Goodbye Sean Hughes

19 Oct

Photograph of Sean HughesWords by Suzy Romer

Goodbye Sean Hughes. It´s difficult to know what to write about someone so important when it is such a shock. But beyond the protocol of press coverage, the news is something that will take a little while to be absorbed by the comedy community.

It´s hard to believe that 27 years have passed since he won the Perrier Award. It seems like yesterday that he would appear on stage in a t-shirt and jeans, sometimes with a large cardigan on, his fingers sweeping through his hair, and start to talk to the audience, to everyone and to individuals. There was never any doubt about how the show would go because he connected naturally with people. He delivered his jokes quickly, one after another, so that you had no time to stop laughing before the next wave of laughter started. He didn´t shy away from difficult topics such as family relationships and love but he knew how to present deeper thoughts with a light touch. He made it possible for his audience to acknowledge darker truths and let them go.

He didn´t realise how different he was. His comedy was like meeting a best friend after an evening spent with mediocre colleagues. He was amazing for what he was and what he was not. He was down-to-earth, warm, adaptable and easy-going, but the only “easy target” he picked on was himself. His style of delivery looked so effortless that the uninitiated might be excused for thinking that everything he said was off the top of his head. His blend of improvisation with written material was seamless. He was able to interact with the audience throughout the show, using their answers to his questions as a launch into relevant comedy routines.  He could do his set in any order without losing momentum or repeating himself.

I was 15 when I first went to see Sean Hughes and fell in love with him instantly. I know many others did too. He was a great introduction to the world of live comedy because he represented all the best things about it. In person, he was always kind and never took admiration for granted. He never lost the human connection. His many achievements are well-known but it is his comic energy and real life charm that make him an unforgettable figure in comedy history. We miss him.


Keep the Comedy Going!

1 Sep

Photograph of Nish KumarThat’s another fringe over for another year and we had a ball! We hope you found some gems and enjoyed our recommendations. We were particularly excited that Hannah Gadsby and John Robins both won the Edinburgh Comedy Award – big congratulations to both.

So now what? To stop you getting withdrawal symptoms, we have put together a Punchline Comedy Gala in Edinburgh on 14th October, headlined by critically acclaimed comic Nish Kumar.

You’ll have seen Nish Kumar on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo, Have I Got News For You and 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown.

Rising stars Chris Betts (‘Properly hilarious’) and Jamie MacDonald (‘One of the funniest Scots on the circuit’) will round off a fantastic evening of big laughs. Hosted by the fearless Anna Devitt.

Find out more and book tickets here


Punchline recommends Kwame Asante: Open Arms

27 Aug

Photograph of Kwame AsanteWords by Suzy Romer

After years of being berated by comedians to laugh and make a noise no matter what my feelings about their material, it is an utter joy to read in Kwame’s Fringe guide entry that listeners, smilers and nodders are welcome to his show. All are welcome because he knows exactly what he is doing. As soon as you spend five minutes in his company, his calm good humour lets you know with absolute certainty that you are going to thoroughly enjoy the next hour of your life with him. As the son of Ghanaian parents, Kwame uses his bicultural identity to explore Britishness in a fresh way that sparkles with truth and fun. His experience as an NHS doctor similarly provides tremendous comic material and food for thought about human nature.

His writing is carefully thought out and polished, and he is excellent story teller who knows just when to turn expectations on their heads, providing rolls of laughter around the room. He often reveals the surprise take on the story in two parts which has an amazing cascade effect as different audience members catch on in their own time. His control of his material and his ability to create a warm, friendly atmosphere are quite stunning in a comedian presenting his first full show at the Fringe. A pleasure, an absolute pleasure.

The last performance of Kwame Asante: Open Arms is tonight, and there appear to be a few tickets left if you hurry…

Punchline loves Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

24 Aug

Photograph of Hannah Gadsby

Words by Suzy Romer

When Hannah Gadsby appears on stage, her manner is gentle and the first part of her show eases us into a comfort zone with perfectly poised jokes and wry observations about famous men, sexuality and barista culture in remote Australian villages. So deftly does she bring us into her world that we are hardly aware that we are being neatly introduced to the principal themes of her talk; reputation, human divisiveness (especially homophobia) and a pervasive culture which encompasses everything from ignorant insults to hatred and violence. With brilliant simplicity, she shows us how men like Donald Trump, Bill Cosby and Pablo Picasso are part of a system where powerful men are protected no matter what they choose to do with their private lives. We roar with laughter, clap and make strange animal sounds of haunted recognition as she demonstrates how art history converts heterosexual women into a couple of crazy stereotypes and wipes out lesbians altogether.

While there are well-turned anecdotes and cheeky punchlines aplenty, this comedy territory goes way beyond the usual frontiers. Each joke is targeted with clear intention and full awareness of its effects on listeners. Every word counts. But her greatest achievement is making her audience feel empathy. She does not do this by giving us warm fuzzy feelings but rather guides us through a complex range of emotions lurking beneath our laughter and then suddenly hits us in the gut with an absolute truth that leaves us literally looking for a corner to sob in as the lights go up. She makes us feel the world as other people feel it. This may not sound like a barrel of laughs but the amazing thing is that it is one of the funniest shows you will see this year. Hannah Gadsby says she is leaving the world of stand-up but I hope she realises the strength of the voice she has found and continues to use it whatever way she sees fit.

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette is at 5.30pm Assembly until 27 August. It might be worth trying for returns shortly before the show…

In the Hot Seat: John-Luke Roberts

22 Aug

Photograph of John-Luke RobertsClose your eyes and picture Edinburgh. What do you see?

Rows and rows of vans selling crêpes (sweet and savoury) while someone nearby flyers for a show they haven’t seen.

