Did you hear the one about the former mathematician who told the funniest joke of the Edinburgh fringe?
Ken Cheng dropped out of Cambridge to become a pro poker player before trying his hand at comedy
They say comedy can be found in the most banal of subjects, and the 2017 winner of Dave’s Funniest Joke of the Fringe award puts that theory to the test.
Proving that even money can be funny, Ken Cheng has won this year’s accolade at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his one-liner on the UK’s redesigned currency: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”
The prize, now in its 10th year, is awarded by a public vote, with this year’s shortlist including 15 jokes by comedians such as Frankie Boyle, Alexei Sayle, Tim Vine and Ed Byrne.
In close contention was this piercing takedown of the US president, Donald Trump, by Boyle: “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book.” And this joke by Sayle also gave Cheng a run for his money: “I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?”
Cheng studied maths at Cambridge University before dropping out to become a professional online poker player. His big break in comedy came when he reached the final of the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy award. This year, his first at the Edinburgh fringe, he was also listed on the BBC’s New Talent Hotlist.
Cheng has spoken of the similarities between comedy and poker. “The two fields of poker and comedy actually have a surprising amount in common,” he said. “The first similarity is how both are based around a constant barrage of either extreme punishment or reward. In poker, it’s money; in comedy, it’s laughs.
“Every day you sit down at the poker table you could win or lose hundreds and, by the same notion, every time you step on stage you could kill or bomb.”
On his joke claiming the Dave trophy, Cheng said: “I am very proud to have won. As a tribute, I will name my first-born son after this award and call him ‘Joke of the Fringe’.”
The official 15 funniest jokes of the fringe 2017
“I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.” Ken Cheng
“Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book.” Frankie Boyle
“I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” Alexei Sayle
“I’m looking for the girl-next-door type. I’m just gonna keep moving house till I find her.” Lew Fitz
“I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’. But he hesitated.” Andy Field
“Combine Harvesters. And you’ll have a really big restaurant.” Mark Simmons
“I’m rubbish with names. It’s not my fault, it’s a condition. There’s a name for it …” Jimeoin
“I have two boys, five and six. We’re no good at naming things in our house.” Ed Byrne
“I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died ... which was lucky, because he trod on a landmine.” Olaf Falafel
“Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences’, I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!’” Alasdair Beckett-King
“A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event.” Angela Barnes
“As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting, but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer.” Adele Cliff
“For me, dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it.” Phil Wang
“I wonder how many chameleons snuck on to the Ark.” Adam Hess
“I went to a Pretenders gig. It was a tribute act.” Tim Vine