The television channel Dave is to follow fizzy water, finance, lager, and online travel as the sponsor of the Edinburgh comedy awards.
The announcement was made on Thursday before what promises to be the most comedy packed Edinburgh Fringe ever. Out of a dizzying 59,000 performances in the city next month, 37% are comedy. That compares with 22% in 2005.
Nica Burns, the longstanding producer of the awards, said there were around 30 eligible acts in 1981 but this year there will be a record-breaking 750.
She said Dave was an ideal partner for the awards. “It is as proactive and enthusiastic about discovering new comedy talent and championing it as we are.”
Luke Hales, Dave’s channel director, said it was commissioning more new comedy than it had ever done before. It was not the channel of 10 years ago, full of BBC repeats, or five years ago, with one or two commissioned shows. “This year we have launched nine new series on Dave. We are hoping that we can become known as the home of the best and freshest comedy in the UK.”
The longest and most controversial sponsor of the awards was Perrier, between 1981 and 2005. That relationship ended after protests and boycott threats because it was owned by Nestlé, a company criticised for its perceived aggressive marketing of powdered baby milk to the developing world. It was followed by Intelligent Finance, Fosters and Lastminute.com.
Burns said many previous awards nominees, including Sara Pascoe, Lucy Beaumont, James Acaster and Romesh Ranganathan were part of Dave’s original comedy strands.
The comedy awards are an important part of the Edinburgh fringe, with previous winners going on to successful careers in film and TV.
The very first winners were the Cambridge Footlights, featuring Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Penny Dwyer and Paul Shearer. Others include Frank Skinner, Sean Hughes, Jenny Eclair, Bridget Christie and last year Rose Matafeo.
The awards, with three categories including the £10,000 prize for best comedy show, will be known as Daves. The winners this year will be announced in Edinburgh on 24 August.
Hales said there would be TV coverage, including two-minute slots for performers at the festival, but he hoped for more extensive coverage in future years.