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There’s No Festival Like Edinburgh

13 Aug

Royal MileWords by Rosalind Romer

There has been a lot of animosity towards the Festival this year. The curmudgeons complain every year and the bubble has supposedly been about to burst for decades, but this year seems to have gone up a gear. There is enough vitriol at the moment. Like many others, I am stressed out and fearful because of Trump, Johnson, Brexit, climate deadlines getting closer… the list goes on. The Festival has let me breathe. I see that other people feel the same way, performers are processing and reflecting those fears through art and starting conversations which could change the world. Views are being challenged and minds are being opened.

Enter Bonnie Prince Bob and his rant that’s gone viral. I have tried to ignore him like a troll, hoping it would go away but people are still repeating his opinions. It has got to me, tipped over the edge by an Edinburgh taxi driver who after various lazy comments about how awful the Festival is (despite being his busiest month for making a living) proudly announced that he has never seen a show during the Festival. He also said that I had a “well-trained” partner because he took some time off work to spend time with our one-year-old and enable me to work during the Festival. A snarl came out of my mouth and he started talking about the weather.

So. Bonnie Prince Bob. I have risen to your clickbait so here goes.

One point I totally agree with is the spike in rent in August. The only people who benefit are greedy property owners. This is an unfortunate by-product of the success of the Festival, but it’s supply and demand. As long as human beings can get away with it, they will. So legislate. Cap the rent. Maybe some of the figureheads of the Festival can help with this, so appeal to them, don’t write them off.

Harry Potter and shops selling tat on the Royal Mile? Yup, it’s tacky. It’s got nothing to do with the Festival. It’s tacky all year round. Speak to the Council.

The Festival does not help every single person in Edinburgh, but does anything? Many people in poorer areas do find it prohibitively expensive to come into town. But that’s not the Festival’s fault and again, it happens all year round. Appeal to Edinburgh Council and Lothian buses to make journeys more affordable. Speak to the Scottish Government and Westminster to stop poverty in our ridiculously wealthy country. Stopping the Festival will not eradicate poverty. Should we shut down the museums in the centre of town while we’re at it? No, that would be crazy. Many all-year-round attractions and Festival events are free, and the provision for free children’s entertainment has grown in recent years.

And what about the mini-Wimbledon accusation? Many of the food stalls are from Edinburgh, and many of the consumers are not. So bringing money into local businesses is a good thing, isn’t it? As for the locals or those staying in a flat for a month, you can bring a sandwich and a lot of bars put a jug of tap water on the bar for you to help yourself. As for the “Etonian Oligarchy”, I can only assume you mean Ed and Charlie from Underbelly. The percentage of Etonians at the Edinburgh Festival is miniscule compared to the Conservative Government. Is it not better to overcharge people for drinks in a gorgeous beer garden (and yes, take some of the profits back to London, but they do have an office in Edinburgh all year round) than to systematically fuck up the country like their schoolmates? Plus they have some excellent shows to open your mind or even escape from reality for a little while. And if you really can’t stomach it, there are hundreds of other venues. Loads of venues have events and bars in Edinburgh all year so go and support them if you prefer. It’s your choice. As far as I am concerned, people from the rest of the UK and people from abroad are all welcome.

Another criticism over the last few years has been the exploitation of workers, which makes a bit of sense from the outside. However, many venue workers get accommodation and a venue pass, as well as their pay in a lot of cases. For the people who would spend every last penny on shows, this is worth thousands of pounds (see accommodation above). The festivals support over 2500 jobs in Edinburgh, which can only be a good thing. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It’s the chicken and egg situation all over again. Yes, the Living Wage is an admirable aim, and supermarket giants can afford it, even if they don’t pay it. Yes, 6-month unpaid internships with no accommodation are exploitation, and can only be taken up by the wealthy. Flyering for one month and seeing a ton of free shows you wanted to see anyway is hardly the same thing.

The festivals can’t afford to pay more, and already rely heavily on rapidly reducing arts funding and corporate sponsorship (which also comes under fire in Bonny Prince Bob’s rant). Living wage would break them. The big venues come under fire for the huge percentage of ticket sales they take (usually 40%) but it’s not like they are spending it on cigars and lobster (well, maybe at the lobster van on Bristo Square). The costs of running a venue, including marketing, staff, often building theatres from scratch, sound and lighting equipment and health and safety are colossal. The Free Fringe operates on a bucket system so it’s possible to make a bit of money (or lose less once accommodation is taken into account), but you may or may not be in a rowdy pub with bright lights and pub furniture spoiling sightlines. There are pros and cons for each but that’s for another time.

Yes, town is busy and it takes ages to get to work. It’s annoying, I know. But it’s one month of the year and it shouldn’t be a surprise by now. And hey, maybe you’ll even have some fun or learn or feel something watching a show. For me the highs far outweigh the irritations.

If you don’t like the Festival, fine, but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun. I am one of the two thirds of locals who have seen Festival shows in the last two years, so don’t you dare speak for us when you say there’s no Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Festival.

And breathe. Let me describe some of my Festival experiences in the last two weeks.

I have roared with laughter at Jessica Fostekew’s Hench until my whole body ached, along with everyone else in the audience. That group of people will never be together again but we shared a sense of camaraderie that day. Jessica made me realise that the pain of childbirth wasn’t my fault, that somehow if I’d breathed “better” it wouldn’t have ripped me apart, physically and emotionally. Thank you, Jessica Fostekew, for letting me see how ridiculous that idea was.

I have sobbed my eyes out in the Pleasance Courtyard after seeing the incredibly powerful show by Bryony Kimmings, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch. Her show is about a trauma and subsequent recovery. As I mentioned, I have a one-year-old, who happened to be getting a routine check-up at the hospital that night. If you’ve seen the show you’ll get the significance. He’s fine and was always going to be fine that evening, which is why I went to see a show, but I sat with an excruciating amount of guilt, which by the end of the show was released forever from somewhere deep inside. Thank you, Bryony Kimmings.

Before the Fringe, I did a series of questions for my favourite comedians. One question asked who or what each act would like to have waiting for them after the show. Amy Matthews had answered with a very specific beer and it was too tempting to resist. I put a big red shiny bow on the can of beer and presented it to her after the show. The look of excitement, confusion and joy on Amy’s face was wonderful. I know I technically gave you the present, but thank you, Amy Matthews. Your reaction made me so happy.

Yesterday I ended up seeing an amazing sold-out show because I bumped into a friend whose brother (who I had never met) had a spare ticket. We watched the show like we were old friends.

I realise these mean far more to me than you, but they are examples of the interaction you can enjoy if you embrace the spirit of the Fringe. It’s the deeply personal nature of the shows and human interaction that make the Festival so magical for me. Edinburgh hosts the greatest arts festival in the world and it is something we should all be immensely proud of.

To the taxi driver, thank you for making me realise that your opinion doesn’t change my experience. This Festival matters to me and to thousands of others. And to everyone who says they don’t like the Festival, maybe it’s time you gave it a try rather than churning out old clichés. And if it’s really not your thing, let the rest of us have some fun.

Punchline Recommends: Suzi Ruffell ‘Common’

16 Aug

Words by Christopher Stewart

Suzi Ruffell makes a welcome return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with her new show ‘Common’, and what better way is there than to spend your time in the company of a comedian at the very top of her game?

Suzi has created an excellent hour of comedy around what it is to be working class, with stories ranging from the hilarious to the movingly personal. She delights her audience with a hilarious set, outlining how her background has affected her life, her family and her career. Suzi’s show is delivered with a confidence and zeal that will make you laugh, cringe and, on occasion, perhaps even cry. 

In lesser hands this subject might have descended into cliches of class politics, but instead Suzi Ruffell brings so much more, performing a feel-good show around the importance of accepting and embracing the past. No matter who you are, and whatever your background, Suzi’s comedic skill and assured storytelling will mean you leave this show with a spring in your step having seen one of the very best at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Suzi Ruffell’s show ‘Common‘ is on at The Mash House, PWYW, throughout the Fringe at 20.20.

Punchline Recommends: Kiri Pritchard-McLean ‘Hysterical Woman’

12 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Kiri Pritchard-McLean has performed as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival many times, under the guise of sketch groups and podcast duos, however, new show ‘Hysterical Woman’ is her first solo effort.  Punchline recommends this unmissable show as it is a fantastic hour of comedy and is a set that is beautifully sculpted with jokes. But, we also love it because Kiri brilliantly puts across a plethora of reasons why the stigma of ‘comedienne’ is one that can be abolished at this year’s Festival.

Kiri may not be the first comedian to argue that woman are indeed funny,  but she does put her points across very well through personal anecdotes. As a working comedian, Kiri regularly battles hecklers and bias just for being female, and not just from the crowd, but from other comedians, promoters and media. ‘Hysterical Woman’ shows that Kiri Pritchard-McLean is much more than a “beautiful comedienne”, she is riotously funny, very clever, and a downright magnificent comedian.

