Fringe 2023

We are taking a break from reviews this year, as we are concentrating on the very first weekend Leith Comedy Festival in October! Click on the link above to find out more and to keep in touch about that.

We will of course put up our list of Top Shows at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe in the summer.

Pssst… Comedians, Agents & Publicists

Are you a comedy newcomer to the Edinburgh Fringe,
or representing others? Let us know!


Punchline’s Top Edinburgh Fringe Shows 2022

Hello! It’s been three whole years since a full Edinburgh Fringe and we’re getting the zoomies just thinking about it. We’ve got a right old mix of classics and new favourites. So let’s get stuck in…

Jayde Adams: Men, I Can Save You

Recently described by Helen Bauer as Queen of the Fringe, we just love everything Jayde does. She really is as good as her Fringe poster suggests. We want her to be our best friend in ‘Alma’s Not Normal’, and she’s got a tremendous singing voice, but live comedy is where she shines brightest.

8.20pm | Pleasance Courtyard (Cabaret Bar) | 3 – 28 August | Buy tickets

Larry Dean: Fudnut

Larry’s a bit of a superstar and one of the most exciting acts to come out of Scotland. This is stand-up at its very finest. He’s already f-ing amazing and he just gets better and better. He’ll make your night sparkle.

8.30pm | Monkey Barrel 3 | 4 – 28 August (not 16) | Buy tickets

Jessica Fostekew: Wench

Wench is the follow up to Hench, Jessica Fostekew’s 2019 hit show and one of our top shows EVER. 2022 brings the difficult second album and it’s another stunner. Smart comedy, beautifully written and full of belly laughs. Go and see this show.

4.45pm | Monkey Barrel 1 | 3 – 28 August (not 15) | Buy tickets

Nick Helm: What Have We Become

Nick Helm makes a mighty return to Edinburgh to feed the souls who have been starved of comedy. We don’t know the details, but we can confidently predict epic songs, visceral comedy and some spectacular surprises from the greatest showman.

5.25pm | Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome) | 3 – 28 August (not 17) | Buy tickets

Liam Farrelly: God’s Brother-in-Law

We’ve been waiting for Liam’s full Fringe show with bated breath. He’s won a bunch of awards which is impressive given that he’s only 21. Go and see this Paisley born superstar in the making in an intimate setting while you still can.

7.10pm | Just the Tonic Nucleus (Sub-Atomic Room) | 4 – 28 August (not 15, 22) | Buy tickets

Tarot: Cautionary Tales

Don’t be put off by the creepy poster, these guys are pure funny. All the classic sketch ingredients are there, with some extra toppings to keep you guessing. Whatever else you’ve planned, a joyful hour with this timeless trio is on the cards.

10pm | Pleasance Courtyard (Beside) | 3 – 28 Aug | Buy tickets

Jamie MacDonald: Reasonably Adjusted

Hands up who feels well-adjusted at the moment? Jamie finds the funny in all manner of places and reality doesn’t seem so bad when you’ve heard his take on it. This Fringe show preview aired in December 2019 and it was a corker then. Imagine what it’ll be like now!

7.45pm | Gilded Balloon Teviot (Sportsmans) | 3 – 29 August | Buy tickets

Lou Sanders: One Word: Wow

Lou is back! Another long-time Punchline favourite and top Fringe performer. You have probably enjoyed watching her shenanigans on Taskmaster but an hour with Lou live will be one of your most Fringey experiences. Entrust yourself to Lou and let her take you on a wild ride.

5.40pm | Monkey Barrel 3 | 4 – 28 August (not 17) | Buy tickets

MC Hammersmith: One Man Eight Mile

Throw away any ideas you have about improv because MC Hammersmith is in the house. It’s incredible watching him turn your suggestions into freestyle rap in front of your eyes. This self-proclaimed posh white man has been lauded by comedy fans and rap artists alike. Are you ready for this?

12 noon | Monkey Barrel (Hive 1) | 5 – 28 (not 8, 15, 22) August | Buy tickets

Read our interview with MC Hammersmith

Nish Kumar: Your Power, Your Control

If you feel lost amid the political chaos, let Nish help you find your feet and your funny bone. He’s one of the big names in political comedy and he’s here for a whole week. We can’t believe our luck.

9pm | Assembly George Square (Gordon Aikman Theatre) | 22 – 28 August | Buy tickets

Sara Barron: Hard Feelings

Can you joke about anything? Yes. But it takes a real expert. And oh baby does Sara Barron cover some BIG topics while making the audience fall about laughing. Dense themes with a light touch show this master at work. Don’t try this at home.

