Britain’s Greatest Comedian: 3 reasons to watch Gold's countdown to the funniest Brit

A panel of comedy experts debate Britain’s best comedians, including Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay and Victoria Wood. The fight for the No.1 spot is fierce, but who will have the last laugh?

Fawlty Towers was recently named Britain’s best sitcom, but who is Britain’s best individual comedian?

A brand new one-off special, titled Britain’s Greatest Comedian, is set to premiere on Gold and will countdown the nation's best comics before naming the triumphant winner.

Earlier this year, members of the public chose their favourite comics from England, Scotland and Wales. Gold narrowed down their choices to a list of 30, which includes Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay and Victoria Wood.

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The finishing order will be decided by a jury consisting of famous comedians, performers, actors, and producers including Sally Phillips, Stephen Mangan and Ronni Ancona.

From the team of comedy experts to the fierce competition for the top spot, we reveal our top 3 reasons to watch Britain’s Greatest Comedian.

Don’t miss Britain’s Greatest Comedian on Gold - and catch up on BT TV via the UKTV Play app.

1. The 'crack team' of comedy experts

Britains Greatest Comedian panel

The title of Britain’s Greatest Comedian will be determined by a 'crack team' of comedy experts, seen above in discussion.

The panel is chaired by comedian and actress Sally Phillips, known for roles in Smack the Pony and the Bridget Jones's Diary films.

Phillips is joined by Stephen Mangan (actor, Green Wing), Nina Wadia (actress, EastEnders), John Thomson (comedian and actor, Cold Feet), Ronni Ancona (actress and impressionist), Darren Harriott (comedian and writer), David Quantick (comedy writer), Boyd Hilton (journalist) and entertainment legend Roy Hudd.

Over the course of the three-hour show, the panel debate and discuss the merits of each comedian and their contribution to British comedy before them in order from number 30 to number 1.

The group's members certainly know what they’re talking about, but the debate gets pretty heated at times as they share opposing views.

The generational differences also stand out, as some of the younger members of the panel don’t remember who some of the older comedians are.

But with shared power comes shared responsibility, and the whole panel are responsible for agreeing on who is at number 1.

2. The fight for number one is fierce

Britains Greatest Comedian contenders

A public vote held earlier this year helped provide the panel with the shortlist of Britain’s 30 best comedians.

The shortlist was recently announced on Twitter, with fans chipping in with who they think should be crowned the winner:

With comedians such as Peter Kay, Victoria Wood, Billy Connolly (pictured above) in the running, whoever the panel choose for the top spot is going to be hugely controversial.

“We’ve almost come to blows just discussing this in the office,” admitted Iain Coyle, head of comedy entertainment at UKTV.

“It’s a tough job, but by the end of the show we will have a definitive answer.”

With Britain’s biggest comedy titans under the microscope, there’s going to be fierce debate not only on-screen, but off-screen too.

Make sure you log onto Twitter during the show and search the hashtag #BritainsGreatestComedian to see what people make of the order - and the inevitable backlash that follows!

Here's the shortlist for Britain’s Greatest Comedian (in alphabetical order):

Caroline Aherne

Bill Bailey

Jo Brand

Billy Connolly

Ken Dodd

Dawn French

Peter Day

Sir Lenny Henry

Michael McIntyre

Jennifer Saunders

Dave Allen

Ronnie Barker

Kathy Burke

Steve Coogan

Lee Evans

Ricky Gervais

Stan Laurel

Lee Mack

Spike Milligan

Peter Sellers

Rowan Atkinson

Sacha Baron Cohen

John Cleese

Tommy Cooper

Micky Flanagan

Eddie Izzard

Stewart Lee

Rik Mayall

Eric Morecambe

Victoria Wood

3. The array of impressive archive footage

Ali G

Aside from the panel discussion, the three-hour show also includes the best bits of every comic mentioned.

You’ll laugh non-stop as the nominees’ best sketches, sitcoms and stand-ups are aired. 

It’s a whistle-stop tour of Britain’s best ever comedy acts, from observational comedy (Michael McIntyre talking tape measures and takeaway menus, Peter Kay on wedding receptions) to physical comedy (two words: Lee Evans), and more.

Take a trip down memory lane and witness Sacha Baron Cohen’s cleverly choreographed mischief (including Ali-G’s best ever interviews, above, plus snippets of Bruno and Borat).

Then watch Rowan Atkinson’s classic performances (Blackadder, Mr Bean), followed by Ricky Gervais’ best bits in The Office and on the stand-up circuit.

It’s definitely not one to be missed.

Who will be crowned Britain’s Greatest Comedian? Tune in on Sunday, May 26 at 8pm on Gold (BT channel number 310 / 392 HD) to find out.

Catch up on BT TV via the UKTV Play app.

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Images: UK TV / Rex Features

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