Don’t think that by going to Kiri’s new show, you will be getting purely a lecture on ‘female comedian stereotypes’. Think instead, that you will be getting to see one of the funniest people at the Fringe, who knows how to put good points across well. Kiri Pritchard-McLean performs ‘Hysterical Woman‘ at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout the Festival at 18.00. 

Punchline Recommends: Paul McCaffrey ‘Fresh Hell’

11 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Punchline always recommends the Free Fringe; a show does not need to be ticketed for it to include big names in comedy, or have a jam-packed audience everyday. Paul McCaffrey proves this point, with his 2016 show, as part of the Free Fringe, ‘Fresh Hell’. Paul McCaffrey is a very well known and well liked comedian, so I strongly recommend getting down early to the show in City Cafe to avoid disappointment. Even half an hour early before doors open, there is a huge queue, and people turned away from this gig as it reached its capacity.  But, my goodness is it worth the wait…

Paul McCaffrey is a very funny man, the kind of person who could talk about boiled eggs and have the crowds crying with laughter. Paul is a very rare breed of Edinburgh comedian, the kind of performer who wouldn’t need a hidden theme or strong political message to make himself stand out, instead, purely his laugh-a-minute personality and great anecdotes do the trick. It’s always a pleasure to see Paul perform, and he lets nobody down with his new 2016 show.

Paul McCaffrey is just one of many great performers on the Free Fringe, and is a brilliantly funny comedian, not to be missed this year. Catch Paul McCaffrey’s ‘Fresh Hell‘ at 18.45 throughout the festival at City Cafe.

Punchline Recommends Tez Ilyas ‘Made in Britain’

10 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Tez Ilyas more than entertained audiences at last year’s Fringe with the highly acclaimed ‘Tez Talks’; but 2016 sees Tez take comedy shows to a whole new level as he presents ‘Made in Britain’. Tez’s style of comedy is completely unique, and enjoyable in so many ways, but this year the highlight and most endearing quality of his writing, has to be the intimacy and honesty that he weaves into the new show.

‘Made in Britain’ is a much more personal insight into the life and mind of a total legend, Tez Ilyas.  Tez grew up in the UK, and uses his hour in the spotlight to highlight the pros, the cons, and the funny side of life in Britain. None of Tez’s anecdotes are to be expected, and not all of them are upbeat, but you can be rest-assured that Tez will make the most heart-wrenching stories a hilarious routine fit for the comedy stage.

There is a real warmth in spending an hour as part of Tez Ilyas’s audience, even when the usually dreaded crowd participation kicks in, you will find yourself itching to be a part of it. Please take the opportunity now to see Tez Ilyas at Peasance Bunker during the Fesival. ‘Made in Britain‘ is on at 17.30 throughout the Edinburgh Fringe.

Thanks Birnam!

14 Dec


Photograph of Punchline comedians on stage at Birnam Arts

Jim Smith, Jamie MacDonald, Anna Devitt, Robin Grainger and an awesome audience!

Thank you so much to Birnam Arts for hosting Punchline for the first time!

And a special thanks goes out to everyone who completed the feedback form. We hope you enjoyed your prizes at the interval, and managed to dodge the flying apple!

Our favourite pieces of feedback were how you would sum up Punchline – funniest answers were “Sausage” and “JELLY”. Our favourite tip for improvement was to “do more naked”… we’ll see what we can do 😉

Looking forward to seeing you all again in 2016!

Punchline comes to Birnam this Friday!

5 Oct

Punchline, Birnam

Punchline Comedy is back with another exciting comedy lineup!

Having played big Scottish venues such as Usher Hall, HMV Picture House and Perth Concert Hall, the comedy heavyweights return to Perthshire, this time for a very special intimate show at the picturesque Birnam Arts Centre on Friday 9th October.

Defining a generation of new classic comedy, Punchline showcases the rising stars of the comedy circuit before they become household names. Punchline has built up a great reputation of presenting the hottest acts from around the UK, previous shows have included the likes of Frankie Boyle, Josh Widdicombe, Seann Walsh and Nick Helm.

