MANY hundreds of would-be comedians have been judged and found wanting during the 10-year lifespan of So You Think You're Funny, the Gilded Balloon's annual Fringe competition for budding stand-ups, sponsored by Channel 4. Some entrants find their entire performing career consists of a panic-stricken, sweat-soaked, numb-tongued five minutes in one of SYTYF's heats.
It's a different story for those who lift the SYTYF prize, this year worth #1500, and all those hopefuls currently worrying about taking part in Sunday night's grand final at the Gilded Balloon will doubtless be taking heart from what their illustrious forebears have gone on to achieve in the wake of their initial Edinburgh success.
Aye, when all nine of the previous SYTYF winners line up in a special all-star bill on Monday night, they'll be boasting a collective CV that shines like a beacon. Take the competition's first two winners, oor ain lairds o' laughter, Bruce Morton (1988) and Phil Kay. Both went on to secure a Channel 4 series and Perrier nominations. Phil picked up a gong at the British Comedy Awards in 1994. Bruce is currently writing a major childrens' comedy-drama series for TV.
Ditto Alan Francis, the 1991 victor, whose TV credits have include Fist of Fun, Pulp Video and Auntie's Secret Box. Rhona Cameron, successful in 1992, fronts Gaytime TV. Dylan Moran followed his 1993 win with last year's Perrier Award. Martin Trenaman (1994) writes for names including Lee Evans and Phil Kay. Lee Mack (1995) hosts of Channel 5's stand-up show, Gas. Last year's winner, Tommy Tiernan, has followed up sundry TV appearances with his own Fringe show this year.
But hold on, though. A cursory scan of Channel 4's SYTYF press hand-out would seem to indicate there was no golden pay-off for one previous winner. A terse statement - ''No longer working together as a comedy act'' - underlines the entry for 1990's winners, identified as ''Trio Brothers Troup''.
But things haven't turned out as bleakly as they might seem for the Glasgow-based musical-comedy act. Although Monday night's show will be their first together in five years, the three former Trio Brothers are all thriving showbiz troupers. Greg Hemphill has been prominent among the repertory players in BBC Scotland's hits Pulp Video and Only An Excuse. He presented the first series of Radio Scotland's football fanzine show, Off The Ball, and co-hosts Radio Scotland's Chewing The Fat with Ford Kiernan, his co-star in the Fringe play Still Game. Greg and Rab Christie researched and co-wrote the current Channel 4 sci-fi quiz show Space Cadets. Rab also writes many of the aforementioned Off The Ball's satirical sketches, as well as providing some of the voices for them, and is a regular contributor to Radio Scotland's TGIF show.
Neil Warhurst's career has followed a more formal trajectory. He moved to London in 1992, and has appeared in straight stage-dramas, including Romeo And Juliet. Yet why didn't the Three Men Trio Brothers Troupe prosper as a unit?
''We were all students at Glasgow Uni in 1990, studying theatre, and after our SYTYF win we continued our course rather than give it up for full-time comedy,'' says Rab Christie.
''Glasgow's status at the time as European city of culture meant we could gig locally on a regular weekly basis. But when 1990 ended, a lot of our live work as a trio did, too. We began getting individual acting jobs, and the trio gradually and amicably ceased - although not before we got part of our SYTYF prize, four gigs in London's Comedy Store, one of them alongside a young contender called Eddie Izzard.''
And the rest of your prize? ''A table lamp of a bloke with a lightbulb in his mouth. There was mention of a cash prize, too although I don't think we actually saw it.''
Your memories of the glamourous evening of victory? ''We beat an act called Mr Trellis, who featured Ardal O'Hanlon long before his Father Ted fame. Other than that, there was no glamour. Neil and I had to leave sharpish to get the last train to Glasgow. Greg stayed on, and ended up losing one of our props - a football - after having become involved in a midnight kickabout on the Mound with Phil Kay. The ball broke one of the windows at the National Gallery of Scotland.'' Some consolation for Sunday's non-winners in all that. Results aren't everything. Smashing times are always possible.