gets together and they decide on who the nominees for the awards should be.
“I think that’s quite fair,” Bennett says, “That way it’s not just a popularity contest, where Michael McIntyre would win everything. These are actually people who know comedy.”
When asked if he agrees with the people’s choices, he replies, “Oh, I don’t know. They are all good and deservant of the titles. Hopefully we can give them good exposure so that they can sell more tickets, especially as we are six months away from Edinburgh.”
Is that why you do the awards? To give people titles; to help them?
“Well, it’s definitely not to make money.” Steve laughs, “The bar tab alone cost me a fortune. Comedians drink a lot – and agents too, I discovered. It’s a celebration for the industry and for the comedians.”
“12 years ago when it started, it was just a piss-up in the bar of the Comedy Café. The awards were just pieces of wood with the Chortle logo nailed to them.”
And 12 years from now?
“It will be in the O2,” he laughed, “No, it will never be the British Comedy Awards. Hopefully it will still be like this. But maybe we will get more a-list presenters.”
So Steve, on a final note, how would you review this interview?
“I would say that I’ve been, uhm, friendly and charming in my answers. What do you mean? My answers or your questions?”
And we’ll leave it there. Thank you to “friendly and charming” (Steve Bennett, Chortle) Steve Bennett and congratulations to all of this year’s winners (listed below).
Best newcomer with ALCATEL ONE TOUCH
Breakthrough act with Impressive PR
Character or sketch act
Music or variety act
Tony Law: Maximum Nonsense
Stewart Lee: Carpet Remnant World
Fist Of Fun Series 2
The Thick Of It
John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme
Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast
Award for innovation
Tommy Sheppard fom The Stand and Glasgow International Comedy Festival
Ray Galton & Alan Simpson
London: Purpose-built venue – The Comedy Store
London club – 99 Club Leicester Square
The South – Brighton Komedia
Midlands and The East – Birmingham Glee
West and Wales – Bath Komedia
The North – XS Malarkey
Scotland – The Pleasance
The images below courtesy of Martin Besserman:
We’ll leave you with a video of Harry Enfield presenting the Lifetime Contribution Award: