Edinburgh Festival 2013 Preview: an interview with The Pin

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By Hannah Clapham-Clark

The Pin are a sketch double act tipped for great things in the future. Smart and funny in equal measure, their shows are sophisticated, witty and impressively complex. Make sure to catch their next Edinburgh Fringe show this August. Here they are being funny –

How did the two of you first meet and what were your first impressions of each other?

Alex: We met at University.

Ben: I first spotted Alex in an alley, and I wasn’t much impressed.

How did your comedy first develop and how has it changed since then?

Alex: We got stuck into student comedy with a big six man sketch show a few years ago and just kept going. Since then our style hasn’t changed drastically. We’ve got to know each other better so perhaps it’s a bit more loose on stage, with room for changing things on stage as we go. A bit more in unison I suppose.

Ben: I don’t really agree with that.

If you could describe The Pin in three words what would they be?

Alex: Silly Fun Friends.

Ben: Spot on mate.

Are there any specific sketch groups which have influenced your work? If so, who and why?

Alex: Big Train on TV was great. ‘Cowards’ is a group that really set the bar and I think they had a big influence on our writing style, particularly when we started out and were trying things out.

Ben: Later on ‘The Pajama Men’ with their fast-paced propless act definitely made us experiment along those lines.

Alex: We love ‘Sheeps’ too.

Ben: Oh yeah.

Last year’s Fringe was a big success for you, what were the high/low points? 

Alex: High points include going, on day one, to Red Box, a noodle bar near the Dome. Low point is realising in week two that you need the MSG to stay sane.

Ben: I think I spotted Matt Lucas in the audience once. (High) It wasn’t him. (Low)

Can you tell us a little but about the new show this year?

Alex: Most notably we’ve gone from three to two.

Ben: So now it’s more about us as a double act, rather than a trio. Less narrative and more about our relationship.

There’s a lot of nice things being said about The Pin at the moment, do you ever feel any pressure to get it right because of this?

Alex: Are there? Well that’s lovely. I suppose we never want to disappoint.

Ben: Can I just clarify, I said ‘an alley’: it was a backstreet, and there were other people there.

Where do you see The Pin in five years’ time?

Alex: We’d love to film some of our sketches and see if people like it. But performing live is the real deal so we’re hoping that sketch comedy keeps growing in the way stand-up has.

Ben: So long as I’m with this guy, I’ll be alright. Also, I realise that ‘backstreet’ doesn’t sound any better.

What would your advice be for young sketch comics wanting to get established?

Alex: We find the practice of discarding material as ruthlessly and often as possible helps in the long run. If you keep trying to write better stuff to replace what you’ve currently got in place you tend to end up doing alright on the night.

Ben: Go with you gut. For god’s sake don’t get that ripped out by some ‘ambitious’ surgeon.

Finally, if you could be any other comic dead or alive, who would you be and why?

Ben: I’d definitely go for an alive one. Probably Alex; I already know his lines. Or Freddy Frother- the man’s a genius.

Alex: Freddy Frother isn’t real Ben.

Ben: I know, the guy’s talent is unreal.

Alex: Forget it then.

The Pin will be performing at The Pleasance Courtyard at 6.15pm, 31st July – 26th August. Find out more at http://www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh/events/the-pin–3 and Twitter at @thepincomedy

Edinburgh Festival 2013 Preview: an interview with Robin Grainger

By Susan Ford

537807_10152773658965037_394415775_nThe Edinburgh Festival will see some of the hottest names in comedy come to our city throughout August, but wouldn’t it be more fun for us to unearth some of the smaller names that will be making a bigger impact? Returning to the Fringe for his second year is the excellent Scottish comedian Robin Grainger, who will be performing part two as a follow up to his 2012 show.

SF: Hello Robin Grainger, how are you?
RG: I am very well thank you. I am drinking coffee and have just eaten one of the 8000 scones my girlfriend has taken home from work. It’s getting a bit daft.

SF: Tell me a bit about yourself and your comedy…
RG: I’m a 24 year old comedian, currently based in Edinburgh, originally from Aberdeenshire. I started gigging in late 2010. In terms of style, I guess I’m an anecdotal and observational comedian. I tell embarrassing and daft stories about my life, and comment on topics that annoy me or make me laugh.

SF: You are playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, tell me about your show?
RG: I am indeed! Last year I did a show called ‘Applause’ with my mate Gregor, an act based in Aberdeen. It was a two-hander with a guest host from the comedy circuit each night. Gregor tells one liners, I tell stories, so hopefully everyone is catered for. We really liked the format and we are lazy so we are doing a sequel to that. It’s called ‘Applause 2: Applaud Harder’. Clever isn’t it?

SF: What differences/similarities can we expect between last year and this year’s shows?
RG: The format will be the same; an hour split between myself and Gregor with a guest host every night. It’s great for the audience, as every night is different and they see someone they perhaps wouldn’t have seen before (including us!). The hosts will be different every night and there may well be some special guests! If you guys at Punchline bump into any brilliant acts before August, give our show a mention? Cheers!

