Tag Archives: Best comedy at Edinburgh Fringe

Punchline recommends Tom Binns: The Club Sets

23 Aug

Words by Iain McLaren

If you are looking for a show with a bit of everything then look no further than Tom Binns : The Club Sets. Opening with his unique psychic, Ian D Montfort, he gives us a comical and up-close insight into the spiritual world. You may not believe in psychics but you will believe in the comedy of Ian.

Next Tom returns as himself with a whole cast of family puppets with his new ventriloquism act. This new found skill is explored and presented to you with all the dedication we have come to expect from Tom.

Tom Binns

Finally he brings out the crowd favourite in the awkward and somewhat naïve Ivan Brackenbury with his array of ironic songs. This character never gets old as the audience’s eye-watering laughter shows.

This brilliant comedian and entertainer is constantly expanding his skills and bringing them to the stage to thrill and delight his audiences and this show is no exception. Go and see this genius at work!

You can see Tom Binns: The Club Sets at Assembly George Square Gardens at 12.40pm until 31 August

Punchline recommends Mike Wozniak: One Man Dad Cat Band

23 Aug

Words by Suzy Romer

I LOVE that Mike Wozniak is a husband who is grumpy in the morning, a dad who does his best with domestic animals and a son who glows when his mum calls him a good boy. The whole audience loves him too. The fact that he is happy to be normal makes him almost revolutionary in a comedy world where so many comedians are busting themselves to provoke us with tired, creepy jokes about porn, paedophiles and “ironic” racism (it’s just racism).

Mike Wozniak 2015

Wozniak wants us to know that he is an ethical man, if only so that we are terribly impressed. Why else do we act ethically if not to be seen? We are impressed, especially by his ingenious fly-away comments that make us tip forward with laughter. He is also a very factual man, although many of his facts are fictional. He steers a steady line between real life and impossible nonsense without burdening us with pedantic surrealism. His talents for story-telling are prodigious and he weaves in and out of themes with consummate ease. One minute he’s telling us about an infuriating experience; the next minute he’s calming us down with ticklishly funny facts. The effect is cumulative, like sauna sessions followed by cold splashes, and it is as invigorating as it is relaxing.

Wozniak warns us from the start that the room is going to get very hot, but it doesn’t matter because he shares his world with us so generously. And did I mention he’s very funny? He’s VERY funny.

You can see Mike Wozniak: One Man Dad Cat Band at 13.15 at Laughing Horse@The Free Sisters until 30 August

Punchline recommends In Cahoots: Two White Guys

20 Aug

Words by Suzy Romer

In Cahoots are a sketch duo (Paul G Raymond and Luke Manning) who provide an easy hour of comedy and a few things to think about afterwards. Their energy is uplifting and takes us on a dazzling tour of worldwide locations including a TV studio in India, a palace in Nigeria and a desert in North Africa. Thematically speaking, some of the sketches are set in traditional funny-land but there are all sorts of sketches which take the audience just a little bit out of their comfort zone – we like that! Their lightness of touch manages to combine thrusting intelligence with endearing silliness.

Paul and Luke

Paul and Luke

The stand-out piece for me is the scene where a drunk young buck takes a taxi with a Muslim taxi driver. They strike up a delightful friendship while talking about their dramatically different lives. The high comedy of the scene provides classic belly laughs yet virtually no one else is doing material like this. Paul and Luke simply ignore 21st century social taboos and perform unfettered universal human comedy.

The overall writing is strong but with more experience, they will crack the tipping point between clever and funny to perfection. This makes for an act to watch now and in the future. We’ll be back.

You can see In Cahoots: Two White Guys at the Pleasance Courtyard at 19:15 until 31 August

Punchline recommends Adam Riches is Coach Coach

14 Aug

Adam Riches 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Adam Riches is a magnetic, dangerous life force and this year he takes us up a league with a fresh kind of total comedy experience. Coach Coach has all the thrills of classic (or at least old and beloved) big budget American movies that flood us with teenage rushes of ambition, rage, arousal and pure adrenaline.

Even before the show starts, the audience is prepared for what they are in for with colourful flags and pumped up music. The cinematic experience is achieved with a surprisingly big cast who enact proper goodies and baddies, a couple of timeless love stories at different stages of life and, of course, a BIG GAME where everyone is rooting for the heroes. But here comes one of Adam Riches’ magic touches; the outcome will be decided by a member of the audience so we are all in a state of whooping, feverish suspense as the finale approaches.

For those who have experienced the joy and knife-edge fear of past shows, there is comparatively little audience participation and the format is more formal. I caught myself hoping that some things would go (slightly) wrong, just to see how he would react. They did, and his on-the-spot improvisations sparkled with the essence of Fringe fun. The character of Eric Coach is more complex than Riches’ previous incarnations as he sheds some of his alpha male dominance now that he has a wife and boss to contend with. Stevie Martin (from the sketch group Massive Dad), plays Mrs Coach with wry nonchalance and a delightfully mobile baby bump which she wields and yields, depending on the needs of the moment. Richard Gadd is chillingly silly as the big bad boss while David Elms champions the characters of the younger generation with winning charm, despite not winning any baskets on the night I saw him. Didn’t stop me shouting myself hoarse though.

There are a lot of things going on in this bold new format which is tamer on audience participation but more audacious in its engagement with wide-reaching themes. This is an expertly finished product, but there is also an underlying sense of artistic development in progress and the sequel (whatever form it may take) is going to be very interesting indeed…

 You can see Adam Riches is Coach Coach at the Pleasance Dome at 21.45 until 30 August.

Punchline recommends Lazy Susan: Double Act

13 Aug

Lazy Susan 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

The first sensation of watching Celeste Dring and Freya Parker’s spectacular show is one of being grabbed by the scruff of the neck and whisked into their own parallel universe. It’s initially rather frightening, what with all the psychopaths and criminals, but then you laugh so much you don’t want to come out again.

Their range of characters knows no bounds yet they all fit into a general backdrop of eerie unpredictability and charismatic menace. Ducks, dogs and rabbits all get the funny-scary treatment. The most astonishing change of character is when Freya comes on as Jackie Sanchez, the Scottish business mogul, and tells us how she built her empire. Her accent is absolutely on the money but it is her approach to success which makes us crack up en masse. Sanchez’s assistant Big T (Celeste) makes the audience collapse into giggles by uttering single words. We’re talking Rowan Atkinson territory here. I promise you, the word “Frothy” will never be the same.

This pair were nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomers last year but even so, it is amazing to think this is only their second time round. This is a show of thrilling, unhinged comedy from a pair of ferociously funny dare devils.

You can see Lazy Susan: Double Act at the Pleasance Dome at 20:10 until 30 August

Punchline recommends Mae Martin: Us

10 Aug

Mae Martin 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Mae Martin is an instant hit with the audience and creates an open, feel-good atmosphere right from the start. Her style of delivery is dreamy but her comedy is spot on. She talks to us about family dynamics, adolescent crushes and nights out. Sound familiar? WRONG, she is a complete original and as you listen, you can feel your brain becoming more supple as it stretches out from its habitual little pathways. There are some great moments in her stories of outrageous slapstick which have the audience laughing and wincing in equal measures. There are also plenty of “Meet the Fockers” moments of in-family taboo-busting. Oh my God, did she just say that? Yes, she did.

She was brought up in a family where gender behaviour and sexuality was never limited by narrow definitions. I like to think of myself as being pretty open-minded but I learned with Mae that I have a whole lot of casual prejudices about sexuality which I rarely bother to question because I don’t have to. Really, I mean, what have I been playing at?

The audience is amused and rapt by her more thought-provoking sections and once or twice she asks if we are with her. Yes! We’re thinking! I know comedians aim for belly laughs, but Mae is aiming higher than that and she is hitting the bull’s eye more often than she thinks. Her manner is searching, searching for understanding and recognition of ideas that are common sense of the most uncommon kind. If you want fearless, down-to-earth laughs and a fresh outlook, she’s the one to see.

You can see Mae Martin: Us at 21:15 in the Laughing Horse @ City Cafe until 30 August.

Punchline recommends Marriage

9 Aug

Marriage 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Take a dream cast of sketch and comedy performers, a delightful play, a talented director (Russell Bolam) and what do you get? Marriage. Tom Parry’s fresh, energetic adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 play retains charmingly old-time language and references while maintaining the urgency and scepticism of questions which remain relevant today. We women would all like a man who is handsome, a man who is rich and a man who is noble, but what do we do if all three turn up on the same afternoon?

Such is the predicament of the lovely Agatha, played by Celeste Dring to perfection as a slightly silly but adorable young dreamer who neglects her accomplishments, perhaps sensing instinctively that a knowledge of French or the ability to paint is not the reason most men want to marry. Camille Ucan plays the cunning marriage broker with such joyous, ferrety efficiency that you can almost sniff her in the air when she wafts onstage. Agatha’s aunt (Freya Parker) promises us with a thrilling sparkle in her eye that the up-and-coming grocer downstairs is very good-looking but her older, female wisdom comes under threat from Agatha’s romantic ideals and other more sinister quarters.

