Punchline’s Top Fringe Shows 2021

It´s that exhilarating time of year again and wow have we got a great line-up of live comedy shows for you! There are of course a few changes to watch out for, as you might expect. Most shows are only running for a few nights rather than the whole month, although there are some plucky performers who are sticking it out for the full run. A lot of shows are work in progress, a bit like life at the moment, and that´s fine too. We are all getting back into the swing of things at our own pace.

We are proud to say that this year´s list boasts an impressive Scottish line-up, perhaps unsurprisingly. Could this be the year where Scottish comics get featured in their own city?

As a final note, please check dates and times with the venue before travelling. If tickets are sold out at the venue or the Fringe Box Office, try the other one as they have separate allocations.

Leith Comedy Festival & Invisible Cities: Lassies of Leith

Paul Stewart, tourguide

Let’s kick off with a show that’s close to our hearts. Full disclosure, we jointly produced this fabulous walking tour with Invisible Cities and, though we say it ourselves, you have to see Paul in action because this is one of those Fringe events that will stay with you long after the show has finished. If you’re looking for a real Fringe experience with your feet on the ground and the show all around, this is the show for you.

Various Times | Queen Victoria Statue & Zoom (Live + Livestream) | 7-29 August | Buy tickets

Fern Brady: Autistic Bikini Queen (Work in Progress)

Fern Brady

As the title suggests, no topic is off the comedy table for Fern Brady. If you like your comedy direct and shockingly truthful, go with an open mind because she is capable of anything. It’s not so much laughing yourself silly as laughing yourself smart.

6.45pm | Monkey Barrel | 6-17 August | Buy tickets

Nish Kumar: Control (Work in Progress)

Nish Kumar

Comedy hero and long-time Punchline favourite Nish Kumar brings you brand new jokes for your delectation. Catch his original set ahead of next year’s tour, safe in the knowledge that his work in progress is funnier than a lot of finished shows. And just think, you might be there for the coining of a new classic joke.

7.15pm | Monkey Barrel | 16-22 August | Buy tickets

Jo Caulfield: Four Night Only

Jo Caulfield

An essential in the Who’s Who of Edinburgh Comedy. This modern classic stand-up appeals to a range of comedy tastes so this is one of those tickets you can’t go wrong with.

7.30pm | The Stand | 12-15 August | Buy tickets

Larry Dean: Work in Progress

Larry Dean

On the verge of superstardom, Larry Dean returns to Edinburgh with his sparky good-natured charm and a raft of jokes that will carry you along on a rip-roaring helluva ride.

8.30pm | Monkey Barrel | 16-19 August | Buy tickets

Ray Bradshaw: The Ray Bradshow

Ray Bradshaw's Fringe Poster: Ray's face surrounded by 4 and 5 star reviews

Loved by audiences and critics alike, Ray Bradshaw is definitely one to check out this year – just look at all those stars on his poster. With tour support for Frankie Boyle already in the bag, this comedian is going places.

3.30pm | Scottish Comedy Festival @ The Beehive Inn | 20-29 Aug | Buy tickets

Adam Rowe: Imperious (Work in Progress)

Adam Rowe

An easy-going hour of virtuoso storytelling and quips about family, friends and other adventures. Grab a pint and sit back for Friday night laughs any day of the week. You may have seen him on YouTube and social media, so now’s the time to see him live.

8.45pm | Pleasance Courtyard | 17-19 August | Buy tickets

Kiri Pritchard McLean

Kiri Pritchard McLean

Oh Kiri… Her magnificent hallmark sparkling costumes are nearly as bright as her mind. She has been a pioneer of Covid era comedy and raised a stack of cash for The Trussell Trust and The NHS while she´s at it. One of the strongest voices on the comedy circuit, she´s got this – everything – and you can trust you’ll have a great hour of laughter with her.

8.15pm | Edinburgh Corn Exchange | 14-15 August | Buy tickets

Barry Ferns Stands Up for 2021 (On Arthur’s Seat)

Barry Ferns on top of Arthur's with a large

Outrageously likeable, this guy has been doing great outdoor stand-up shows for years so if you like your comedy with a lunchtime hike and a stunning backdrop, you’re in safe hands.

