Punchline recommends Nick Helm: Phoenix from the Flames

6 Aug

Nick HelmWords by Suzy Romer

When I picked up my ticket for Phoenix from the Flames I was promised (OK… warned about) audience participation, swearing and nudity but the actual show is so much better than the sum of the parts. The glorious gruff superstar is back for his full Edinburgh run for the first time since 2013 and God it is good to see him again.

Many of his classic show highlights are present in their best versions. We enjoy some great songs that simultaneously transport and tantalise us because they are not available to listen again. We feast our eyes on a uniquely inventive stage costume that only Nick Helm could have designed with his own particular combination of mirth and majesty. His props are delightful and the big screen makes everything larger, funnier and more glamorous. As always, Nick’s material deftly balances light and dark, but this time in his bravest and most vulnerable moments, he has replaced his traditional poems with arresting truths about his most recent experiences with depression. Here we really see the skill and experience of a true comedy expert because he can take difficult material and give us the benefit his rich comic observations with some carefully chosen, lightly scattered gems of wisdom.

Nick Helm is one of a few wonderful men in comedy who dare to incorporate genuinely taboo subjects into their material and “find the funny” in a way that works brilliantly. It puts me in mind of Rob Delaney’s autobiography Mother Wife Sister.. (which deals with alcoholism) and Rhod Gilbert’s show The Book of John (which deals with IVF). In the age of debate about whether you can genuinely make jokes about any subject however hard, Nick Helm has started in the right place, with himself. If any of the jokes sound easy, it is because he has chosen to present them that way and there isn’t a lazy quip in sight. His comedy comes from a place of courage, not cowardice and that makes all the difference.

Buy tickets for Nick Helm: Phoenix from the Flames here

5.40pm | Pleasance Dome | Until 24 Aug (not 12)

See our original recommendation for Nick Helm here

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Punchline recommends Ciarán Dowd: Padre Rodolfo

5 Aug

Ciaran DowdWords by Suzy Romer

If you met Don Rodolfo last year, great. If you didn’t then now’s your chance. Last year Ciarán’s show was so complete and satisfying that it got him the Best Newcomer Award but the 2019 show is somehow even better. It shoots way beyond any particular parody and takes on a life of its own to align with its own unique glory.

As soon as the lights go up we are swept up into Padre Rodolfo’s delicious, dramatic, delirious world of superstar priesting, sword fights and outrageous filth that shouldn’t be sexy but definitely is. His ridiculous stories are packed with extravagant nonsense and they are utterly compelling. We long to hear what happens next and our host knows it because he quietly suspended our disbelief while we were watching the massive opening number. We are teased and rewarded, shocked and wooed with irresistible unpredictability that combines master storytelling and an ingenious collage of joyous live experiences. Music, lighting, and technical stage brilliance of all kinds go right through the production and the number and variety of jokes per minute is truly astounding. The invincible energy creates a momentum that carries us through from beginning to end.

This is a show that wraps up all the best Fringe experiences together and then lets you tear off the paper and revel in it all at once. Forget all your other stuff for an hour and just enjoy this. It’s a rollicking, riotous, romp of a show, just Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

Buy tickets for Ciaran Dowd: Padre Rodolfo here

9.45 | Pleasance Courtyard|Until 25 Aug (not 14)

Punchline Recommends Lou Sanders: Say Hello to Your New Step-Mummy

3 Aug

Lou SandersWords by Iain McLaren

Lou Sanders just keeps getting better and better. Her all round comedy performance and amazing material hits new highs this year with Say Hello to Your New Step-Mummy. Hot off the back of her brilliant Taskmaster triumph, Lou shares a self-reflective look at her past relationships, sex life and conversations with her “healer” who is trying to help clean Lou’s “chakras” and of course it also wouldn’t be Lou if we didn’t have bit of a chat about her labia!

Her open and inclusive style brings everyone together in a way that makes her stories come alive. Starting in her childhood and running us through to current day, she explains just why she feels maybe ready to be a mother, or possibly step-mum, to some lucky little munchkin all while making some choice “your Dad” jokes.

Lou is all set for a great Fringe so grab your tickets now and join in the fun, while she enjoys your Dad! (that one isn’t in the show). The show is pay-what-you-want however it is better to buy tickets in advance to reserve your seat as she is selling out fast.

Buy tickets for Lou Sanders: Say Hello to Your New Step-Mummy, here

3.15pm | Monkey Barrel 3 | Until 25 Aug (not 14)

See our original recommendation for Lou Sanders, here

Punchline recommends Jessica Fostekew: Hench

2 Aug

2019JESSICA_BRRWords by Iain McLaren

Massive belly laughs. I like a good old-fashioned belly laugh when I see a comedy show. Enter Jessica Fostekew with her new show, Hench. From start to glorious chanting finish this show provides belly laughs aplenty.

