The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction has been withheld for the first time in its 18 years because none of the entries “prompted unanimous, abundant laughter”.
"After much deliberation, the judges concluded that although there were many amusing and well-written books among the 62 submissions, none fulfilled the criteria of making all of the judges laugh out loud,” a prize spokesperson said on Wednesday (16th May).
The UK’s only prize rewarding comic fiction for adults is traditionally presented to the winner at the Hay Festival later this month and includes a case of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a jeroboam of Bollinger, a complete set of Wodehouse's books (99 titles) and a rare breed pig named after the winning novel. With none of these awarded in 2018, next year will be a rollover year, with the 2019 winner receiving a methuselah of Bollinger, equivalent to eight standard bottles, and a particularly large rare breed pig named after their winning novel.
It was launched in 2000 in tribute to author P G Wodehouse. The shortlist is normally announced in April.
This year’s judges of the prize include broadcaster and author James Naughtie, comedian Sindhu Vee, festival director and founder of Hay Festival Peter Florence, publisher of Everyman’s Library David Campbell and Justin Albert, v.p. of the Hay Festival and director of National Trust Wales.
Campbell revealed that although some entries prompted a “wry smile” there was not the “unanimous laughter” necessary to warrant a place on the shortlist.
"My fellow judges and I have decided to withhold the prize this year to maintain the extremely high standards of comic fiction that the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize represents," he said. "Despite the submitted books producing many a wry smile amongst the panel during the judging process, we did not feel than any of the books we read this year incited the level of unanimous laughter we have come to expect."
He added: "We look forward to awarding a larger rollover prize next year to a hilariously funny book.”
Victoria Carfantan, director of Champagne Bollinger, added: “The decision taken by the judges this year is akin to the way we produce Bollinger’s Prestige Champagnes. They are created when the harvest reaches a perfect balance, and only very high quality harvests become a vintage. We are confident that 2019 will make for an exceptional crop of hilarious submissions and the winner will celebrate with the rollover prize of a methuselah of Bollinger Special Cuvée.”
Last year Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries (Vintage) scooped the award, making it third time lucky for the author. Previous winners include Alexander McCall Smith, Howard Jacobson, Marina Lewycka, Ian McEwan and the late Sir Terry Pratchett.
While The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize recognises comic writing for adults, The Lollies was created by Scholastic in 2015 to celebrate funny books for children. It followed the demise of the Roald Dahl Prize in the same year when Luke Kelly, m.d. of the Roald Dahl estate said it did not fit in with the estate’s plans for next year’s centenary celebrations in 2016.