1pm | On Top of Arthur’s Seat | Free | 7-28 (not 11,18,25) August | Buy tickets

Jay Lafferty: Blether

Hats off to talented compere, writer and performer Jay Lafferty, for bringing one of the few fully-fledged hours of stand-up for the whole of the month. Her theme is the last year and a half which she will no doubt treat with her usual comedy magic. Her warm manner and sharp observations make this Edinburgh local a delight to spend an hour with.

6.30pm | Gilded Balloon Teviot | 5-8 & 11–29 August | Buy tickets

Paul Sinha: Hazy Little Thing Called Love

If you´ve heard Paul Sinha’s award-winning History Revision radio programmes or seen him at previous Fringes, you´ll know he knows his stuff all right. This year, he returns to Edinburgh with a relatively new subject for him, love.

5.30pm or 8.30pm | The Stand | 18-21 August | Buy tickets

Josie Long: Work in Progress

Josie Long combines towering knowledge of the world at large with an ability to bring out the daft humour of everyday life. If you want a different perspective delivered with unpretentious, down-to-earth energy, Josie Long’s ability to smile in the face of anything will remind you that there is always a way forward, whatever the odds.

8.30pm | Monkey Barrel | 4-6 & 23-29 August | Buy tickets

Christopher MacArthur Boyd: Oh No (Work in Progress)

A firm favourite and rising star on the Scottish circuit and beyond. Bursting with energy and good vibes, think of your best night out and multiply it by 10.

8.30pm | Gilded Balloon Teviot | 13-29 August | Buy tickets

Punchline recommends Max & Ivan: Commitment

MaxAndIvan2019

Words by Suzy Romer

Max and Ivan have an energetic, funny playfulness that reminds me of Alvin and the Chipmunks. They are quite as adorable and actually much funnier with silly jokes that belie their dazzling professionalism. They always do their homework and they are the kind of act you can absolutely depend on to put on a great show to the extent that you don’t even have to read what the show’s about before you go.

In case you DO want to know, this year it is about Ivan’s stag night, organised in characteristically grandiose style by Max with an almost Marx Brothers Night at the Opera level of orchestrated outrageous fun. They give us a few background details to the story of course, starting with their births… And as we romp through their childhood stories with plenty of sounds and images, I can’t resist looking repeatedly into the audience to see rows of enchanted smiling faces, laughing with fondness and surprise at the madcap projects the lads have brought to life over the years.

The careful, detailed writing of the show is wonderful, precisely because I didn’t think about it until after the show. They know exactly how to set up situations, in-jokes and inside information so that they can bring them back with a party bang of dramatic and comic effect at the moment of their choosing. This show made me wipe away tears of joy and I think I might love them. Too much? Go and see for yourself.

Buy tickets for Max & Ivan: Commitment here

8.20pm | Pleasance Dome | Until 25 Aug

Punchline recommends John Robins, Hot Shame

John RobinsWords by Suzy Romer

John Robins is a performer who manages to usher us into his very brain in order to perceive life as he does. Given how much he worries and frets, there is a certain mystery in his ability to make this shared experience so laugh-out-loud funny. Some of his greatest worries this year have been about holiday photos, treating damp and buying coffee, and he explores them with an engaging, meticulous attention that he clearly applies to everything he regards as important in life.

If the title of his show does not produce a visceral reaction in you, then his stand-up material certainly will. He punctuates his main show with cringing confessional stories from childhood and beyond about mistakes and misunderstandings that continue to bring him agonies of shame when he recalls them. Some of the memories are so personal that I sincerely hope he gets some sort of closure by sharing them with a room of guffawing strangers. He knows how to tell a seemingly everyday story in staggering detail with a level of analysis that makes me ache with exasperation that he puts himself through it all, even as I laugh out loud along with the rest of the theatre. He is a master of making himself the butt of his own jokes and we love and respect him for it.

The show covers some controversial subjects of recent times (diversity and #MeToo are particularly notable) and deals with them from a self-conscious position as a privileged white male with sensitivity and a delicious quivering humour that is both hyper-aware and exquisitely nuanced. It makes a welcome, refreshing contrast to the blunt extremes of social media that distort real people into barking caricatures. The only barking in John Robin’s show comes from the yelps of delight and steady laughter at his frank admissions and highly accomplished material.

Buy tickets for John Robins, Hot Shame here

7.30pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 25 Aug

Punchline recommends Laura Davis: Better Dead than a Coward

Laura DavisWords by Suzy Romer

Laura Davis is a big talent in a tiny venue, with more than a touch of magic. As you enter Bob’s Blundabus passed the bright cosy bar on the lower deck to go up the dark stairs, something flips in your brain and you are ready for anything.

