Five years of solo comedy performances on the Edinburgh Fringe finally paid off for London-based actor Adam Riches Saturday when he won the festival's top comedy award.

The Foster's Best Comedy Show prize went to the 38-year-old comedian for what the judges described as his trademark mix of character comedy, anarchic stagecraft and a fearless level of audience engagement in Bring Me the Head of Adam Riches.

They said he had created a cavalcade of barely controlled chaos in featuring such characters as Ian Dustry the talent manager, Pedro the swingball star, O'Hara the monster hunter, and the wheelchair-bound despot behind the board game Mastermind.

Riches said of his show: It is very physical character comedy, very fast paced with a lot of audience interaction as well. They're embroiled in the story and events, just sort of lively. That was just what I always wanted to do in Edinburgh.

I'm conscious of the weather, conscious of people's moods, conscious that they have seen six or seven shows that day, so I wanted to devise something (that) swept them up, shook them up a bit and then booted them back out in to the festival.

Awards producer Nica Burns said 10 judges saw more than 500 different acts at the month-long Fringe to reach an extremely strong shortlist and a very hard decision.

The best newcomer award went to another Londoner, Humphrey Ker, for his critically-acclaimed sympathetic yet humorous portrayal of his grandfather's part as a Royal Navy intelligence officer in the raid on the Ploesti oil fields immediately after Romania entered World War Two on the German side.

The raiders spotted trouble and escaped a Nazi trap, making an incredible escape by bus through neighboring Bulgaria to Istanbul.

Ker had been lying in bed on Boxing Day wondering what to take to this year's fringe when he came up with the idea.

It was one of those incredible stories nobody knew about out of so many incredible stories of the war... it's quite loosely based. My version of the story takes extreme liberties, I make him younger, I made him more like me, so in my version I made him somewhat more hapless, a victim of fate, really.

Ker, 28, who at 6 feet 7 1/2 inches towered over his audience, said he had been pleased when older audience members of his grandfather's generation had approved of the show, directed by Philip Breen.