Enter the likeable but confoundedly lazy Peter (Ben Clark) who is dragged – sometimes literally –into trying his luck as yet another suitor to Agatha by his duplicitous friend (Adam Riches). Ben Clark provides the cheerful, sleepy glamour that makes him so believably attractive as a suitor, even in his most cosseted, narcissistic moments. Meanwhile, Adam Riches embodies his Tartuffe-like friend with unsettling insouciance; the words “snake” and “charmer” both apply here but his unhappy secrets, which occasionally break through the deceit, make us wonder how often marriage was and is a disastrous eventuality in many cases.

The actors who play the brokered triplet of suitors embrace their vices and virtues with equal viciousness and virtuosity. Mr Rich-but-too-Round (John Henry Falle) counts chairs and custard tarts with more passion than he could ever summon up for a lover and his best shot at a romantic poem makes the audience sigh with a mixture of sentiment and exasperation. Mr Fit-but-Frisky (Ciaran Dowd) provides a simmering energy that forever threatens to boil over, though luckily he is too loveable to be frightening. The suitor I personally found most agonising was Mr Dashing-but-Dull enacted by Owen Roberts as a heart-melting gentleman with soul-withering stories, enough to make Sicily sound like a tax form. We must also pay tribute to the servant Stephen who looks after everyone, played by Richard Soames with understated brilliance. Would that we all had a Stephen to look after our domestic comforts as well as our egos, although perhaps if we did, then no one would ever get married at all.

So here’s my Marriage proposal. Go and see this show at 2pm, then go and see the shows of the individual performers throughout the rest of the day (Adam Riches, Beasts, Beta Males, Birthday Girls, Lazy Susan, Pappy’s and Richard Soames). It may well be the happiest day of your life.

You can see Marriage in Assembly George Square at 14:00 until August 30.

Punchline recommends Phil Jerrod: Neanderthal

9 Aug

Phil Jerrod 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Phil Jerrod presents a good solid set with some insights into life when you are least expecting them. He sets up an immediate, comfortable rapport with the audience and wastes no time before getting on to the good stuff.

Starting with his beard and his country upbringing, he takes us on a gentle mosey around the preoccupations and distractions of the British middle-classes. His meandering themes are shot through with shrewd observations which allow us to giggle at our own weaknesses and take comfort as he dispatches some of our more ridiculous worries. He teases out universal human themes from baking and Facebook with the profundity and elegance of a novelist.

He helps us to see that we are not to be congratulated too much for our achievements, nor berated if those achievements are of a lesser sort. There is a lot of laughter in this show and while he’s one to watch, he provides a great evening’s entertainment right now. Other than a couple of Neanderthal comments about women (just take them OUT) this is a splendid Edinburgh debut.

You can see Phil Jerrod: Neanderthal in the Pleasance Courtyard at 19:00 throughout August.

Punchline Recommends BEASTS: Live DVD

9 Aug

photograph of Beasts

Words by Suzy Romer

Beasts by name and beasts by nature, these boys are THE FRINGE in a box. Goodness only knows how they have managed to take their silliness and mayhem up a level since last year. I went into this show with high expectations of rampant nonsense and was lulled into the false security of sense by their rational sounding introduction. The lads want to film a DVD for a Hollywood producer and they ask for a bit of co-operation from the audience. So far, so good.

But then things start to go wrong. Or is it right? The audience becomes more involved in the project and our inhibitions gradually evaporate to allow us to whoop and cheer as much as our hearts desire. We are ON FIRE. Why? Perhaps because Owen tries so hard to maintain a modicum of decorum while James dreams of falconry and Ciaran just wants to… run around naked, really. Witnessing massive arguments has never been so much fun, and they are very rude but somehow it doesn’t matter because they are just so NICE. The musical content is so absurd and moving it will leave you as high as Mary Poppins after the wind changes direction.

This show is what people should mean when they say “legal high”. Don’t do drugs kids; do Beasts.

You can see Beasts in the Pleasance Courtyard at 16:45 throughout August.

Punchline Recommends Aisling Bea: Plan Bea

8 Aug

photograph of Aisling Bea

Words by Suzy Romer

This is it. This is Aisling’s year. It’s hardly fair to judge anyone on the wet first night of the Fringe but she owned the audience as soon as they walked through the door.

This “gurl” takes us from a back yard in Kildare with her little sister to the bright lights of Hollywood. The Irish-American attitude to confidence and success underpins the show so neatly that you are carried along effortlessly on her stories about ambition and romance, shame and miming.

She makes the whole stand-up comedy thing look easy as she cuts through pretension and nostalgia, delighting us with personal stories as if she’s sitting telling them in your kitchen. But the joyful energy and fun of this show is the real thrill and I’ll wager she won’t get through the Festival without a standing ovation.

You can catch Aisling Bea: Plan Bea in the Gilded Balloon every night at 21:30.

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