What is the last thing that made you snort with laughter?

I laughed for about ten minutes at an aubergine. Just completely lost it. It wasn’t even a particularly oddly shaped aubergine, I just found the whole idea of an aubergine hilarious. Don’t worry though – I would never just present an audience with an aubergine and expect them to laugh.

Tell us about this year’s show.

It’s an hour of idiosyncratic-idiotic-character-clowning-stand-up, through which I attempt and succeed in making the best show ever.

Who do you want to see this year?

Michael Brunström. He’s doing a whole show about parsley.

Do you have any Edinburgh Fringe traditions?

I get over excited on the last day, start drinking a bit too early, and end up really cross.

What is your getting ready music?

The Best of Madness, on shuffle. It’s almost become a superstition now, so I don’t know how to get out of it.

If you could have any guest in your show, who would it be?

It’s tricky having any guest in a solo show. I suppose I’d go for Steve Martin just sitting at the side and giving me encouraging “thumbs up” and “a-ok” hand signals. And nodding.

What is the best backhanded compliment you have had?

Today someone said ‘You were so funny. I couldn’t believe it.’

Who made you howl with laughter when you were a child?

The cast of ‘Allo ‘Allo.

What should Donald Trump know?

The less, the better.

What do you do in Edinburgh that your parents wouldn´t approve of?


Catch John-Luke Roberts: Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! (All in Caps) at 2.20pm at Heroes @ Monkey Barrel until 27 August

Punchline recommends Bilal Zafar: Biscuit

20 Aug

Photo of Bilal ZafirWords by Suzy Romer

Bilal Zafar provides a charming, well-written and thoughtful show about his experiences with online dating and social media. He explores the possibilities and limitations of the curious procedures for finding love in the twenty first century with humanity and a keen eye for the pitfalls of trying to step outside the rules in an attempt to be more natural. As he takes us through his conversations with matchmakers and potential partners, we meet a collection of memorable characters which he sketches out beautifully. There are so many interesting ideas that the show could quite easily turn into a discussion afterwards and the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere he creates would work with an audience of one or a thousand. He was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award in 2016 and it is clear that he is on his way up with sure, perfectly placed steps.

Catch Bilal Zafar: Biscuit at 3.40pm at Just the Tonic at the Mash House until 27th August

Punchline recommends Butt Kapinski

17 Aug

Photograph of Butt Kapinski

Words by Iain McLaren

There’s been a murder, well actually there’s been more than one, and only the brilliant shenanigans of Butt Kapinski can solve them, with your help. This partial improv show will have you laughing from start to finish as Butt uses the audience to paint the picture of a classic film noir murder mystery. With twists and turns, you help create this unique show where no two nights are the same. This is audience interaction at its joyful best, no pressure, all inclusive and with the freedom to take this show anywhere.

Catch Butt Kapinski at 8.10pm at the Pleasance Dome throughout August

Punchline Recommends Dane Baptiste: G.O.D (Gold. Oil. Drugs.)

16 Aug

Photo of Dane Baptiste

Words by Iain McLaren

If you want thoughtless, pointless, run of the mill “comedy” then you are in the wrong place. This is Dane Baptiste and he is anything but run of the mill. Join him for a look at G.O.D. No not the beardy guy in the sky; Gold, Oil and Drugs because that’s what makes the world go round! This insightful comedian will show you just what makes the world tick as he explores the capitalist side of life using the best of his craft. Nominated for Best Newcomer in 2014 this guy is about explode!

Catch Dane Baptiste: G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs.) at 9pm at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout August

Punchline Recommends Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Appropriate Adult

15 Aug

Photograph of Kiri Pritchard-McLean

Words by Suzy Romer

Kiri Pritchard-McLean had some killer material (I’m talking shrieks here) when I first saw her a couple of years ago on a mixed bill show. This is the first year I have seen the full hour and what a splendid show it is. She is utterly at ease with the audience and remains constantly alert and open to reactions around the room. We relax and laugh with her from the start. While she is in complete control of her material, her performance is set alight by her ability to pepper her show with ideas from the audience and things that she has just thought of. I had the opportunity to see just how masterful she is at combining good writing with improvisation because a fire alarm meant I saw the first section of her show twice.

Her material is fresh, well-rounded and wide-ranging. Among other topics she explores the borders between working and middle class culture with a critical but non-judgemental eye. Far from alienating or dividing her audience, she looks at the ways we can use privilege in a positive way, and she brings this same humanity and kick-start energy to the subjects of education, family life and relationships between the generations.

Her audience interaction is flawless and this particular writer was almost persuaded to announce something very personal in front of the whole room as a result. I wonder whether an Edinburgh audience might be coaxed into writing down admissions on scraps of paper? Having been brought down to earth and then shown our potential, we come away from the show in a state of high emotion and positive ambition. Her words stay with you. This is an opportunity to see someone far ahead of her venue size and it is one of the best hours you can spend at the Fringe.

Catch Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Appropriate Adult at 8.15pm at Pleasance Courtyard throughout August

Punchline Recommends David Trent: Here’s Your Future

11 Aug

Photo of David Trent

Words by Iain McLaren

A BIG welcome back to the festival for David Trent. Returning with a new show which takes a look at the unbelievable world we have created and asks the most basic question of them all, ‘What The F**K?’ From VR headsets to smart forks and beyond David explores the crazy world of the internet of things in a way only he can. His loud and explosive style combined with his ability to explain exactly what is it you are looking at on his trademark projector will draw you in, open your eyes and leave you clutching your sides!

Catch David Trent: Here is Your Future at 10.35pm at Just the Tonic at The Caves througout August

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