Fostekew explores various themes such as self-image and how those around us see us, birth and parenthood, all delivered with the raw power of a comedian able to command the audience and provide them with a cathartic experience like only she can. She shares her story in best possible stand-up fashion, finding big nuggets of comedy gold even in the most personal of experiences. It felt like everyone in the room could genuinely find something in common with her tales of a modern-day woman and parent looking outward and inward for strength, grace and wisdom and finding… well you’ll have to see the show to find that out.

This show will cure what ails you or at least keep you laughing long enough to mark it as one of the best you’ll see this Fringe. It’s pay-what-you-want or what you think it deserves and given you’ll see shows this Fringe which cost more than £10 but are nowhere near as good, I honestly believe it’s worth at least that.

Buy tickets for Jessica Fostekew : Hench, here

1.30pm | Monkey Barrel 4 | Until 25 Aug (not 12)

Punchline recommends Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang

1 Aug

Phil WangWords by Suzy Romer

Every Fringe has a few golden tickets for sell-out shows so this recommendation is really to tell you to just buy Phil Wang tickets on sight if you get the chance. I thought I was too late myself but I got lucky at the public box office on the night so maybe you can too.

Phil has a comfortable star quality that makes the audience take to him instantly and we know we are in safe hands because he has every part of what makes a great show under control. His material is absolutely up to the minute (he laughs at himself for daring to make jokes about 2018) and he offers a perspective beyond his years, all the better because he is one of the youngest people in the room on this occasion. He covers everything from farts to philosophy, and takes on virtually every current controversial topic with a response that cuts through two-sided arguments with big surprises and brand new comedy angles. He even succeeds in dealing with moral outrage without engaging in it and the result is Philly Philly funny. You can feel bits of your brain tingle that haven’t been used for a while and it’s such a blessed relief that our laughter rocks the room.

There is only one heckle, and Phil’s response is a comedy world cup goal. He allows the guy a laugh then immediately dwarfs it by an infinitely superior ad lib of his own. He follows up with a soft power warning not to take up any more time and then tops off with a flipping call back. These are the magic moments that comedy lovers spend their lives chasing. Beautifully played, sir.

Buy tickets for Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang, if you can here

8pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 25 Aug (not 12)

 

Punchline recommends Beetlemania: Kafka for Kids

31 Jul

Words by Iain McLaren

It’s the start of the festival and my second as a father. Last year didn’t really count all that much though as my son was too small to take anything in or sit still for long enough. However this year is different. With that in mind this year’s Fringe kicks off in style with Kafka for Kids. “Kafka?” I hear you say. “Is that not a bit of a dry subject for kids?” Normally… yes absolutely. But believe me you are in safe hands with the Kafkateers.

From start to finish the whole crowd buys into this wonderfully funny take on the normally depressing author and his philosophical tales. Take a trip to the bottom of the sea with Poseidon, discover what life is like for an insecure bridge, hear the tale of an old man and his balls (this honestly is kid safe, so get your head out of the gutter) and where has Kevin the beetle gone?

All this and more is explained in this brilliant hour long show for kids and adults alike. Get your tickets early and remember how to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Enjoy your Fringe!

Buy tickets for Beetlemania: Kafka for Kids here
11.45am | Pleasance Courtyard | until 25 Aug (not 14)

Benefit Gigs: an easy way to organise a big night out at the Fringe

30 Jul
Photograph of Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

Words by Suzy Romer

The beginning of the Fringe brings a sweep of emotions for anyone planning to venture into this magical annual pop-up world. Whether you are a beginner or a regular Fringe goer with years of experience, the initial encounter with the myriad shows on offer via the Fringe Guide, media and street posters can be very daunting. How the hell do you start to narrow down your options? Over the years, most people eventually develop their own methods but if you don’t want to put in quite so much time and money, one effective way to get a head start is to go to a benefit show.

A benefit gig comprises a variety of comedians who are raising awareness and funds on behalf of specific causes and organizations. There is usually a famous compère and a few well-known headliners along with a range of comedians who are famous to a greater or lesser degree. The great advantage of these shows is that you know you will definitely enjoy seeing the performers you already know and like, while you take a low-risk chance on a whole range of other comedians. The relative brevity of each performance means you pack lots of new comics into one evening. If they are brilliant, you can look into booking their solo show; if they are really not your to your taste, you can look at your watch and know that your suffering will end shortly. And there is always the possibility that you see one of the massive stars of tomorrow while they are still unknown.

For some of the bigger shows, you may be lucky enough to see some TV names who are not appearing in any other Fringe shows. Comedy celebrities often have many other commitments that keep them away from the wonderful month of August in Edinburgh but take some time out of busy schedules to visit the place where they enjoyed their rise to fame and give something back. Perhaps it is just an impression but most comedians seem to feel it is unnatural to be in Edinburgh in August unless they are actively participating in the midst of all the fun.