7.15pm | Pleasance Courtyard (Upstairs) | 3 – 28 August (not 17) | Buy tickets

Billy Kirkwood: Energetic

Billy Kirkwood is the personification of energetic, and this is the perfect antidote to the last few years. His 2021 show shone amid a depleted Fringe and transported us to another world. Laugh your cares away, worries for another day.

3.15pm | Scottish Comedy Festival @ The Beehive Inn | 5 – 28 August (not 8, 15, 18, 22) | Buy tickets

Ciarán Dowd: King Rodolfo

Get ready for another extravaganza of this off-the-wall Romantic’s antics. If you have followed Rodolfo’s illustrious career, you know you’re in for a spectacular, sweaty and swashbuckling treat. If you want an hour of pure escapism (and who doesn’t?) this is the show for you.

9.50pm | Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome) | 3 – 28 August (not 17) | Buy tickets

Read our interview with Ciarán

We’ll be adding more recommendations throughout the Fringe.

Please check dates and times with the venue before travelling as things change. If tickets are sold out at the venue or the Fringe Box Office, try the other one as they have separate allocations.

Punchline recommends Sam Nicoresti: Cancel Anti Wokeflake Snow Culture

4 stars
Sam Nicoresti: Cancel Anti Wokeflake Snow Culture

Words by Rosalind Romer

Last night I was transported into Sam Nicoresti’s world for an hour. There’s already something magic about the cinema room in the Banshee Labyrinth because it’s a hidden cinema underneath the Royal Mile, and Sam Nicoresti gives us the show the venue deserves.

We’re with him from the start, and the show seamlessly segues from Sam chatting to the audience to becoming his alter-ego on a larger-than-life Zoom call to psychedelic images. Some of it must be adlibbed but it’s hard to tell when he goes off-script because the performance is seamless.

He effortlessly brushes away the usual kneejerk gender arguments that derail any meaningful discussion, to talk (or think out loud) about it in a far more thoughtful, nuanced and funny way. Audience members don’t have to worry about whether or not they agree with him because what he says is so engaging. I could have listened to him for hours.

This year’s Fringe has been special, and this show in particular has stayed with me. It’s the Fringiest experience of the year.

Click here to buy tickets for Sam Nicoresti: Cancel Anti Wokeflake Snow Culture

8.55pm | Banshee Labyrinth | until 28 August

Randy Feltface: Alien of Extraordinary Ability

4 stars
Randy Feltface, a purple puppet with googly eyes, wearing a silver raincoat
Randy Feltface: Alien of Extraordinary Ability

Words by Ross Stark

It’s been a while since I last saw Randy. He was like nothing I’d seen before and he’s like nothing I’ve seen since. I’m glad to say he’s back and is bigger and better than ever. There’s an epic opening song that shows his evolutionary progression. It’s so funny and impressive. When Randy, in his final form, eventually takes to the stage, he’s greeted with loud cheers and applause. It’s a brilliant opening and it sets us up for what is such an impressive hour!

The writing is so detailed; you can tell there’s so much work put into each topic. The gags are as good as you’ll hear and the delivery is ridiculous. Yes, I am aware that he’s a puppet, but this puppet delivers each line like a comedy legend. I don’t know how, but his body language and facial expressions are never anything less than perfect. He even manages to look disapprovingly in the direction of someone leaving for a toilet break, and then interacts with someone sitting in the front row. It’s actually mind blowing; how can one person be this talented? I’m in awe of puppeteer Heath McIvor and his purple felt-faced creation.

The main theme is that Randy is a dying species (he’s the last one of his kind); however, there’s really a wide range of topics within this show. There are lots of observations from Randy including many serious points. The focus varies from popular topics such as climate change, to the obscure (like the 2018 Liam Neeson “classic” film The Commuter).

The show ends as strongly as it started; it’s hilarious and will have you laughing all the way to the door. No spoilers though – you’ll need to see it for yourself.

Click here to buy tickets for Randy Feltface: Alien of Extraordinary Ability

9.15pm | Assembly George Square (Studio 2) | until 28 August

EXTRA SHOW 10.45pm | Same venue | 27 August

Punchline Recommends The Delightful Sausage: Nowt But Sea

4 stars
The Delightful Sausage (sketch double act)
Delightful Sausage: Nowt But Sea

Words by Suzy Romer

If there’s such a thing as “high comedy”, Delightful Sausage probably isn’t it, and to be fair there’s hefty clue in their name, but that’s precisely what’s brilliant about this Northern double act. This show is flipping good fun.

Amy Gledhill and Christopher Cantrill arrive with a ready-made atmosphere of silliness and fun that envelops the audience immediately. There’s a constant crossfire of daft jokes and ribbing that includes us all as if we were best friends out on a holiday weekend.