Laura Davis owns the room (top deck) from the start and seamlessly takes a couple of unhelpful audience members in hand while treating the rest of us like we are already friends. She tells us she has been performing at the Fringe for twelve years and everything about her unique material and laid-back competence shows us how well she has used that experience. There are touches of Daniel Kitson in her ability to create visual images and take the audience with her but she has an absolutely original world view and does some ingenious material on moths and Facebook that should win some kind of literary comedy award.

Laura Davis can give extraordinary meaning to ordinary events with a warm, wry perspective that generates disproportionately big laughs in such a tiny space. She succeeds in talking about current world concerns without losing sight of the baffling peculiarity of human nature and manages to make us feel all the better for it. That’s no small feat these days, and if Laura Davis can bring together a disparate bunch of punters on a lightly swaying bus, maybe there is hope for some other stuff too.

Get tickets for Laura Davis: Better Dead than a Coward here

9.10pm | Heroes@Bob’s Blundabus | Until 25 Aug

Punchline recommends Sophie Duker: Venus

Sophie DukerWords by Suzy Romer

Sophie Duker is one of the hits of the Fringe this year with her star-bright, energetic, idea-packed new show. The moment she comes on stage, her alert, observant manner and scintillating delivery captures the full attention of the audience and creates a fascinating atmosphere of attentive connection which she maintains all the way through our wonderful hour with her.

She tells us that she is tired of being expected to represent everyone who is not white, male or heterosexual and takes us through some of the stereotypes about women of colour that she discovered and tried to avoid as she was growing up. Most of the audience are on unfamiliar ground here but she takes us with her on a finely mapped journey which delves into history, popular culture and her own life with an abundance of varied jokes and surprises that keep on coming with vital energy and consummate skill.

Her material displays an impressive balance of precise writing and playful delivery and I get the impression that she would be perfectly capable of developing each strand of her show into a fully developed hour of solid funny material if she decided to do so. I very much look forward to future developments but meantime, this show was fully satisfying with takeaway laughs and ideas to go over at home. Excellent.

Buy any remaining tickets to see Sophie Duker: Venus here (though hopefully you paid attention to our recommendation before the Fringe!)

7pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 25th Aug

Punchline recommends Sara Barron: Enemies Closer

Sara BarronWords by Iain McLaren

I first saw Sara Barron at the Fringe last year with her Newcomer nominated show, For Worse. It was a great first year and one she has followed up with another impressive show, Enemies Closer. I love Sara’s energy and American style mixed with her now ingrained British self-loathing. Her ability to engage her audience with tantalising tales and straight-talking observations of modern-day life and relationships is something some comedians struggle to master but which she excels at naturally.

Sara lunges about the stage with electrifying enthusiasm as she shares with us her life after 8 years of marriage, before recounting, in explicit detail, the tales from her friends, who she now lives vicariously through in an effort to survive her “8 year rash”. She also delves into the heart of society and embraces her openly judgemental side as she guides us through just who is a good person and who is a (insert colour language here). No one in the world is safe, and no one should be.

Grab your tickets now and enjoy the show as much as I did!

Buy tickets for Sara Barron: Enemies Closer here  

8.30pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 25 Aug

Punchline recommends 30 minute wonder shows: Krystal Evans and Amy Matthews

The most common format for shows at the Fringe is the hour-long spectacular. While this is great, not everyone has time to spare, especially during the week. This year however there seem to be a range of 30 minute shows showcasing some great talent which you could take in over a lunchtime.

Krystal Evans: Fishnets

First up we are recommending Krystal Evans with her show Fishnets. Krystal has a great conversational style which instantly puts you at ease as she tells you about her home, family and masturbatory habits. OK so maybe not for all ages but for the adults this one will leave you wanting more with a big smile on your face. We hope she brings a full hour back next year.

Buy tickets for Krystal Evans: Fishnets here

12.30pm | Monkey Barrel Comedy | Until 25 Aug

 

The Life Aquatic with Amy Matthews

I was really looking forward to this show after seeing Amy on BBC’s Comedy Underground. I like a performer who gets on stage and owns it. Amy is a comedian who is going places and her 30 minute set shows it. I loved the whimsy, the tales, the cleverness and the younger look at modern life all delivered with the wisdom and humour of someone much older.

