Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Punchline Recommends James Acaster – Reset

16 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Photograph of James AcasterIs it worth recommending a run of sell out

shows? Yes, definitely when it comes to James Acaster, because it would be an absolute crime not to. This multi-award nominee has never put on a bad show, and is consistently the highlight of the Fringe.  James Acaster is an absolute genius when it comes to writing a Fringe show, and proves again that he doesn’t need just one year to be ‘at the top of his game’, he has, and always will be, right there up at the top.

James Acaster always runs with a theme (this year being ‘reset’), and comes back to this theme throughout the show when you are least expecting it. It’s these reoccurring jokes, and the masterful timing that makes his performance so special. ‘Reset’ is a personal insight to James’s make-believe life, a whimsical fantasy that is just as surreal as it is cleverly written. There is absolutely no doubt with this year’s performance, that James Acaster is a very funny man, and a real festival treasure.

As I starting writing this recommendation, there were seats left for one date within the festival run, but I believe it now to be completely sold out.  If you find any tickets to see this comedy royalty throughout your time at the Fringe, I highly recommend it.

James Acaster performs ‘Reset‘ at 7.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28 August

Punchline Recommends Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter

12 Aug

Photograph of Sofie HaganWords by Suzy Romer

Sofie Hagan is a comedy superhero and her power is dissolving contradictions. The self-proclaimed extreme introvert greets every single member of the audience on the way in. Prior to that, she has come out to the queue carrying a bundle of brightly coloured umbrellas to give to audience members in case the rain comes on again. As she addresses a packed room, her calm, direct manner is somehow never at odds with her dislike of parties, crowds and Friday nights out. She describes her adolescent longing to escape from the general incompetence of her school environment and then reveals her ingenious course of action and its consequences. Throughout everything, she makes it feel normal to feel abnormal, because real “normal” doesn’t exist at all. Nor do dragons, come to think of it, but that’s a story you have to hear from Sofie.

Her soft tones reveal bold truths about her life and ours. Her words are so honest that you feel them in your gut and your tear ducts. Subject matter which would be depressing in lesser hands becomes a rich source of wisdom and experience which bring us uplifting laughs and real joy.  Sofie jokes that she is too serious when she gets a chance between the laughs. As in her wonderful “Guilty Feminist” podcasts with Deborah Frances-White, we are reminded that it’s OK to be an imperfect feminist, which is to say an imperfect person, which is to say a human being goddammit. Can you see a contradiction there? No, not any more, because thanks to Sofie, it seems like the false distinctions and mental barriers were never there in the first place.

But don’t let me force her show into neat contradictions. There are abundant, fascinating ideas here which have been washed, hung up in the sunshine and shaken out so that they smell fresh and different. She also has that rare talent, the ability to swear really well, for maximum dramatic and comic effect. This show glows with vibrancy and Sofie leads the way in the 2016 world of comedy with serene, sure-footed ease.

Catch Sofie Hagan at 7.50pm at the Liquid Rooms until 28 August. Free fringe – get there early! More information here

Punchline Recommends: Rachel Parris – Best Laid Plans

11 Aug

Rachel ParrisWords by Iain McLaren

In “Best Laid Plans”, Rachel takes us for a walk through her adult life and discovers that it doesn’t quite add up to everything her six year old self thought it would be. She tells her story with a light touch, a few songs, and a lot of laughs.

Come for the laughs and leave a little wiser, lighter and with an understanding that help is never as far away as you think it is.

The show’s deeply personal story is one many people will recognise, and what’s more, it comes with the best message… No I’m not going to tell you what it is. You’ll just have to go and see it for yourself, and I thoroughly recommend you do!

Catch Rachel Parris at 6.50pm at Pleasance Dome throughout August. Click here for more information and tickets

Punchline Recommends: Steen Raskopoulos – You Know the Drill

11 Aug

Words by Suzy Romer

Photograph of Steen RaskopoulosThis is it. This is the adrenaline-charged, big-laugh, blow-away show I have been waiting to see like a storm chaser after a perfect storm. Steen Raskopoulos has a magic onstage presence which overtakes the audience right from the beginning. In fact he has a couple of us literally standing to attention within moments of coming on stage. In a cramped venue with tightly packed seating, he brings us together in a wave of support and readiness to play the game which is just as well because the audience participation is substantial. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, no one is exempt, although Steen does seem to have an uncanny ability to choose people who are great performers. He lets his freshly chosen co-stars shine, as there is no threat of humiliation, only the promise of a great situation and great laughs. It would be unfair to give away any of his incredibly original ideas but they are surprising and daring enough to make you wonder if you should go back another night to see how it compares.

But this is not improvisation. The show is tightly scripted with complex, imaginative use of audio recordings and fantastic character comedy. Without using sentimentality or cuteness, he simply becomes a lost little boy who is immediately gathered into everyone’s hearts. He also does a splendid movie doctor having a crisis of confidence but he adds new twists which cause delight at every turn. Steen was here two years ago but he has upped his game so much, he is now one of the major comedy players. If ya ain’t seen Steen, get your donkey in gear because this guy is slip sliding towards great things and you should catch him while you can.

