My Fringe Recommendations
Posted July 29th 2013
What with all the "Pick of the Fringe" lists and features flying about at the moment, I thought I'd muddy the water even further by assembling a list of my top recommendations for shows at the Fringe this year, not because I'm under any illusion that my recommendation is a particularly useful PR tool for up-and-coming comedians, but mainly as it might be of interest to my non-comedian friends going up to Edinburgh who would like genuine suggestions of shows worth seeing, plus those comedians who are featured can feel the warm glow of pride for getting into my good books. I've tried to limit it to shows that I've seen in previews, or at least seen direct extracts from, as otherwise this list would be even longer than it already is (and it's too long, really). Here are my top suggestions:
AAA Stand Up - Admittedly a mixed bill stand-up showcase rather than a self-contained Edinburgh "show," but it makes my list for being the best place at the Fringe to see Joe Davies in action, who is one of the funniest and most likeable performers you'll see, and the only person I've ever seen reduce a grown man to hysterics by uttering the words "I've got some glue for that in my van" in a normal conversation. Also performing are Max Dickins, who is an equally excellent stand-up, and Luke Graves, who I've not seen but is presumably good.
Details - Pleasance Courtyard, 19:15, July 31st - August 26th, £11.00
Adam Hess And David Elms - I've no idea who David Elms is. Apparently he's a musical comedian who provides "calm, intelligent whimsy," which sounds good. I must really like the other comedian in order to include in my list a show of which 50% is unfamiliar to me, but I do so that's ok. Chortle Student Comedian of the Year 2011 Adam Hess is one of the best new comics around, and the only comedian my friend Emily follows on Twitter other than me, because his tweets are genius. Although she has said she gets frustrated by the fact that he sometimes reuses old ones if they didn't get the deserved response, but she'll deal with it.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 18:00, August 1st-25th, Pay What You Want
Adam Larter & Ali Brice: Plumpy'nut - Adam and Ali's show clashes directly with mine, so make sure you've already seen mine first before you go to watch theirs, because otherwise I'll lose the game. Luckily I got to see Plumpy'nut (named after a paste used to combat extreme starvation in famine-struck areas) in previews. It's a charming, silly, ridiculous show about friendship and pigs and cat pickpockets, and is every bit as daft as you'd expect from the spiritual leader of Weirdos Comedy Club and its finest proponent of wide-eyed deadpan earnestness.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 14:45, August 3rd-25th, Pay What You Want
Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret - The Lost Cabaret has been running on a weekly basis down the road from me for a while now and has become one of my favourite places to mess about with silly ideas alongside a bunch of other excellent clown and character acts. Adam Oliver and Zuma Puma, ringleaders at Lost, are bringing their double act to Edinburgh and it's a weird and wonderful and heartwarming thing to experience. There are angels and almonds and a brother and sister from an Eastern European village as well as a thing called Rapid City that's difficult to explain in words.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 19:00, August 12th-25th, Pay What You Want
Amy Hoggart As Pattie Brewster: Just A Normal Girl Doing A Cool Show - Amy Hoggart has long been one of my favourite character comics on the circuit, and her insidiously creepy but brilliantly funny creation Pattie Brewster returns to the Fringe after her free show last year, which was one of the highlights of my Fringe experience in 2012. She's a sort of needy, lonely, cat-hoarding weirdo who tries to trick people into being friends with her. If this year's show is anything like last year's, it'll be brilliant. Also, the cat in the poster looks exactly Scout, who is top of my list of cats.
Details - The Underbelly, Bristo Square, 16:20, July 31st - August 26th, £9.00
Are You Serious? A Whimsical Stupid Circus - If you have kids hankering for some entertainment of their own (none of my friends going to the Fringe have kids, but who knows, this might go viral), or if you like your comedy simple and fun and very, very silly, then look no further. Sharney Nougher ("Bubbles") and Oda Aunan ("Bermooda") have lost their circus and will attempt to build it up from scratch with the kids' suggestions, working in such timeless acts as the Elephant Dance and the Bendy Sisters. I'll be cameoing for most of the run as Mr Gumbo doing his Incredible Balloon Trick, and am very excited to be a part of it.
Details - Pleasance Courtyard, 16:30, July 31st - August 11th, £5.00
Bec & Tom's Awesome Laundry - Speaking of kids' shows, this will be an absolute delight. Even though she's accused my act of being "as boring as a bunch of Morris dancers," I've decided to plug the new show of the insufferably lovely Bec Hill because it's joyous. Bec teams up with the brilliant Tom Goodliffe to deliver some of the most beautifully silly stuff on offer at the Fringe. Tom is the stuffy teacher's pet figure, with Bec the anarchic unruly child out to cause mayhem. There's a great Masterchef spoof in there and Bec and Tom's joint Justin Bieber impression is splendid.
