Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year: Ex-maths teacher Romesh Ranganathan wins 2013 title
Ex-maths teacher Romesh Ranganathan proved he'd got the winning formula for stand-up comedy when he was crowned this year's Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year.
Just a few months after quitting the day job to pursue comedy full-time, he beat seven of the best new talent around to take the title on Saturday night.
His 10-minute set mined a rich seam of schoolroom gags using Ofsted inspections, relentlessly PC mathematics papers and how teachers pass the time invigilating exams, using the neat conceit of being a teacher who wasn't actually that keen on children.
Romesh, 34, of Crawley, said: "I'm really pleased to have won. I thought this year the line-up was exceptional. Every single person there tonight I thought was brilliant."
He said he thought he was "a bit of a rubbish teacher" and had decided to become a full-time comedian after the gigs started to take off. It also means he can spend more time with his children aged one and three.
He said: "I have always loved stand up. I genuinely never thought of doing this as a career but I was getting more and more gigs, and now I love it.
"I'm always thinking about material though. If I'm on a train on the way to a gig, I'm thinking about a routine. it's obsessive!"
Runners-up were Mark Simmons and Lucy Beaumont. Mark delivered perfectly-timed, clever one-liners with aplomb, while appealing Lucy's dour tales of life in Hull had the audience at Leicester's Y Theatre in stitches.
Not everything worked – an awkward 10 minutes of "Michaell", a character from Jamie Demetriou, seemed to last twice that. The audience wasn't sure if Adam Hess's nervy, high-pitched giggly style of delivery was part of the act or genuine collywobbles.
Danny Ward's routine was far more assured, with observational gags coming thick and fast on everything from the random offers in Lidl to being ripped off by locksmiths; cheeky Tez Ilyas got full innuendo potential out of a routine around a filthy text message while Kwame Asante's softly spoken delivery belied a slick wit and sharp writing.
Holding it all together was the always excellent compere Jarred Christmas, and Welsh comedian Matt Rees showed why he took the title last year in a 20-minute set.
Judge Steve North, of Leicester Comedy Festival sponsors Dave, said: "The standard has been fantastic. it's just great so see such a diverse bunch of acts. We felt Romesh was the complete comedian – he had the material, delivery and the stage presence.
"The audience warmed to him and he completely held their attention."
Compere Jared Christmas said: "The Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition is a great barometer for the best new comedy out there."