Steen Raskopoulos is on at 7.40pm at Underbelly, Cowgate until 28 August. You can also see him in an improvisation show called The Bear Pack with Carlo Ritchie at Underbelly Cowgate from 16 August.

Punchline Recommends:  “Help Us Tom Toal, You’re Our Only Hope”

11 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Punchline recommends joining Tom Toal as part of the Free Fringe, as he saves the whole of Edinburgh with his new show ‘Help us Tom Toal, You’re Our Only Hope’.  Tom Toal captivates his audience with a unique brand of narrative comedy, that is as delightful to listen to as it is superbly funny.

It would usually be unprofessional to mention a venue as part of a comedian’s set, but Ciao Roma is one of the nicest places to spend an hour of your Fringe, and a lovely setting for an excellent comedy show. Tom Toal’s new show is well-written, and jam-packed with jokes and stories from his life. Tom is charming with the audience, not just saving them from the inevitable end of Edinburgh, but entertaining them completely with his words.

Tom Toal is no stranger to the Edinburgh Festival (this year is his 3rd full solo show), but 2016 proves to portray Tom at his absolute best. Tom’s set has been magnificenly weaved into a fantastic hour of comedy, and with it being part of the free fringe, I genuinely can’t see why you wouldn’t go and see this beauty of a performance. Tom Toal performs ‘Help Us Tom Toal, You’re Our Only Hope‘ at Ciao Roma every day during the fringe at 16.35.

Punchline Q&A – Andrew Ryan

11 Aug

Photo of Andrew RyanWhat is the best advice for a new performer in Edinburgh? Expect nothing and it will be fun then.

What is the best advice for a new festival goer? Go and see people you don’t know,  take risks on flyers and just be impulsive.

What do you have to have in your fridge during August? Butter, milk and veg that’s gone out of date.

What is the weirdest after-show comment you have had from an audience member? “Why are you pretending to be Irish?”

Which living person would you like to spot in your audience? My niece as she is my biggest fan.

What is the best non-Fringe thing about the city of Edinburgh? Nothing. Don’t go anywhere don’t see anything.

How do you relieve Fringe cabin fever? I’ve not had it yet. I like the Fringe.

Who or what last made you laugh like a hyena at the Fringe? Seeing a woman turn up 25 minutes late for a show and then complain to staff that they should have held the show for her! I mean nobody is that important.

Tell us about your 2016 show. It’s my best show to date. I love performing it and it’s quite personal (but light).  I’ve been going through a process of change in my life from last year, starting when I had to change the way I eat so I wanted to change my behaviours in my life too.

What are the best shows at the Fringe apart from yours? Nick Cody is ace!

When you go home and your friends say “How was Edinburgh?”, what will you say? I loved it. People came and I’ve sold out most nights so far and I want to do it again.

Andrew Ryan ‘Ruined’ is on at the Assembly George Square Studios at 7.50pm until 28 August.

Punchline Recommends: Nish Kumar- Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout the Words Real Loud

9 Aug

Photograph of Nish Kumar

Words by Suzy Romer

Nish Kumar’s show is a joyous reunion with his Edinburgh audience; we have missed each other! It’s almost a rush of relief to hear someone talk sensibly about Brexit with unfettered intelligence. His enquiring mind and thorough research (think of Bridget Christie or Paul Sinha on History Revision, R4) combine to produce laughs, squeaks, winces and chuckles of recognition and revelation as he re-examines things we thought we knew from the media. How does he do it? Often by rephrasing ideas and recent events with sparkling wit and common sense, but this combination feels like some sort of prohibition cocktail in a “post factual age”. On several occasions, the audience breaks into spontaneous applause for his perfectly poised jokes with truth in their belly, and as anyone who knows classic Edinburgh audiences, that is the equivalent of a standing ovation anywhere else.

If you like programmes like Dead Ringers and The News Quiz (oh Sandi I miss you so much…), Nish Kumar is the next level. He explores the tricky topic of being happy to be British and trying to reconcile that with having any sort of knowledge of Britain’s dirty history of grabbing anything it can get its hands on from the rest of the world. (Have you ever noticed that the only British part of the British Museum is its name?)  It’s no easy task to make some of the material funny but Nish somehow brings a light touch even to tragedies which affected members of his own family. He leads us into difficult subjects using humour to enlighten us on our own censored history. He also gets his teeth into the “lad culture” of the ‘90s (does anyone apart from me remember Robert Newman and David Baddiel being dragged into it?) It is the first time I have heard anyone go back to analyse what was really going on and Nish’s elegant survey of what was essentially re-packaged old sexual stereotypes helped me to realise that the proponents of new laddism smelt like rats because because they were rats. THANK YOU Nish.

