In stitches at the Channel Awards

clock • 5 min read

Who remembers all the comedians we have seen over the years? Sara Yirrell mulls over some of the big names the CRN Awards have attracted


One of the biggest secrets every year with the CRN Channel Awards is who on earth is going to be the host comedian for the night?

Only a handful of people at CRN Towers actually know the answer until the host is unveiled onstage at the event itself, and they find themselves faced with over 1,600 expectant faces from the IT channel.

Every year, each comedian selected requires a briefing about what the heck the channel actually is, and what type of people is it made up of. That is one very interesting conversation I can tell you.

We also try to steer them away from insulting anyone too much - sometimes the tactic works, sometimes it doesn't. 

I am gearing up for my 19th Channel Awards ceremony this year - just reading that is terrifying - and I have certainly seen some fantastic acts, and perhaps some slightly more cringeworthy acts over the years.

When I joined CRN in 2000 I learned I had just missed out on seeing Bob Monkhouse host the previous year's awards - I would have loved to have seen him.  I also missed out on seeing Ronnie Corbett and Griff Rhys-Jones, who also hosted past awards.

My first experience of an awards host was Rory Bremner, and at the time the awards had around 600 attendees, so it was a pretty intimate affair, with some of Battersea Events Arena cornered off and a stage in the middle of the room. Bremner brought the house down with his impressions.

The awards also used to have dancers and an additional entertainment act (usually a singer) in the early years, but I cannot for the life of me remember any names. And no, of course it was nothing to do with gin.

The second year after I joined CRN Melinda Messenger was the host, wearing what I can only describe as the tightest leather catsuit I have ever seen. I don't really have a lot else to say about that year to be honest.

After that I'm not exactly sure of the order, but my favourite comedian ever was Graham Norton, who stood there with a copy of CRN and absolutely ripped it apart with his caustic tongue - it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen at the awards.

Bill Bailey was another highlight, he showcased his musical talents onstage and it was absolutely mesmerising to watch. Plus he was also very funny.

We also had Jack Dee as a host - he had just won Celebrity Big Brother at the time (that dates it a fair bit) and to me he looked fairly tired on the night. I think he had had a busy time of it. He also had actually read the magazine and managed to amuse the audience with some channel one liners.

Two people that I try to block out of my memory after their respective appearances as hosts were Phil Jupitus and Jo Brand. One (and I won't say who), managed to ensure no-one laughed the entire evening and the other managed to really insult one of the biggest sponsors of the night when they had shipped some important US visitors over. The C-bomb was dropped and the room went pretty quiet. Cringeworthy stuff.

Dara O'Briain was the first host of the event when I had taken over as editor in 2007. He was a lovely guy both on and off stage, and again had made an effort to read CRN and used that knowledge to absolutely rip into the channel. He went down a storm.

The following years featured some great names too - Jimmy Carr (‘interesting' fellow to meet), Ed Byrne (I had to lend him £30 for a taxi - oh the irony), and a surprise hit in the form of Stephen K Amos - who unbeknown to many was a last-minute substitute for the original host - who (will remain nameless) but had decided he ‘didn't do trade awards evenings anymore' a week before the event.

Amos was hilarious and was a definite hit on the night.

The only comedian to feature at the awards twice so far has been Rob Brydon, whose first appearance was a little flat (in my opinion), but he made up for in with his second appearance, where he sang with a live choir as he came up on stage, and brought the house down with his routine that did actually mention the channel and the industry.

My final Awards year as editorial director at CRN featured Frankie Boyle as the host. Again, I've never been a fan and watching him that evening made me realise why. But at least he got a couple of laughs. Not from me.

Last year the host was Russell Kane and he definitely proved to be a hit with the audience. 

So who will the comedian be in 2018, as the Awards celebrate their 25th birthday this year?

The truthful answer is, I haven't got a clue. It's a secret!

I know I must have missed a few famouns names out  - so feel free to remind me and fill in the gaps in the comments below.

Who was your favourite host over the years? And why? 

Also don't forget the deadline for entering the 2018 awards is Friday 13 July at 5.30pm.

Please don't miss out on your chance to pick up a trophy this year. 


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