Details - Gilded Balloon Teviot, 11:00, July 31st - August 13th, £7.00
Beth Vyse: Going Dark! - If Beth Vyse's stalwart performance as Grandma Wendy in Weirdos Comedy Club's production of Hook at Christmas wasn't enough to inspire enormous respect in her performance skills, I recently learned that she once played some sort of Time Warrior opposite Paul McGann's Doctor Who on the radio, so this is a girl with plaudits. I got to see some of Going Dark! at Nozstock Festival this weekend, and it's a mad, daft journey into the life of a dying actress. Sure to be weird and surreal and dark and wonderful.
Details - The Banshee Labyrinth, 16:45, August 3rd-24th, Free
Colin Hoult: Characthorse - When I first saw Colin Hoult I'd been doing character comedy for a little over a year and was treated to an absolute masterclass in the format from one of the most admired character comics of the moment, and rightly so. I saw only a few brief snippets from the full show, which included a fading actress, an ex-squaddie screenwriter and a new age cult leader, and was absolutely delighted by every second of it. Can't wait to see the full thing.
Details - Pleasance Courtyard, 18:00, July 31st - August 26th, £9.50
Darren Maskell: A Woodlouse Trapped Underneath A Glass - In 2011, some friends of mine came to see me at a gig where Darren Maskell did a joke about a coathanger that they still go on about to this day. They generally ask me how Darren is doing more often than they ask me how things are going for me. Sadly, that coathanger joke isn't in Darren's show, but it's a great journey all the same, incorporating some wonderfully off-the-wall silliness with Christmas trees, bottles of Ribena and the most hilarious use of a piece of ice that you'll see at the Fringe.
Details - The Counting House, 17:10, August 19th-26th, Free
Darren Walsh: I Am A Giant - The majority of these shows I'm recommending are acts who position themselves somewhere outside the conventional and specialise in silly noises and madness. Darren's relentless maelstrom act of puns and cartoons and sound effects and unintelligible noises is a strong contender for being the most bonkers of the lot. He's also recently gone global thanks to this tweet about the Royal Baby, so catch him before he becomes a big star off the back of it.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 16:45, August 1st-25th, Pay What You Want
Gareth Morinan Is Playing The Numbers Game - So much has been said about Gareth Morinan's "Listingsgate" Scandal, whereby he saved £3520 on advertising by listing his show as 11 separate events in the Fringe brochure, that people are forgetting to actually say anything about his show. Well, not me. I've seen bits of it and it's got lots of cool multimedia stuff and pie charts and the like, which you don't get in every Edinburgh show, as Gareth attempts to seduce a woman using statistics. It's also got a great animated bit about a bull in a car.
Details - The Banshee Labyrinth, 18:40, August 3rd-24th, Free
The Grandees Present The Wrong Side Of The Door - So far, I've seen one third of the Grandees' trio of nonsense shorts and it was one of the most gloriously off-the-wall things I've seen, involving a toad, a talking piece of driftwood and a hair-related epidemic. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the other two offerings from Marny Godden, Tom Turner and Andrew Mudie, as they represent one of the most brilliantly random and ridiculous sketch acts I've discovered recently.
Details - The Underbelly (Cowgate), 22:30, August 1st-25th, £9.00
Harriet Kemsley And Richard Todd: The Peculiar Case Of Kemsley And Todd - Quite simply a brilliant double-bill of stand-up from two of my favourites. Harriet Kemsley, via her quirkily spooked, self-conscious persona, is a real delight to watch, and also gave me some stickers of her face on my birthday so I owe her a favour, and Richard Todd is a force of nature. I've seen him ranting at a living room full of people through a barred window from the street and still reduce them to fits of laughter.
Details - The Banshee Labyrinth, 14:20, August 3rd-24th, Free
Harry Deansway: Wrong Way - I don't know much about Wrong Way, but I have a brief cameo in it for some of its run, so I'm excited to see more of it. My bit involves a fun swipe at the ridiculousness that is Inside the Actors' Studio, and the show in general is poking fun at the tropes and common strategies used by comics in preparing a one-man show. I once saw Harry performing a specifically prepared stand-up comedy routine for dogs and enjoyed it immensely, so I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing.
Details - Pleasance Courtyard, 18:00, July 31st - August 26th, £9.00
Jacob Edwards: Faux Latino Show Pony - Over the last few months, Jacob Edwards has made me cry laughing on several occasions. He's also soon to be seen in Dom Joly's Fool Britannia and Live at the Electric, so you don't even need to take my word for it if you'd rather not. This is character comedy expertly performed, from the snake-oil arrogance of Remee Martin to the crushing awkwardness of Roger Showbusiness, via a great bit about fishing. There's also a "Tribute to Edinburgh" that's one of the funniest things I've seen in a preview.
Details - The Assembly Hall, 19:45, August 1st-26th, £10.50
John Kearns: Sight Gags For Perverts - John "I hope for his sake it's a character - The Scotsman" Kearns is the man who helped me to discover that I was good at comedy back at uni and has been a tremendous support at every stage since then, and his show this year is one of the most phenomenally bizarre, stupid, terrifying and original things I've ever seen. There's a joke about a rat that has become the all-time favourite joke of Comedy Blogedy's Sara Shulman and a bit that caused a man in Norwich to become so offended he had to be physically restrained. Perhaps the most insanely original thing to be found on the Fringe this year.
