I did this last year and it got me more website hits than ever before or since (except that one time I wrote a blog about my brother being a terrible writer). Also, my friend Cat recently asked for some advice on how to decide what to see at the Fringe. So, all in all, I felt it was a good idea to do another one of these. There's a lot more shows I'm excited about this year though, so I've had to split it into separate parts. Also, the only real "rule" is that I have to be in a position to reliably recommend the show, so I have to have seen part of it in previews, or be familiar enough with the act that I know it'll be good. There are lots of shows I'm excited about but that I haven't really seen much of, so I haven't included those. Anyway, here goes:
Adam Hess: Mustard
Heroes @ The Hive, 15:00. Pay What You Want
Adam Hess is the world's funniest Twitter comedian. Every now and again he'll Favourite one of your Tweets and it'll cheer you up and make you feel like you're on the right track after all. But then you realise he only Favourited it and didn't Retweet and it reminds you that you still have work to do. He's also very funny in the flesh, too. Nothing he can't do.
Alexander Bennett: Follow Me
Freestival @ Cowgatehead, 18:15. Free
Alexander Bennett is proper weird, just as a person. He's got a massive obsession with serial killers and wanders around in a slashed jacket, and thinks Muppets From Space is called Muppets In Space. He gets away with it though cos he's funny and charming. I bumped into him at a Hall & Oates gig the other day and he wasn't even there to see Hall & Oates. A real oddball.
Ali Brice Presents: Eric Meat Wants To Go Shopping
Heroes @ The Hive, 14:00. Pay What You Want
Since playing the title role in Weirdos' Christmas extravaganza The Colonel, Ali's fast become one of the funniest character comics around, and managed to reduce me to hysterics merely by pulling a funny face at the realisation that he had got Ronnie Biggs confused with the Higgs Boson Particle, while dressed as a Phil Collins album.
Al Lubel In...I'm Still Al Lubel
Pleasance Courtyard, 22:30. £10/£9
I really like Al Lubel partly because he has the hair and voice of Tom Waits in the early Tropicana years, and partly because he's a genius. Some friends of mine came to see me gig with him and were very impressed that I knew him, even though we're only on nodding terms really. Though I bumped into him at Euston this week and we had a lovely chat.
The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society
Stand in the Square, Various Dates and Times. £10
John-Luke Roberts and Thom Tuck's cult night that celebrates the unusual and the ambitious over anything familiar. My first encouter with ACMS involved helping Ben Target stage a bleep test two years ago that involved me and several other comics running up and down while necking vodka and spraying silly string. It turned out to be a wholly representative experience of the night.
Anna Morris Would Like To Thank...
Underbelly Bristo Square, 16:05. £11/£10
Character comic Anna Morris's new show sees a series of warped comedy creations compete with one another to win an Inspirational Women Award and resorting to whatever dirty tricks are necessary in order to claim the prize. I've seen a great routine about a manic depressive baker, and the other characters include an egomaniacal bride-to-be and some others I've forgotten.
The Bearpit Podcast Podcast
Just The Tonic @ The Mash House, 19:40. £3
Though I've yet to see a Bearpit show myself, I'm reliably informed it was one of the standout best things about last year's Fringe. Essentially it's Ipswich's finest current affairs and culture podcast, brought to you by comics including Fin Taylor, Mat Ewins, Matt Winning, Adam Hess, John Kearns and Lolly Adefope.
Bec Hill in...Ellipsis
Gilded Balloon, 17:30. £9.50/£8.50
There was a time when Bec Hill was my sworn nemesis and I had not a good word to say about her (Rufus Penzance's documentary about the feud should be coming out soon). Thankfully, we've now buried the hatchet and I'm able to unreservedly recommend her show, which is chock-full of cartoons, puns (staged in the most heartbreaking context possible), physical nonsense and lots of silliness.
Ben Harris: Mr Harris
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 00:30. Free
It's Laugh Out London's Andy Warhol night. Ben Harris is playing President Lyndon B. Johnson with eggboxes tied to his face. I remove his hat and proclaim "You're not President Lyndon B. Johnson at all! You're..." and struggle to think of a line funny enough to end the show on. Ben chimes in with "I'm an eggbox-face man!" and wins my Funniest Moment of the Year Award.
The Beta Males Sessions: Richard and the Storybeast
Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 13:15. Free
The Beta Males are doing a few different shows this year and all will be great, but I'm most excited about this double bill which involves a solo half hour from John Henry Falle's brilliant Storybeast act, a powerhouse of gothic storytelling that incorporates a passionate retelling of Beowulf and a recitation of all the English kings.
Beth Vyse: Get Up With Hands!
Pleasance Courtyard, 21:45. £10/£9
After last year's cult hit Going Dark, which saw Beth sexually molesting audience members while in character as a blind Chinese X Factor contestant, she's back with a solo show revolving around daytime TV host Olive Hands. Expect lots of leopard print and stupidity, and the biggest papier mache arse you'll see at the Fringe, this or any year.
Bookshop Fringe Encore
Heroes @ Bob & Miss Behave's Bookshop, 19:30. PWYW
Last year, Bob's Bookshop hosted nights of storytelling and stupidity where people could drop in in the middle of the night and share with strangers and receive love and understanding. Also they could get naked if they wanted and Bob Slayer would occasionally take viagra, and initiate an audience countdown to see how long before it takes effect, but that's all part of the fun.
Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman
The Stand Comedy Club, 11:10. £10
After winning the Foster's Award for Best Show last year with her acclaimed show A Bic For Her, Bridget is back with more insights into family, gender, yoghurt commercials and the like. I missed last year's show but have seen a few extracts from the new one and am very excited to see what looks like a very worthy followup. Bridget is probably really honoured and humbled to be featured in my prestigious and exclusive list.
Brydie Lee-Kennedy Repeats On You
Freestival @ Cowgatehead, 15:45. Free
Formerly one half of the cabaret duo Sugar & Vice, Brydie is also an acclaimed storyteller and stand-up. I've actually never seen her perform, but we've had numerous inspirational chats about how to raise my self-confidence, so her show easily gets a recommendation. And I once saw her convince Bob Slayer that she was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, so I reckon she's probably pretty funny.
Cheekykita & Mr Dinner: Dead Ghost Star
Freestival @ Cowgatehead, 17:00. Free
Cheekykita and Mr Dinner (Donal Coonan) are two of the most naturally funny and stupid idiots on the clowning circuit. Their show is a voyage into deepest space and back to the dawn of man. Its opening is a wonderfully choreographed bit of silent silliness, and the interstellar love story that rounds things off is as touching as it is ridiculous.
Chris Boyd: Caution To The Wind
PBH @ The Banshee Labyrinth, 13:10. Free
I mainly know Chris's work as the actor who plays the character of Chris Boyd in the annual Weirdos Christmas shows, but am very excited to see more of his own solo stuff. This show is about his obsession with storms, and features a great video of him venturing out with a couple of American storm-chasers which is one of the funniest things I've seen this year.
Chris Coltrane: There's No Heroes Left Except All Of Us
PBH @ The Banshee Labyrinth, 15:30. Free
I'm a fairly vacuous and apathetic individual and exist in a bubble so rarely find a political comedy show that really gets me excited. But Chris Coltrane's new show makes politics fun! It's about Chris's involvement with Mark Thomas's "acts of minor dissent," and about the importance of trying to make a difference in the world. It's proper funny too.
Dan Lees: Brainchild
Freestival @ St. John's, 19:30. Free
Having been part of Moonfish Rhumba, Pekka & Strangebone and Victor Brainchild & Mystic Maud, one of the best and most inventive clowns around finally brings his debut solo hour of characters and nonsense to the Fringe. I recently filmed a sketch in which I interviewed his gibberish-spouting Jazz Prophet character, which confirmed (if confirmation were needed) just how funny this show will be.
Darren Walsh: Chicken Meow!
Heroes @ The Hive, 19:00. Pay What You Want
Darren Walsh has won awards for his puns, and also gotten onto Australian TV with a particularly good one about the birth of that Prince George guy. The title of the show is a pun on "Checking me out." That pretty much sums it up. He also has the best Schwarzenegger impression of any comedian around, and the most inventive way of segueing into it.
David Trent: Live At The Pleasance Courtyard
Pleasance Courtyard, 21:45. £12/£10
David Trent has firmly established a reputation as one of the masters of multimedia comedy, with his unique blend of projections, videos, slides and shouting. Last time I saw him the tech broke down and he had to just shout at the technician for about ten minutes and still managed to make it hilarious, so he's got good improv chops too.
Elf Lyons: Underground Success
PBH @ The Voodoo Rooms, 19:30. Free
Elf's debut show is essentially about her worryingly extensive obsession with the London Underground. Sounds niche, but Elf is such a naturally funny, enthusiastic and likeable performer that you're swept along by every moment of it, from her tube-based erotica to the tragic story of the guy who designed the tube map. There's also a great Game of Thrones gag, which I laughed at even though I've never seen the show.
Eric Lampaert: Testiculating (Waving Your Arms Talking Bollocks)
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 19:45. Free
As Eric points out in his blurb, the title gives you all you need to know. He has a great knack for freewheeling, spontaneous storytelling and taking a story from tiny origins to massively overwrought and dramatic conclusions. There's a particularly good extended riff on a UKIP soundbite about weather.
Faye Treacy & Trine Munk: Split Note Sessions
PBH @ CC Blooms, 21:15. Free
Trine Munk's spooked, deadpan comedy songs and Faye Treacy's exuberant clowning and trombone-related nonsense should make a refreshingly diverse, silly and original two-hander. I'm not too familiar with Trine's stuff, though I've loved what I've seen, while Faye's ET bicycle ride routine, with all its forced interaction and shrieking hysteria, is a particular highlight.
Fin Taylor: Real Talk
Just The Tonic @ The Tron, 22:20. £9.50/£8.50
Fin is one of the comics behind the acclaimed Bearpit Podcast Podcast, and has recently been growing a fine moustache (though apparently it has to be accompanied by a chin beard in order to appease Mike Wozniak's lawyers). From the little bits and pieces I've seen of his show, it's also very funny, so lots of reasons to go see this there. It's about giving up drinking.
Gabby Best: The Marijana Method
Assembly George Square Studios, 14:45. £10/£9
Gabby Best's brilliant character creation Marijana, the Eastern European fitness guru to the stars, was recently seen on BBC Three's Live At The Electric. I was fiercely jealous at first as I had applied to be on the show and had been turned down out of hand, so sat there hurling abuse at the screen and crying, but I'm over it now. One of the best character acts at the Fringe this year.