Buy tickets for Amy Matthews: The Life Aquatic with Amy Matthews here

13.10pm | Monkey Barrel Comedy | Until 25 Aug

 

Both these shows are pay-what-you-want but we recommend buying tickets to guarantee your seat. See them separately or as a double bill as they are in the same venue (you’ll need to come out in between shows!)

Punchline recommends Adam Riches: The Beakington Town Hall Murders

Adam RichesWords by Suzy Romer

Audience participation has always been a thrilling, essential feature of Adam Riches’ shows. Over time he has created innumerable styles of interaction and honed his skills when treading that waffer-thin line between audience trust and unpredictability. The atmosphere of this year’s show is particularly delightful and makes me smile just thinking about it.

On this occasion, the audience are all members of a town council where a misjudged tombola prank has resulted in the untimely deaths of ten tortoises and one of us is the murderer. Our interrogator is none other than Victor Legit, a starring character of previous shows, and once he appears (after a glorious intro) we really get down to business.

From beginning to end, the show feels like going to one of the best parties ever. The perfect cross-over between brilliant character comedy and a great big daft game is so utterly absorbing that an hour slips by in carefree joy. I say this as one of the people ordered onto the stage but our host is so expert at judging who’s up for playing along that pretty much everyone involved gets exactly the right amount of lime light. Do I remember what he said half the time while onstage? No. Is it a bit hypnotic? Yes. Would I recommend it? Absolutely.

Thanks to Adam’s spectacular comic dexterity, the type and scale of participation, special effects and splendid surprises build up with unstoppable momentum. We giggle, dance, sing, snort and cavort our way towards a comedy climax which is made all the more intense by the knowledge that not a soul in the room knows exactly how it will turn out. Every day is different. This particular performance ends in glorious triumph as the murderer is caught and punished in fitting Adam Riches’ style. He is one of the performers who makes the Fringe so heady and so wild. Comedy heaven.

P.S. Look out for a slinky cameo from Ben Target who is also performing at the Fringe

Buy tickets for Adam Riches, The Beakington Town Hall Murders here

7.50pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 26 Aug

 

 

Punchline recommends Sam Taunton: It’s Nice, It’s Modern

Sam TauntonWords by Suzy Romer

For a lovely, friendly hour of feel-good comedy from a new name at the Fringe, look no further than Sam Taunton. He is warm, charming and self-depreciating, perhaps a little too self-depreciating but he is young and will one day stop using his ex’s words to describe himself. There’s a reason why she’s an ex!

Sam fills the show with smart observations and great stories which include all the extra flyaway comments that turn giggles into belly laughs. He covers a good mix of subjects including family, drugs and gigging in Australia. From the sound of it, he is more used to playing to boisterous crowds in Australian bars than to quiet, attentive Edinburgh audiences in converted university spaces but he adapts beautifully and ad-libs with poise and style.

Sam Taunton has good, solid material and the standard is consistently high. Look out for his name in the future.

Buy tickets for Sam Taunton: It’s Nice, It’s Modern here

7.40pm | Assembly George Square | Until 25 Aug

Punchline recommends Tom Parry: Parryoke!

Words by Suzy Romer

If Tom Parry’s name is attached to any show as a writer, director or performer, you can guarantee it will be a great laugh. Parryoke! is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy an hour in the vibrant, effervescent company of the Renaissance man of comedy.

This is his most strictly stand-up show so far, even more so than his last solo show. He tells some memorable anecdotes, shows us some unforgettable photos and connects with us through ever-so-gentle audience participation which even the most entrenched introvert will love. There are plenty of ‘nineties references which, far from being simply nostalgic, are tied into an exploration of wider themes, and he provides new laughs on the subject of Christmas presents, weddings and football. Then there’s the actual singing (never too much and always funny) and the richest comedy material about karaoke I have ever heard.

This is smart, sparkling feel-good comedy which is deliberately presented with no dark side; perfect for anyone who wants the comedy equivalent of a good pub with no TV news screens. Our multi-talented host knows exactly how to use his arts to bring us together for an hour of non-stop fun, and there are smiles and laughs all round.

Buy tickets for Tom Parry: Parryoke here

6pm | Pleasance Courtyard | Until 26 Aug (not 13)

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