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Pasta one-liner wins best joke award at Edinburgh festival fringe

Masai Graham with his award
Masai Graham also won Dave’s Joke of the Fringe award in 2016, with a gag about donor cards. Photograph: Lesley Martin

A standup comedian who works part-time as a care worker on minimum wage has topped a poll of the funniest jokes at the Edinburgh festival fringe for the second time.

Masai Graham, who works with severely autistic young adults in the West Midlands and uses his annual leave to attend the Edinburgh fringe, got the backing of 52% of 2,000 people for his one-liner: “I tried to steal spaghetti from the shop, but the female guard saw me and I couldn’t get pasta.”

The runner-up, with 37% of the vote, was Mark Simmons for his joke: “Did you know, if you get pregnant in the Amazon, it’s next day delivery?”

Olaf Falafel, the winner in 2019, the last full year of the festival due to the Covid pandemic, came in at both third and sixth. Only two of the top 10 jokes were from women.

Graham, 41, is performing 175 gigs during the 24 days of the festival fringe, according to his Facebook posts. He said the fringe was his “spiritual home” and that he was delighted to win the top spot in the poll organised by the TV channel Dave. “This is getting pasta joke,” he added.

He previously won the award in 2016 with the gag: “My dad suggested I register for a donor card. He’s a man after my own heart.” The day after winning the award, Graham suffered a mild heart attack.

He had been “caning Red Bull”, drinking four or five cans every day, he told the Times. “My heart was racing, I had a pain in my back, and down my arm … My heart giving out the day after the award for a joke about a donor card would have been the most ironic thing ever.”

On Facebook, Graham said he got into standup after discovering that, in order to be eligible for the funniest gag award, jokes had to be performed rather than just written.

“I then spent a year doing open mic, learning the craft, and another year applying for a fringe show. I then named my show 101 Jokes in 30 Minutes to attract the joke judges. It worked!”

Cherie Cunningham, the Dave channel director, said: “This is Dave’s first Joke of the Fringe award in three years, and the quality of the submissions has been incredibly strong. It’s a fantastic top 10 full of newcomers and comedy veterans, and it’s a delight to crown Masai Graham as winner once more.”

The top 10 is voted on by the public from a list of jokes drawn up by a panel of judges who attend hundreds of shows across the fringe. The comedians’ names are omitted from the list.

Another comedian, Matt Forde, sparked online controversy last week after complaining on social media that a crying baby had “derailed” his fringe show, Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right.

The infant’s father “wouldn’t do the decent thing and just leave when it started crying”, Forde tweeted. “I get that it must be tough as a new parent, but please, don’t bring babies to adult shows. It’s always a problem … It’s like someone’s phone continually ringing and them not turning it off.”

Forde later told BBC Scotland his social media had “gone mad”. He added: “I think once a baby starts to cry in a venue it’s just common sense that you leave for the baby’s sake and for the performers and the rest of the audience.”

Dave’s top 10 funniest jokes of the Fringe festival 2022

1. I tried to steal spaghetti from the shop, but the female guard saw me and I couldn’t get pasta – Masai Graham (52%)

2. Did you know, if you get pregnant in the Amazon, it’s next day delivery? – Mark Simmons (37%)

3. My attempts to combine nitrous oxide and Oxo cubes made me a laughing stock – Olaf Falafel (36%)

4. By my age, my parents had a house and a family, and to be fair to me, so do I, but it is the same house and the same family – Hannah Fairweather (35%)

5. I hate funerals. I’m not a mourning person – Will Mars (34%)

6. I spent the whole morning building a time machine, so that’s four hours of my life that I’m definitely getting back – Olaf Falafel (33%)

7. I sent a food parcel to my first wife. FedEx – Richard Pulsford (29%)

8. I used to live hand to mouth. Do you know what changed my life? Cutlery – Tim Vine (28%)

9. Don’t knock threesomes. Having a threesome is like hiring an intern to do all the jobs you hate – Sophie Duker (27%)

10. I can’t even be bothered to be apathetic these days – Will Duggan (25%)