SF: You are performing as part of the Scottish Comedy Festival, how important do you feel the Scottish Comedy Festival is in amongst the Festival as a whole?
RG: The Scottish Comedy Festival started last year at the Beehive, as a way to see brilliant acts from the circuit for free. It was a huge success so I went with them for this year’s show. It is an amazing thing and very important because there are very funny people out there, who deserve to be seen, and areas of the festival like the SCF/Free Fringe/Free Fringe Fest facilitate this. The idea of free shows are wonderful, because the costs of putting on a show in the huge venues are astronomical and a lot of acts lose money. I’m skint most of the time, so the fact that I can put on a show and afford a drink at the end of it is great! The Grassmarket is always bustling with people and I think the Beehive is the only venue on the Grassmarket so it just made sense to do this year’s show there.

SF: What other free shows do you recommend this year?
RG: People think that because a show is free, it’ll be rubbish. There are so many good shows on, most of which for free: Raymond Mearns, Vlad Mctavish, Jojo Sutherland, Ben Verth, Bob Graham, Wayne Mazadza, Gareth Waugh, Gus Lymburn and Liam Withnail. Also, my lovely and talented girlfriend is in a play called Shattered and it’s at Café Camino. I’d best plug that or I won’t get any more scones.

SF: What 5 comedians would you suggest we pay to see at this year’s Fringe?
RG: Only 5? Can I do 10? Debut shows from Tony Jameson and Katie Mulgrew at the Stand; John Gordillo, Tom Stade, Set List- huge acts making up sets on the spot,Hindsight- A play by Keir McCallister that I can’t wait to see, Neil Delamere – I was lucky enough to gig with him a few weeks ago, Britains Got Fuck All Talent – this is my mate’s show, who is one of the best character comedians I have seen, Paul Currie – just go, you’ll thank me later, Iain Stirling – I’ve seen bits of his second show and look forward to the full show. I also recommend Daniel Simonsen, who is one of the most unique and funny acts I’ve seen recently, and of course Nick Helm, whose show will be an experience and a half!

SF: What else will you be doing comedy-wise in the lead up to the Festival?
RG: In the lead up to the Festival I will be gigging on the circuit as much as I possibly can and hopefully preview material as well. I’ve also been offered gigs in Berlin. Also, I’m working with some other comedians in setting up a new comedy night in Edinburgh, which will hopefully be a weekly thing. Apart from that, I’ll just be trying to get through all these fucking scones!

Robin Grainger’s show will be on at The Beehive Inn, on the Grassmarket, as part of the Scottish Comedy Festival, at 6.30pm 16th-25th of August. Find out more at http://www.robingrainger.wordpress.com and Twitter at @RobinGrainger

Edinburgh Festival 2013 preview: an interview with Tom Toal

tomtoalEdinburgh Festival is fast approaching, and as the line ups, headliners and most anticipated new acts are announced, I thought I’d get in on the action. After last year’s Fringe, I only managed to squeeze in 67 shows, but I did see some cracking comedians that are bound to make an even bigger and better mark this year. Over the next couple of months, in the lead up to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, I will be talking to some of our favourite people from last year’s Festival, and to a heap of new upcoming stars we reckon you should keep your eyes on.

This week I caught up with Tom Toal, one of comedy’s rising stars who has spent last year performing in all the major clubs up and down the country to rapt audiences and rave reviews. I gave him five stars for his show in 2012 (double headliner with Ian Smith) and this year he is back again as part of a new show ‘The Comedy Reserve’.

“The T-Dog is certainly one of the most promising of today’s emerging comics.” – Steve Bennett, Chortle

SF: So Tom, tell us a bit about your Edinburgh Festival Show…
TT: The show is called The Comedy Reserve, and it is on at the Pleasance Dome at 9.30pm every night. It is an extremely lovely show to be a part of because it’s a showcase of up and coming stand ups. The alumni reads like a who’s who in comedy; Jack Whitehall, Joe Lycett, and Jared Hardy have all done it before.

SF: How many times have you played the festival now?
TT: This is my fourth time at the festival.

SF: What is your favourite thing about the Edinburgh festival?
TT: The sheer number of incredible shows that are a stone’s throw away from you at any time or place within the month, and the wealth of talent at your disposal to go and watch are really amazing.

SF: Have you gigged in Edinburgh before outside of the festival? If so, what’s your favourite venue?
TT: I have been to the Edinburgh Stand a couple of times outside the festival, and quite simply it’s an incredible venue to do stand-up comedy in, one of the best in Britain.

SF: If you could recommend five other comedians at the Fringe, who would they be?
TT: Ian Smith (I live with him) – he has put his all into this show, and I know it will be incredible; Matt Richardson – in the past I’ve shared a bed with him, but that in no way led to this recommendation, he will rock it; Bo Burnham – I’ve already booked my ticket; Matt Ewins – If you want something different and a bit out there, then go see this man; Nick Helm – In my experience of Edinburgh, every year involves a Nick Helm show, its one hell of an experience, sheer adulterated joy.