We start our adventure as our new pals arrive on a millionaire’s private island rife with mystery and seagulls. What follows is a delightful hour of bumbling heroism, oozing villainy and piñata full of twisty-turny surprises. Between the big screen, props and costumes, there’s always something interesting going on and we’re occasionally treated to satirical one-liner fireworks that make us all say, “Oooh….”

While the show is definitely not for under 16s, it bursts with youthful energy and since it’s on at 12.45pm it makes a great kick-off to a day of comedy shows at the Fringe. Treat yourself to a happy hour of bubbly company, effervescent fun and giggles galore.

Click here to buy tickets for Delightful Sausage: Nowt But Sea

12.45pm | Monkey Barrel 4 | until 28 August

Punchline Recommends Jayde Adams: Men, I Can Save You

4 stars
Jayde Adams: Men, I Can Save You

Words by Iain McLaren

Jayde Adams always serves up her own brand of comedy which leaves everyone wanting more. This year’s show is no exception. “Men, I Can Save You” sees Jayde “Christ” Adams attempt to explain why men’s time might just be up, but honestly, I think that might just be fine. But men, even if we win lose or draw you will leave this hour thankful that she even tried.

Jayde’s talent for anecdotes and storytelling in a way that reaches inside you is sheer brilliance. Making even horrible situations funny without losing the raw emotion or diminishing the importance of the tale. She connects to everyone in the audience on one or many levels and when you leave the room you will feel like you have made a new best friend.

While Jayde is a rollercoaster of hilarity and emotion, she is an amazingly safe pair of hands and a true performer worthy of every stage. We wish her well and good luck on her next stage as she embarks on the Strictly Come Dancing journey.

Click here to buy tickets for Jayde Adams: Men, I Can Save You

8.20pm | Pleasance Courtyard (Cabaret Bar) | until 28 August

Punchline recommends Lou Sanders: One Word: Wow

4 and a half stars
Lou Sanders
Lou Sanders: One Word: Wow

Words by Suzy Romer

Lou Sanders is an antidote to comedians who say, “I just tell jokes; they’re just words.” She knows what she wants to talk about, and she makes it very funny. She’s had a busy couple of years and her experiences seem to have given her a cool, calm, charismatic energy that has the audience hanging on her every word. The room practically hums with constant amusement, and she tips us into laughter whenever she pleases, which is about once per sentence.

Her stand-up feels like a great conversation and “heckles” are from audience members who forget they’re not supposed to reply. A man at the back suddenly bellows and makes everyone jump but he just needs to check up on a fact he missed. In the old days Lou might have sat on his lap or brought him up on stage but nowadays she doesn’t have the time or inclination to go off topic, so she answers his question and wraps things up, but when she checks in with him later, he’s become her best friend! Lou’s audience interaction and unpredictability onstage has always been one of her biggest attractions, and this new style feels ground-breaking; this is soft power in comedy and it’s thrilling.

Over the course of the hour, we explore topics including age difference in relationships, taking up skating as an adult (kudos to the star of the show), journal keeping and even life and death. Everything comes with a mix of offbeat comments, light-touch insights, and a string of jokes that come from Lou-knows-where. This is a distinctive performer at the glorious height of her power; if you’ve ever wanted to step into uncertainty and trust it’s all going to fine, an hour with Lou Sanders is a safe bet. Wow.

Click here to buy tickets for Lou Sanders: One Word: Wow

5.40pm | Monkey Barrel 3 | until 28 August

Punchline Recommends The Listies: Prince of Skidmark

5 stars
The Listies: Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark

Words by Suzy Romer

If you don’t know Matt and Rich yet, listen to their albums on Spotify starting with The Listies Drive You Crazy but you have to see them live for the full effect. The comedy begins before we even go into the theatre when two snazzily dressed ushers begin chatting to the crowd as we queue.

This year they have a splendid castle set as scenery because there is supposedly a fancy production of Hamlet about to take place but that all gets cancelled, so the lads decide to put on the play themselves. Rich tries to get everything right while Matt bounces around making jokes and turning the story into something much wilder involving dinosaurs, zombies and the kickass role that Ophelia always deserved.

There are jokes here for little ones, medium ones and big ones and it’s a joy to hear giggles coming from different age groups between the big laughs for everyone. One little girl volunteers to go on stage and then changes her mind: no problem. Audience participation is always voluntary and great fun, and there are some memorable ad libs, not to say enthusiastic outbursts, from both kids and performers.  

The Listies’ astounding range of jokes covers everything from farts and poo to Shakespearean plot details that would raise a chuckle from the bard himself. I would say that this is their most ambitious show yet, and like a Shakespeare comedy, there is something for everyone.  

