Former personal trainer Aaron Simmonds has won the prestigious UK Jewish Comedian of the Year Award.
Performing in front of a live audience on Saturday night, he drew big laughs for his amusing anecdotes of visiting the cinema with his able-bodied girlfriend and making staff feel awkward in their assumptions about disabled people.
Simmonds, who performs from his wheelchair, was praised by the judges for his spontaneity and natural ability to engage effectively with the audience in JW3’s Alan Howard Hall.
He was joined on stage by finalists Abigail Weinstock, Aaron Levene and Michal Benai. All four comedians explored a variety of Jewish themes, ranging from Jewish mothers to growing up in Israel, leaving the audience in stitches.
Their performances were judged by Debbie Chazen, actor and comedian best known for the West End production Calendar Girls and sketch show Tittybangbang, Julia Chamberlain, comedy booker and producer, Hannah Chambers, comedy agent and founder of Chambers Management, and Raymond Simonson, head of JW3.
Simmonds, who has only been working as a comedian for four years, won £1,000, a spot at Abigail’s Party Comedy Cabaret and a mentoring session with Katya Balfour-Lynn at United Agents.
Speaking to Jewish News after collecting his trophy, Simmonds said: “This feels lovely, especially as it’s the first award I’ve actually won! I think £1,000 worth of bacon sandwiches is definitely on the cards!” he joked, before confirming he would spend the prize on performing at the Edinburgh Fringe.
One of Aaron’s winning gags…
“… I wanted to complain about the service but with Doctor Cohen being my sister it wasn’t easy – typical!”
The audience were warmed up by compere Ori Halevy, an Israeli comic and writer who flew in from Berlin.
Eight comedians entered the first heat of the competition before a final involving the best four. The judges made their decisions based on presence, joke construction, storytelling, audience interaction and the appropriateness of the humour for the environment.
Simonson said: “We’re extremely proud that previous winners of this event have gone on to build comedy careers, and I’m sure Aaron has a successful future ahead of him, too.”