Benefit shows with their low risk, variety, famous names and the thrill of potential discoveries make them a safe bet for a group of friends with varied tastes. It’s also a great idea for an office night out because it encourages people see something beyond their regular list of favourites and maybe discover something new together. For people who have never been to the Fringe it’s like a microcosm of good, bad and everything in between without the time and money invested. And let’s not forget that it is a great way to ensure that corporate funding reaches the places where it can help most.

There are a couple of provisos to remember to avoid disappointment. Comedians have so many work commitments to juggle that sometimes they have to cancel an appearance at a charity event. When you read the words “line-up may be subject to change”, accept that it is more likely here than with other events. The upside is that some of the best performers make a late notice change in order to appear and the surprises on the night can make for lifetime memories.

Another thing to bear in mind is that more experienced comedians sometimes use a ten minute set piece from a previous year’s show because it fits better or because they want to save the full hour of their current show for the viewer’s surprise and delight. Other comedians will present a selection of material from their current show and give you a good indicator of the rest of their set.

Either way, once you know the deal, you can really get a lot out of a benefit performance. It gives you a real flavour of what is going on across the board and makes some of the street posters look more familiar and navigable afterwards because you can see names and faces you know. There is nothing like the joy of beginning to get a hold on what makes this year’s Fringe unique as the goodies and baddies of this year’s adventure begin to reveal themselves.

So what’s on in the way of benefit shows at this year’s Fringe?

Here are six benefit shows to give you an idea of the range available at this year’s Fringe.

1. Let’s start with one of the biggest events. You may have heard of famous long-running benefit shows such as The Secret Policeman’s Ball which was originally organised to raise funds for Amnesty International but has since donated to a variety of great causes. The shows include a host of famous names and have become so prestigious that the show title lends as much prestige to the performers as they originally lent to it. This year The Secret Policeman’s Tour is coming to the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday 24 August. It’s hosted by Deborah Frances-White and famous names such as Nish Kumar and Rachel Parris will be appearing. You can also check out Desiree Burch who appears on Punchline’s list of recommendations for 2019.

2. Another big night will be Comedy Gala 2019: in aid of Waverley Care hosted by Josh Widdicombe and Joel Dommett which will take place in the EICC on Tuesday 20 August. Now in its thirteenth year, this production has Jon Richardson and Suzi Ruffell topping the bill as well as Punchline-recommended Rosie Jones and Christopher Macarthur-Boyd as part of an impressive list of performers.

3. Another event with profits destined for the amazing Waverley Care is Crosstentatious at Underbelly at 9.30pm on Monday 19 August. Here, the phenomenal cast of comic performers who usually perform as Austentatious enact a spoof Jane Austen novel suggested by a member of the audience (their regular format) and cross-dress into the bargain.

4. For a fantastic late-night performance (quarter past midnight at Assembly George Square on Sunday 11 August) we recommend For Robin Williams: A Benefit in Aid of Mind and SAMH. Punchline favourite Nish Kumar is hosting this one and guests include Laura Lexx and Sophie Hagan.

5. Dame Esther Rantzen will be making an appearance in Edinburgh as the presenter of the Benefit in Aid of Silver Line (a confidential helpline for older people) in the Stand’s New Town Theatre at 9.10pm on Monday 5 August. The line up is still to be confirmed so anything could happen!

6. For lots of TV names, check out Barnardo’s Big Comedy Benefit at the EICC at 8.30pm on Wednesday 7 August. Ed Byrne, London Hughes and David O’Doherty are some but not all of the people you will recognise on the role of participants.

Remember, there are plenty more benefit shows out there so you can choose your favourite performers, good cause or, ideally both and have a great night out in the process. If you only put one finger into a comedy pie this year, a comedy benefit might just be your perfect pie.

Impertinent Questions for Glenn Moore

29 Jul

Glenn MooreWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Lower-lower-back.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?
Michael York in Curb Your Enthusiasm saying “Bum, fuck, bugger and balls.”

Who should come to see your show and why?
Anyone making full use of the babes in arms policy – double the audience that way, and I get to start building a fanbase amongst the very newest generation.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?
I’m going to say my housemates’ shows, to avoid any unpleasantness from them: go and see Garrett Millerick, Pierre Novellie and Phil Wang.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?
St Peter, to tell me I’ve just performed so well that I’ve passed away.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.
Bella Italia at 10am for their breakfast menu, then at midday a trip to Café Rouge, followed by an afternoon snack at Bella Italia. After my show at 4pm, I’m usually peckish, so I tend to have a post-show Bella Italia. By the late evening, regardless of whether or not I’m hungry, that sweet siren song of Bella Italia will oft call me back for one last meal.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?
If a show goes really well, I go out for dinner straight afterwards and eat alone – it really brings me crashing back down to earth afterwards. I promise I genuinely do this.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?
Would you rather be alone forever, or meet the love of your life but at the age of 100 you get eaten by a shark. You’d mostly have a perfect life, but on that final day you’d be sat there in your care home thinking “Logistically, how’s this one going to pan out tomorrow?”

