Nica Burns has established herself as a kingmaker of the comedy world. With the Edinburgh Comedy Award firmly established as the pinnacle of stand-up comedy for the entire world, (pretty much) Burns has not only helped bring more comedians than to the spotlight than almost anyone else but it is arguable that her award has helped keep the Edinburgh Fringe itself the hub of the comedy season.
Running an awards for almost three decades though is not easy task. In that time Burns has had to deal with numerous protests, sponsors falling victim to the credit crunch, and verbal abuse from the likes of Stewart Lee who railed against the awards being sponsored by the lager brand Fosters.
Nica herself is an actor who transformed herself into a writer and director, and now co-owns five of the most illustrious West-End theatres including the Lyric, Garrick, Apollo, Duchess and Vaudeville through her company Nimax Theatres. In a poll last year The Stage ranked her as the seventh most influential person in theatre alongside her business partner Max Weitzenhoffer while the Times has pegged her as the 40th most important person in the arts in the UK.
We are however going to focus on the ECA’s (Edinburgh Comedy Awards to you and me). Looking at the Edinburgh Fringe now it would be hard to imagine the festival without the climax on the final weekend when the winners are announced, but it has taken decades to establish them at the top of the comedy tree. Burns took over the running of the Perrier Awards as they were known at the time in 1984, and has run them ever since.
When Perrier was bought by Nestlé the awards were hit by both boycotts and a short-lived alternative awards called the Tap Water Awards were setup.
Perrier ended their sponsorship of the awards in 2005 and were replaced by Intelligent Finance, who renamed them the vulgar title of the if.comeddies in 2006, and then the only slightly better if.comedy awards for 2007 and 2008.
Then the credit crunch hit and took Intelligent Finance down with it. Burns took a huge gamble when if.comedy called time on their sponsorship by paying for the awards out of her own pocket, which cost her an estimated £150,000 of her own money.
That’s a fair whack to shell out to give a couple of comedians a crown, but the gamble paid off and instead of falling on her sword, Burns was saved when Fosters came on board the following year.
Speaking to the Guardian about the empire she has built Nica says she will be very rich corpse, "I'll be a very rich corpse," she says cautiously. "Actually I mean that, because I only get the money when I sell the theatres. And because I don't intend to sell the theatres before I die, I won't get it. I can't imagine stopping working. I'm expecting to predecease my beloved husband, because I'll have worn myself out."
- Commissioners and TV executives
- The Top 100 most influential people in comedy: 20 - 1
- Edinburgh Fringe 2012 picks: Free Fringe and free gigs
- Stewart Lee: "I don't think a 16-year-old me would want to be a comedian"
- The Top 100 most influential people in comedy 60 - 41
- Danny Dyer film Run For Your Wife takes £747 at box office
- The Top 100 most influential people in comedy
- The Top 100 People In Comedy 80 - 61
- The Top 100 most influential people in comedy: 100 - 81
- London 2012: Eric Idle sings Always Look On The Bright Side of Life at Olympics closing ceremony