Click here to buy tickets for The Listies: Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark

1pm | House of Oz (The Great Indoors) AKA The King’s Hall | until 28 August (not 18, 22 or 25)

Listed age recommendation: Ages 5 to 12

Punchline Recommends Ciarán Dowd: King Rodolfo

Ciarán Dowd: King Rodolfo

Words by Suzy Romer

King Rodolfo is taking over the Queen Dome at the Pleasance this year and it’s a marvel to behold. Since his last Fringe incarnation as a priest in 2019, Ciarán Dowd’s dazzling character has become a high-handed monarch, but how did he become king? Can he take his power to new heights? What’s his morning routine? All our questions are answered with a mix of bravado, beautifully spoken nonsense, and cheeky asides from this Spanish(-ish) lord among men.

We quietly tuck our moral compasses in our back pockets as we watch a handsomely dressed alpha male who doesn’t cross the line so much as trip over it while he lords it over all and sundry. Only Ciarán Dowd could provide enough sparkling charm to undermine the excesses of this hellbent charlatan so we can enjoy his violent triumphs and failures with equal relish.

Rodolfo’s behaviour as a deadbeat dad provides some poignant comedy that I can just about forgive since it goes somewhere dramatic, but the discomfort is a reminder that the Fringe is about taking characters apart properly before laughing at them from a safe distance.

Georgie Jones and Philippa Carson from the Just These Please sketch group provide sterling support and there are other delights I won´t reveal because they deserve to be savoured fresh. Suffice it to say that you´re in for some royal entertainment.

Click here to buy tickets for Ciarán Dowd: King Rodolfo

9.50pm | Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome) | until 28 August (not 17)

Punchline recommends Rhys Nicholson: Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!

5 stars
Rhys Nicholson's head on an orange background
Rhys Nicholson – Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!

Words by Suzy Romer

Rhys Nicholson makes great comedy look easy with this perfect hour of stand-up. I’d say his manner is self-assured but he’s next level: he doesn’t have to control the crowd because he engages us as equals from the start. You just know it’s safe to relax because this hour cannot go wrong.

He deftly punctuates the show with beginning, middle and end comments but his professionalism and flair are so integrated that you don’t appreciate them until after the show. You’re too busy enjoying yourself. He unfolds stories, experiences, commentaries and one great joke after another on universal themes from parents and growing up to early dates and long-term relationships. He knows how to pace his subject material, starting with more general themes and moving on gradually to the more personal when the time is right. Rarely have I sensed such care and respect for an audience from someone able to treat any subject he wants with ease, precision, and comedy pixie dust.

Do different people do things differently? Yes. But Nicholson navigates the differences and similarities between people without ever being confrontational. He’s above it all with an energy it’s hard to get enough of. I spent the day after the show remembering his jokes and retelling them to anyone who would listen. I even got some laughs, which tells you how fool-proof the material is, but his own unique delivery is just chef’s kiss delicious.

Click here to buy tickets for Rhys Nicholson – Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!

8.25pm | Underbelly Bristo Square (Ermintrude) | until 28 August

Punchline recommends Crybabies: Bagbeard

4 and a half stars
Crybabies: Bagbeard

Words by Suzy Romer

Comedy at the Fringe is all about freedom to be original, fun, daft and brilliant and this bumper sketch adventure has it all. Michael Clarke, James Gault and Ed Jones have the sort of acting talent that could easily have them popping up in great screen dramas for the rest of their careers, but they have other fish to fry.

While the first scene of the show runs like a classic stand-alone sci-fi sketch, it is in fact the prelude to a whole madcap story that sweeps us up and keeps us guessing (usually incorrectly) until the end. We follow the exploits of a heroic young scientist who longs for fame and fortune as a deserving goodie, but the plot thickens faster than custard until the Cool Guy with the Gun appears and then it really kicks off. As for Bagbeard, I can´t give you any spoilers but it´s a revelation worth waiting for.

There is no limit to the type or number of characters that these three performers can create, and the way they pull dramatic scenes out of ridiculous ideas is consistently impressive. There’s a great soundtrack and the imaginative special effects belie any space or budget restraints. The thrilling sense of chaotic fun is actually created with expert stage savvy, impeccable timing and costumes that are inventive and silly in equal measure. Occasional prop hiccups (I saw one of the preview shows) are met with smiles and a cheeky aside for the audience, which just makes us love them more.

It’s an utter delight to discover that nothing has stopped this group from preparing a high-energy show full of fun, glorious plot twists, silly puns, chewy one-liners, skilful slapstick and artistically justified running around in pants. I neither confirm nor deny that I had tears in my eyes as the story ended, but I can tell you I laughed more than I have in a long time and the audience laughed with me.

Click here to buy tickets for Crybabies: Bagbeard

5.50pm | Pleasance Dome (10 Dome) | until 28 August (not 15)

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