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?
It’s going to a nightclub that you insist is great, and even when you arrive to find it burned down years ago, you spend hours trying to break in.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?
A signed Tim Vine ticket from a gig I couldn’t make 10 years ago that he wrote some very nice comedy advice on.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.
I pitched to her an idea for a book, after which she said “It is imperative you never, ever repeat that idea.” That bad apparently.

Buy tickets for Glenn Moore: Love Don’t Live Here Glenny Moore here

4pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 31 July, 1-25 Aug

Impertinent Questions for John Hastings

28 Jul

John HastingsWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

Pun pun or shit cutter brah.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

All of them. Someone said cranberries once and I died.

Who should come to see your show and why?

I am proper and even haters can gain entry but should step to the left.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Me in a mirror.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Tuna melt and some garlic chips. So my kisses that night will be memorable.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

See above tuna kiss answer

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Show not long. Pre-show Quaaludes are a bit more of a gorilla to remove one’s self from.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

I don’t play that game. I live it.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

I once fucked a beehive in the name of fishing rights. That seems similar to this.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

My faith in Jesus and my need to be an atheist.

Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

He is not being paid for the festival.

 

Buy tickets for John Hastings: 10 John Hastings I Hate About You here

9.30pm | Monkey Barrel | 1-25 Aug

 

 

Impertinent Questions for The Delightful Sausage

27 Jul

Delightful SausageWhat is your favourite synonym for “bum”?

The coal hole.

Whose swearing makes you laugh the most?

As he’s a father,  Chris is desperately trying to curb his swearing. Often this leads to lots of hilarious subversions suchs as “Ffflippin’ wally-pops” and “Blo-omin’ wagglestaff!”

Who should come to see your show and why?

It’s very silly stuff. Incredibly niche and really not for everybody. That said, it would be lovely if everybody came.

The only other thing to note is that we have found that our ‘fanbase’ do steal, so keep an eye on your valuables.

Who are you excited about seeing this year?

Ooh, there so many exciting acts to see! Top of the list is probably Jayne Edwards as Top Bodybuilder Brian. We’re also excited to see new shows from Jen Brister, Jess Fostekew, Sunil Patel, Nick Elleray, Alasdair Beckett-King, Desiree Burch, David Callaghan, Richard Brown. And that’s not even scratching the surface. Sure we’ll be able to squeeze in sleep somewhere.

Imagine you come off stage and find a wish come true. Which food/drink/present/person would be waiting for you?

Bobby Davro, wearing nowt but a bowtie and holding a tatty dog. Not really, just love the idea of this popping up on his Google Alerts.

Describe your perfect day at the Fringe.

We roll out of our bunk bed before dawn. The day starts with us screaming the word “success” into each other’s faces as the sun rises. The morning is dedicated to a mixture of silent prayer and frenzied internet searches. We perform the show and none of the audience have nosebleeds. As has become tradition, we’ll finish up the day with a tatty dog. Then another. And another. Quick trip to A&E to get the chest pains checked out. Doctor tells us it’s probably wise to lay off the tatty dogs. Sure, we’ll just finish this last one.

How long does it take to come down after a show and how do you do it?

Our show is in the highly coveted noon spot so we tend to follow it, rather boringly, with cold pop and frantic admin.

In the game “Would You Rather?” what’s the hardest choice you have had to make?

In our show we pose the ultimate ‘would you rather’ question to an audience member. Here’s the impossible choice; would you rather eat one bowl of your own shit or have a million pounds tax free? Tough one.

What’s your favourite Brexit metaphor?

Brexit’s like a trip to Frankie & Benny’s. A nostalgia-fuelled attempt to recreate a history that never was, where all you’re really doing is crunching down 3 courses of shit.

Who or what helped you believe you were going to make it in comedy?

We’re surrounded by friends and loved ones. All of them have told us, from the bottom of their hearts, that we should stop. We won’t though. Not until the council puts a bullet in our brains.

 Tell us something your agent doesn’t want us to know.

Our agent’s been begging us with tears in her eyes to stop describing our show as “the sexiest Manga ever”. We’ve also been forbidden from revealing our actual ages. Isn’t the skateboard enough?

Buy tickets for The Delightful Sausage: Ginster’s Paradise here

12 noon | Monkey Barrel | 2-12, 15-25 Aug

 

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