He tells us his show has a message for the first time which is to be angry with the right people. When it comes to explaining society’s ills, it’s so much easier to blame hipsters and immigrant neighbours (who are right beside us) for problems which are almost always caused by those ever-forgiven people, rich white men. The crucial follow-up message is that effective dialogue requires respect, and Nish Kumar is the champion of comedy with respect. Watch him as he leaves the prejudiced, self-titled “edgy” brigade in the shadows by simply shining more.  Perhaps his greatest gift to the audience is to get our intellectual cogs turning. They stay turning long after the show.  You will be hard-put to find a fuller exploration of subjects that we need to discuss right now, and there is no one who makes it more enjoyable than Nish Kumar.

Nish Kumar is on at 8pm at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout August. Click here for more information and tickets

Punchline Recommends: Birthday Girls – Sh!t Hot Party Legends

9 Aug

Photograph of Birthday GirlsWords by Suzy Romer

It is a truth universally acknowledged that April deadlines for Fringe Guide entries mean that show titles and contents usually bear no relation to each other. So it comes as a thrilling surprise that Sh!t Hot Party Legends is EXACTLY what you get and one hour is just not enough.  Complete with pumpin’ party hits and full-scale super group dance routines, it recreates all the joy of a night out on the town without any of the inconvenience of cloakrooms, toilets and petty theft. These club-related irritations are converted into cheeky chronological sketches which are mixed in with a veritable cocktail of comedy fizz.

They do a great line in parodies, pop into male characters with no trouble and get surprisingly scary when they unleash their talent for horror. They also induce snorts with their jokes about who runs the world and what to do about it. Rose does a number on Ian Rankin that has me squirming to think he might actually be around for the comedy drubbing.  Camille moves seamlessly from posh girl with a promotion to pervert with a B&B and everything in between. Meanwhile Beattie does her best to seduce a member of the audience, under the watchful guidance of her colleagues.

There is a lot of really smart stuff in here, especially when they send up marketing talk and get to the bottom of why women like shoes. The satirical brilliance is mixed in with delightful madcap nonsense and  all wrapped up in a total experience that is the answer to the craving that regular Fringe goers are always looking to satisfy.

Catch the Birthday Girls at 9.45pm at the Pleasance Courtyard throughout August. Click here for more information and tickets

Steen Raskopoulos: You Know the Drill – Edinburgh 2016 Interview

5 Aug Photograph of Steen Raskopoulos

Photograph of Steen RaskopoulosWe loved his Steen’s show in 2014 and BBC’s “Top Coppers”. Now we’re super excited he’s back in Edinburgh! These are Steen’s answers to Punchline’s burning questions…


What is the best advice for a new performer in Edinburgh?
Lower your expectations and you’ll have the best time.

What is the best advice for a new festival goer?
Take a punt on someone you’ve never heard of before or go to a show where the flyerer/performer respected your physical space and wasn’t too intense.

What do you have to have in your fridge during August?
Pickles, self esteem and a half bottle of my own tears.

What is the weirdest after-show comment you have had from an audience member?
“My friend wants to have sex with you but I said no”

Which living person would you like to spot in your audience?
Tina Fey.

What is the best non-Fringe thing about the city of Edinburgh?
The lush grass and trees. Love dem trees.

How do you relieve Fringe cabin fever?
Burn the cabin to the ground.

Who or what last made you laugh like a hyena at the Fringe?
Lou Sanders. She is bat shit crazy and I think she’s one of the funniest performers going around.

Tell us about your 2016 show.
It’s a solo sketch show with an abundance of characters, improv and a bit of cheeky audience participation.

What are the best shows at the Fringe apart from yours?
Susie Youssef, Lou Sanders, Lolly Adefope, Joel Dommett, James Acaster, Sam Campbell, Tom Walker, Austentatious and Rhys Nicholson.

When you go home and your friends say “How was Edinburgh?”, what will you say?
The best of times and the worst of Tims. I’ve already met a few bad Tims.

See Steen Raskolpoulos at the Underbelly Cowgate at 7.40pm throughout August. Click here for more information and tickets

Punchline recommends: Max & Ivan – Our Story

5 Aug

Photograph of Max and IvanWords by Iain McLaren

Come one, come all and hear the tale of how our heroes met all those many years ago. Max and Ivan deliver an hour of perfect storytelling and comedic genius, with a bit of improv thrown in for good measure. Taking us back to their very early years at wrestling school and scout jamboree, we discover how these two incredibly funny guys happened to meet and eventually form the awesome sketch group they are today. But it isn’t all plain sailing as they face their own challenges to be the best wrestlers and scouts they can be. There is pain, sweat, shouting, laughing and all other manner of ridiculousness that we have come to expect from this high energy pair. Is this their last show?! Probably not, but still I wouldn’t take the chance, go and see them NOW!

Catch Max & Ivan at 8.20pm the Pleasance Dome throughout August. Click here for more information and tickets

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