Details - The Voodoo Rooms, 17:05, August 2nd-25th, Free
Karl Schultz: Start The Karl - My What Not Podcast co-conspirator wins the award for the show whose poster image (left) best sums up the show itself. This will be ridiculous and flamboyant and very colourful. I was a guest at an early preview that eventually turned into an onstage discussion of my love life in front of an audience. The show itself will feature human Muppet Matthew Kelly, Irish publican Matty Kelly and Ghanaian multi-faith minister Pastor Kofi. It also features a brief cameo from me as what Karl calls "a woolgathering vector." Daft and splendid.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 16:00, August 1st-25th, Pay What You Want
Mark Stephenson: Half Man, Half Amazing - So far, I've recommended a lot of character acts and silly acts and clown acts and nonsense acts. Mark Stephenson is a bit different, as he's very, very good at standing onstage and saying funny things about himself and the world, like a comedian should. He's got a bit about the level of aspiration in young people that I've used as a jumping-off point for every date I've been on since seeing him do it. His performance as Peter Pan's blind daughter Maggie also quickly became my favourite thing about Hook in December.
Details - The Banshee Labyrinth, 15:30, August 3rd-25th, Free
Matthew Highton's It Came From The Mud - I've seen Matt's show a few times, and he's seen mine more than anybody else, and has proved an invaluable help on certain tricky sections. He also wrote two of the best jokes. I've contributed precious little to his show in return, but it is excellent. As with his show last year it's a brilliant showcase of macabre storytelling and carefully structured cathartic release, and also finds time for some great stuff about Resident Evil and delinquent crows. And there's a prop that will mean you won't be able to sleep for days.
Details - Whistlebinkies, 17:15, August 3rd-25th, Free
Pat Cahill: Start - For a long time, Pat Cahill was a sort of mythical figure in my life, having co-created the student comedy club where I first started doing stand-up. I heard grand tales of his jokes and his exploits, and thought he would be a bit like DuMaurier's Rebecca, a ghostly figure that hung over everything I did without ever really coming into focus. Then I met him and it turned out he was a lovely guy and tremendously funny, so it's probably for the best that he did turn out to be real. This will be great, as anyone with half a brain will confirm. I even know strangers who are looking forward to this.
Details - Pleasance Courtyard, 17:45, July 31st - August 25th, £10.00
The Rat Pack Stand-Up Comedy - The brainchild of 2012 Malcolm Hardee Award-nominee Nathan Cassidy, the Rat Pack aims to inject a bit more camaraderie and nonchalance into the stand-up format, with comics cracking wise over jazz music and chatting together onstage, occasionally interrupted by me bursting in dressed in a wig or some pants or something silly. Regular acts include Alex Holland and Andy Mac, with special guests including David Mills and Mark Dolan, hosted every day by Nathan Cassidy.
Details - Maggie's Chamber, The Free Sisters, 15:45, August 1st-25th, Free
Stuart Laws Absolutely Will Not Stop, Ever, Until You Are Dead - I've actually not seen any of Stu's regular routine, so this is breaking my rules a little. However, having seen him be excellent at many a Weirdos gig as well as being a big fan of his film and sketch work with Turtle Canyon Comedy, which is nothing short of brilliant, I felt I had to include this simply because I'm very excited myself at finally getting to see it. I think it's a live re-enactment of the Terminator with Stu playing all the parts, but I could be/am wrong.
Details - The Dragonfly, 15:10, August 2nd-4th, Free
Tom Webb's Wedding - The first four times I met Tom Webb he told me it was nice to meet me. That doesn't matter because by the time he did remember who I was I felt like I'd earned it. He then went on to tell me that I'd been wiping my bum the wrong way my whole life and, after some experimenting, it turns out he was right, so I owe him a lot. His show is about finding somebody to marry him in St. Paul's Cathedral, and I've told him if he doesn't find anyone then I'll do it, cos that'll be funny.
Details - The Dragonfly, 17:30, August 3rd-24th, Free
Upstairs Downton - I'm very much a novice when it comes to improv comedy, having seen very little and performed even less (my experience is largely limited to an afternoon above a pub saying "I'm not a shopkeeper" while Gareth Morinan tried to explain where I was going wrong), but Upstairs Downton are by far the most innovative and original and simply funny improv troupe I've seen. A mash-up of the genre tropes of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, it's a brilliant formula that resulted in some truly brilliant moments. Go and see it even if you think you don't like improv, because it's something very different and very good indeed.
Details - Heroes @ The Hive, 17:00, August 1st-25th, Pay What You Want
Will Franken: Concert To Benefit The Victims Of My Father - Another one of the undisputed masters of character comedy, I've seen Will Franken a few times delivering a seamless quick-change bravura showcase of characters, dialects and hilariously overwrought dialogues with himself. There's an excellent bit about a bag of chicken bones appearing in an HSBC ad. Some of the most jaw-droppingly impressive character work on show at the Fringe.
Details - Pleasance Dome, 17:40, July 31st - August 26th, £9.50