SF: Apart from your show, are you doing anything else for the Fringe?
TT: I might go swimming, and probably check out the new Partridge film…..oh and I reckon I’ll gig as much as I can.

SF: Obviously the Edinburgh Fringe is your favourite comedy festival, but what other festivals do you enjoy?
TT: Leicester is very cool, I like the city a lot and the venues are great.

Catch Tom Toal every night of the Edinburgh Festival at the Comedy Reserve alongside previous Punchline performer John Hastings. http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/comedy-reserve

By Susan Ford

Jimmy Carr @ Edinburgh Playhouse, 5 May 2013

Jimmy Carr
Jimmy Carr @ Edinburgh Playhouse, 5 May 2013

Jimmy Carr is a famous TV host, actor, writer and tax dodger.  Tonight however, Jimmy Carr trumps these monikers and puts his best attribute to the forefront: Comedian.  He self-describes his set as “2 hours of me and approximately 3 jokes every minute”, well; he’s done a better job already than any critic of summarising his stand up show ‘Gagging Order’.  Jimmy Carr is very good at taking the piss out of his own, and very public, misfortunes, but is even better at ripping it from the hecklers.  Ladies and gentlemen, take your place on the edge of your seat and welcome to the stage, the hardest working man in comedy: Jimmy Carr.

The Edinburgh Playhouse seats about 3000 people, which is an awful lot of purchased tickets, yet so many of the crowd appear to be sceptical of Jimmy’s talent tonight.  Hecklers, abusive Scots and Bank Holiday Drunks make themselves very vocally known, evidently under the impression that taking on a professional comedian in a battle of wits is a fight they can win.  How silly of them: if you choose to participate this evening, Jimmy Carr will hilariously take you down.

Obviously, Jimmy Carr is very clever, and lends his intellect to every witticism and anecdote delivered this evening.  It takes Jimmy’s art of looking at any given situation in a completely different way to the average man, to produce the best puns like he does.  He is very fast, intelligent and extremely dapper; only Jimmy Carr can add sophistication to a cock joke! It’s this elegant delivery of crude material that makes it so fall-off-your-seat funny, and the only style of comedy expected of him.

If Jimmy’s below-the-belt gags weren’t descriptive enough, he’s got some animations lined up to really imprint the punchline on to your brain.  Not for the light-hearted or easily offended, the animations portray Jimmy’s mind at work, and finish the jokes off immaculately. Straying from his standard stand up doesn’t stop there either, as he invites audience members on to the stage to take part in his dirty sitcom: it’s a good job he’s picked some good sports for the sketch as hilarity pursues yet again.

Jimmy Carr has his haters in it is clear, however, they are over-ridden by all the other people who are in support of his work here this evening.  Love him or hate him however, his jokes are undeniably fast, innovative and very, very good: try and find another comedian that can fill two hours with original material, and still have the jocularity to slam down a heckler if needed.

By Susan Ford

Introducing Rosalind Romer, otherwise known as Punchline

Welcome to Punchline’s first blog! As the first entry, we thought you might like to know a little more about the person behind the scenes…

I am Rosalind Romer, otherwise known as Punchline. I produce and promote large-scale comedy shows in Edinburgh, bringing the best comedians together to create amazing nights of comedy.Rosalind Romer

Comedy has always been a part of my life. From watching The Marx Brothers at 4 and Blackadder at 9, I moved on to live comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe when I was 10. When I was old enough, I worked at the Fringe Box Office during my summer holidays and went to see as many shows as possible. When I graduated from Glasgow University, I went on a trip to Australia and the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and snuck in the Adelaide Fringe while I was there.

I returned to the UK full of enthusiasm, and applied to be a judge on the Perrier Panel. After an extensive interviewing process, I was told I had been successful.  I had to ask them to repeat it when they said I had won! It was an intense three weeks, where I broke the record of seeing the most shows (over 100). I got the comedy bug more than ever and decided a career in comedy was for me.

After scouting for the Perrier Awards the following year, I went to seek my fortune in London and worked at Chambers Management for two years, managing Jimmy Carr’s tours, and working with Frankie Boyle, Sarah Millican and Andrew Lawrence.

I was then asked back to coordinate the now Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, where I stayed for two years. London was exciting but after four years I felt Edinburgh calling me home. But one thing was missing. Comedy. In August, Edinburgh is the centre of the comedy universe, but there isn’t the same choice as London which is the home of most UK comedians. Which is where Punchline comes in. I took the plunge, choosing the best four comedians and mixing a carefully balance blend of comedy to suit all tastes, and staging it in one of the country’s most lavish buildings, The Usher Hall. The reception was very positive, and one year on, I have produced my third show.

So what’s next? There are exciting plans in the Punchline pipeline which will unfold soon…

Coming soon…

Thanks to everyone who came to see Punchline at the Usher Hall on 20 October 2012. You were marvellous.

Punchline will be blogging soon!

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