Omar Badawy wins So You Think You're Funny? 2021

Gilded Balloon's new comedy competition returns for 2021, with stand-up Omar Badawy winning this year's top prize

Feature by Ben Venables | 30 Aug 2021
  • Omar Badawy

Running since 1988, the list of past So You Think You're Funny? finalists reads like a Who's Who of comedy. Previous winners include Dylan Moran (1993), Aisling Bea (2012), and Maisie Adam (2017) – the latter returning to announce the top three tonight.

SYTYF? is open to comedians with only a sliver of live experience and bookings, but the pandemic has made the route to the 2021 final at the Teviot a lot less scenic, with heats and semi-finals taking place over Zoom links rather than theatres and comedy clubs.

By making such adaptations, it's to the credit of the artistic team at Gilded Balloon that their premier new act competition could return to the Fringe for its 33rd outing. And it's to the credit of all ten of the finalists that not one of them betrayed the lack of stage experience that comes with starting a comedy career during a pandemic. All seemed to savour the challenge of performing to an intimidating Edinburgh Fringe audience, which also included viewers at home watching live on NextUp, the comedy streaming platform.

It was difficult to predict who the judges would place as their top three, with over half of tonight's line-up putting in confident and distinctive sets.

Winning first place was Omar Badawy. His childhood moving from Egypt to Wales to Cambridge has made Badawy difficult to pigeonhole for anti-Islamic school friends, football fans and an EDL-badge wearing bouncer. His short set flowed like a longer show, revealing a mature comedic and storytelling prowess.

Rae Brogan took second. She cut a relaxed and assured figure on stage, making her swerving pay-offs about revenge porn, the dark web and glory holes all the more unexpected.

In third was Andy Watts, whose set was brimming with so many gags it seemed like he had material to spare. His wordplay felt fresh with single jokes creating whole and vivid little worlds, whether about ambitious fishmongers or Sigmund Freud's own Oedipal struggle.

The seven other contestants, who beat over four hundred entrants for their place tonight, were Phil Marzouk, Lottie Field, Farhan Solo, Kathy Maniura, Nate Kitch, Caroline Maddison and Kathleen Hughes.

The night was compèred by Mark Watson, a runner-up himself in this competition in 2002. Omar Badawy wins a cash prize and a place in a future Gilded Balloon Fringe programme.

The 2021 So You Think You're Funny? final took place at Gilded Balloon Teviot on 26 Aug