British Comedy Awards host Jonathan Ross heaped more embarrassment on the event last night as they went ahead without being broadcast.
Liz Smith, Nana in the Royle Family, was the star of the show, scooping Best Actress at the awards at the age of 85.
But the controversy that has dogged the broadcasting industry over faked phone-ins and ITV’s decision to “suspend” broadcast of Britain’s most watched awards after they were caught up in the scandal, dominated the night.
The awards, in their 18th year, are usually broadcast live but no date to show the awards on TV has yet been set.
Ross, hosting the awards, joked to the audience: “Up until two days ago we were holding this event in an open prison. We’re still in the dock but (Chris) Langham is free”, he said of the comedy actor, who was jailed for downloading child porn.
He added: “We don’t know for sure if this will ever go out or not so if you win an award this year, like most of the telephone votes it doesn’t really count and you will still be charged.”
The BBC DJ and chat-show host also made light of how much he was paid by the BBC saying: “I’m worth 1,000 BBC journalists” and joked that at least he had not fled like “Ant and Dec”.
He said of the ceremony: “This year’s awards are going to be whiter than white. They’re whiter than Jim Davidson’s dream pub.”
He added that the votes this year had been thoroughly researched with the same forensic attention as a “Portuguese police investigation” and organisers of the show were “more nervous than the teddies at a Sudanese branch of Hamleys”.
Ross joked that TV bosses had cancelled the 'TV People’s Choice' vote because they “believe people are scum and don’t care what they think”.
He said: “The British Comedy awards, unlike Griff Rhys Jones up a mountain, have reached their peak. If you lose you can canoe to the distance, make everyone think you are dead for five years and make a miraculous come-back”.
TV presenter Fern Britton caused even more potential trouble when she called a giant bear which came out on stage “Mohammed”.
Ross told her: “Don’t do that or they will kill you too.”
When award-winner Simon Amstell asked if the show was “going out tonight” Ross said: “Of course it’s not going out. ITV is run by fools and thieves.”
Romantic comedy series 'Gavin & Stacey', and the relatively small digital channel it is broadcast on, BBC3, was the biggest winner of the night.
Gavin & Stacey picked up three awards – Best New British Television Comedy, Best Female Comedy Newcomer for 'Ruth Jones' and Best Male Comedy Newcomer for James Corden.
The pair are the co-creators of 'Gavin & Stacey' and also play up-front Nessa and best man Smithy, best friends of the central characters.
David Mitchell beat Jack Dee to Best Television Comedy Actor for Channel 4 comedy 'Peep Show', which also scooped the Best Television Comedy gong.
Stephen Fry was the recipient of the British Comedy Lifetime Achievement Award and Hot Fuzz star Simon Pegg took the Writers’ Guild Ronnie Barker Award.
'The Simpsons Movie' beat Borat to Best Comedy Film, while Larry David’s 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' won Best International Comedy Show.
Simon Amstell was named Best Comedy Entertainment Personality while the show he now hosts, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, took Best Comedy Entertainment Programme.
Al Murray’s Happy Hour on ITV1 beat The Graham Norton Show to Best New Comedy Entertainment Programme and Alan Carr won Best Live Stand Up.
BBC3 took three awards out of the BBC’s tally of six, ITV had one and Channel 4 received three, including its award for More 4.
Scunthorpe-born Smith beat Catherine Tate to Best Actress for her role in 'Royle Family special The Queen of Sheba', which saw Caroline Aherne, Ricky Tomlinson and their co-stars return to the sofa in the first time in six years.
The actress, who only got her first professional roles in her fifties, joked: “Now I would like to win an Oscar.”
ITV stopped other channels airing the ceremony live by paying a £700,000 (€974,374) blocking fee.
Media lawyers Olswang were called in to investigate irregularities in the awards after it emerged that viewers in the 2005 show were ringing to vote for the People’s Choice award after Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway had already won.
Ant and Dec, whose 'Saturday Night Takeaway' was caught up in the TV phone vote scandal, have been snubbed in the nominations for the first time in four years.
Last night’s awards were presented by stars including Lily Allen and her father Keith, Christopher Biggins, Blur star Alex James and Faye Dunaway, at ITV’s London Studios.
JK Rowling presented Fry with his award and shocked some of her fans by saying of Fry: “He is the UK record holder for saying the word ’f***k’ during a live programme.”
Fry said: “I’m insanely proud to be involved in British comedy. It’s one of the few things we do supremely well. If anyone can beat themselves up it’s a Briton.”