For the first time, Punchline delivers an all Scottish line-up, 3 acts and 1 compere, all hand-picked fresh from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Headliner ‘That Funny Blind Guy’ Jamie MacDonald: one man, one mic, one white stick. Starring at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Jamie performed at the prestigious Assembly venue with his critically acclaimed show ‘Oblivious’. ‘One of the funniest Scottish comedians on the circuit’ (Sunday Herald), Jamie is fast creating a comedic stir.

Jim Smith is Perthshire’s very own comedy farmer, ‘Scottish Comedian of the Year’ finalist and ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ Finalist. Farmer Jim returns from a sold out Edinburgh Fringe run of his hilarious show ‘Farmed and Dangerous’. Quite literally back on home soil, Jim makes his long awaited stand up debut at Birnam Arts.

Robin Grainger, Laughing Horse Semi-Finalist, was part of the ‘Stand Rising’ showcase show, The Stand Comedy Club’s nod to the rising stars of the future. Robin is funny, original and unforgettable. ‘A confident man who commands the stage’ (Skinny)

From ‘Rab C Nesbitt’ to ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, award-winning comedian and actress Anna Devitt is a well-established comedian and your perfect host. ‘Devitt surely has one hand on the title of female successor to Frankie Boyle’ (Scotsman)

Tickets are selling fast – buy yours now at

Win a case of Ossian Beer & a pair of tickets to the Punchline Comedy Gala at Birnam Arts on 9 October! T&Cs apply

16 Sep

Poster of comedy show at Birnam Arts

We have teamed up with Inveralmond Brewery to give you the chance to win a case of Ossian Beer & a pair of tickets to the Punchline Comedy Gala at Birnam Arts on 9 October!

All you have to do is tweet @punchlineuk or @inveralmondbeer which comedian you’d take for a beer and where, using the hashtag #BirnamComedy.

Our favourite two answers will win a prize each.

Good luck!





  1. Over 18’s only
  2. There are two prizes which each consists of 1 case Ossian Beer (12 bottles) and a pair of tickets to the Punchline Comedy Gala at Birnam Arts on 9th October 2015
  3. Entries by 23.59 on Friday 2nd October 2015
  4. Use the hashtag #BirnamComedy to ensure entry to the competition
  5. The judges’ favourite two answers will win the competition. Judges’ decision is final
  6. The winners will be announced via Twitter on Sunday 4th October
  7. Winners to confirm attendance by 7th October
  8. Beer and tickets to be picked up from Birnam Arts, Dunkeld with valid ID, after the show on 9th October
  9. Any questions can be emailed to

Punchline Recommends: Iain Stirling ‘Touchy Feely’

28 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

You may recognise Iain Stirling as a children’s TV presenter, or maybe more recently as the voiceover for Love Island: whichever way you’ve known Iain in the past, be sure that by the end of the Fringe you’ll recognise Iain Stirling as one of Scotland’s best comedians. Iain Stirling performs his new show ‘Touchy Feely’ at Pleasance Courtyard through the 2015 Edinburgh Festival.
This is by no means Iain’s first time at the Fringe, he has been performing to Edinburgh audiences for over 3 Years. 2015 sees Iain at his very best, however, Iain has never dipped from being at his best every time he prepares a show for Edinburgh. ‘Touchy Feely’ shows Iain’s well-developed and beautiful experience as a comedian, as he weaves his way through jokes and stories that leave the crowd roaring with laughter throughout.

Iain Stirling doesn’t just tackle the big issues of modern day, but also the smaller ones that affects us all. From fast food horrors to non-drinking friends who like Tupperware, Iain’s show incorporates excellent observations with top-class jokes, making for an utterly brilliant and very, very funny performance.

Catch Iain Stirling’s ‘Touchy Feely‘ at Pleasance Courtyard 19.40.

Punchline Recommends: Kai Humphries ‘How to be Happy’

22 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Kai Humphries is happy, and he’s spending an hour each night at the Edinburgh Festival sharing with us how we can be just as happy as him. His new show for 2015 ‘How to Be Happy’ is completely infectious, an hour of comedy that will leave you buckled over in laughter, and also emotionally enlightened.
Kai Humphries goes out of his way to find the good in a situation: from parking tickets to bullying, there is nothing that escaped Kai’s positive grasp. Kai’s knack for putting silliness into a bad situation makes the punchlines even better. Just when you think Kai has had a rough time, like he’s finally met his doom, that sparkle appears in his eye and he quickly whips out a fantastic bit of comedy.

If you want to be happy, then spend an hour with Kai Humphries in The Gilded Balloon, at 20.00 throughout the Fringe.

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