Controversial duo in running for comedy awards

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand are in the running for gongs at the British Comedy Awards tonight.

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand are in the running for gongs at the British Comedy Awards tonight.

Ross, 47, was meant to be hosting the awards for the 17th year and pocketing an estimated £100,000 (€115,170) to do so.

Instead, Angus Deayton will front the show, joined by stars including Eva Mendes and Alec Baldwin.

Ross pulled out in the wake of the prank calls to Andrew Sachs scandal.

He could be a winner tonight however if 'Friday Night with Jonathan Ross' scoops Best Comedy Entertainment Programme 2008.

Ross's BBC1 show was rapped last month by the BBC Trust after he used the word "f***" in a sexual context in separate interviews with presenter Michael Aspel and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

The chat show is currently off-air as part of Ross's three-month suspension without pay from the BBC, but Ross will keep his £6m (€6.9m)-a-year job with the corporation.

Brand, 33, who resigned from the BBC over the pair's lewd phone calls to the 'Fawlty Towers' actor and has been working in the US, is up for Best Live Stand-Up Performer.

Deayton left as presenter of 'Have I Got News For You', which is up for Best Comedy Panel Show of 2008, after becoming the butt of the jokes himself due to allegations about his personal life.

Tonight's Awards see Ross's show pitted against Harry Hill's 'TV Burp' (ITV1) and 'The Sunday Night Project' (Channel 4).

Other British Comedy Awards nominations include cult comedy 'Gavin and Stacey', which is up for two awards - Best TV Comedy Actor for James Corden, who is also the show's co-creator, and Best TV Comedy of 2008.

Ricky Gervais is also nominated for Best TV Comedy Actor for the 'Extras Christmas Special' and is pitted against 'Peep Show' star David Mitchell.

Best TV Comedy Actress nominees include 'Extras' star Ashley Jensen and 'Peep Show' star Olivia Colman.

Ant and Dec, Graham Norton, Harry Hill and 'Sunday Night Project' star Carr will compete for Best Comedy Entertainment Personality.

Katy Brand has a nomination for Best Female Comedy Newcomer, while 'Have I Got News for You', 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks', and 'QI' are in the running for Best Comedy Panel Show.

The Awards have a reputation for the type of "edgy" humour that has been the subject of strong debate in recent months.

Ross provoked fury last year after joking during the ceremony that his salary meant he was worth 1,000 BBC journalists.

According to the Awards' website, the most swear words ever recorded at the British Comedy awards were 487 during the 1995 show.

The BBC was thrown into crisis after Ross and Brand left a message on Sachs's answer machine, which was played on Brand's Saturday night Radio 2 show, boasting that Brand had slept with the 78-year-old actor's granddaughter.

Following last month's BBC Trust report into the incident, BBC management said that it was determined to act on the lessons learnt, "in particular to reinforce adherence to the BBC's compliance systems".

But in the last week there have been two apologies over incidents on BBC Radio 1.

One came after Torchwood actor John Barrowman exposed himself live on air on Sunday and another apology was made over a comment Chris Moyles made last month, seeming to imply that Polish people make good prostitutes.

Moyles said he did not mean to link Polish people and prostitution in the way that had been suggested.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade last month called for less bad language on broadcasting generally.

The Awards, in their 19th year, will be broadcast live on ITV1 at 9.15pm.

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