Tag Archives: Nish Kumar

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.

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

The Best Shows at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

28 Jul

The magic is about to start again and it’s time for your annual menu of events from Punchline. It includes some discoveries since last year as well as some classics. No doubt this year’s discoveries will become classics by next year…

 

Larry Dean: Farcissist

Pleasance Courtyard, 7.15pm

Remember the ice challenge on Facebook? Larry Dean is like that on stage; refreshing, surprising and occasionally shriek-inducing. He’s also as soft as a teddy and hard as nails. Larry will be the next comedy superstar. @larrydeancomedy

 

Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do

Banshee Labyrinth, 9.45pm

This is a tricky one to recommend because it’s not your normal comedy show. We don’t often use the word edgy but we will for this boundary-smashing comic. We can’t tell you what it’s about as it will spoil the show but as the man himself said, there will be walk outs. @MrRichardGadd

 

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter

Liquid Room Annexe, 7.50pm

Go and see the “Guilty Feminist” presenter whose podcasts might change your life. She keeps it real and gives you a new angle, reminding you that there’s another way to see the world. If you want to enjoy her wry intelligence ahead of the show, follow her on Twitter @SofieHagen.

 

Adam Hess

Heroes @ The Hive, 4.10pm

Adam Hess is the best supplier of free jokes on Twitter. With his bouncing energy, he is one of the main players in the much needed upcoming comedy yoof. His star is rising, so see him now if you want to show off about it in a few years’ time. @adamhess1

 

Jack Barry

Just the Tonic at The Mash House, 6.40pm

Jack’s self-depreciating, friendly manner belies his clever, occasionally twisted mind. He gives the impression of being your mate as he shares his personal view of the world and you’ll be reminded of what he said for days after the show. If you like a bit of sneaky profundity, he’s your man. @JBazzler

 

Fern Brady: Male Comedienne

The Stand, 12:10pm

We wouldn’t like to get into a fight with Fern Brady but we would kind of enjoy being defended by her. Sharp as a knife, with a style that’s different from other comics, you can’t categorise her in any of the comedy ratpacks. Surf on a new comedy wave with Fern Brady. @FernBrady

 

Casting Call Woe

Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 4.30pm

A privileged glimpse into the crazy world of minor acting roles where lazy scriptwriters let loose all their prejudices at once. The show is based on twitter account and viral blog sensation @ProResting. You’ve got to see it to believe it, and even then you won’t believe it. Each day, a different guest attends to share their most outrageous audition stories, so if you think you’ve had a bad day at work …

 

Burnistoun Live at the Fringe

Gilded Balloon, 9pm (4 – 16 August only)

Get along to this sketch group which pokes fun at the dodgier side of Scottish life. Don’t worry about how to pronounce Bunistonoun – it doesnae exist. A fairly rare opportunity to see these TV guys in an intimate setting. @Burnistoun

 

Then there are Punchline’s ALL TIME favourites:

 

Katherine Ryan (work in progress)

The Stand, 6.05pm (4-13 Aug only)

If you like the thrill of a fairground death-swoop ride and your laughs ripped out of you, Katherine Ryan will give you comedy that is as sharp and as terrifying as her heels. Be among the first to see her brand new material here. @Kathbum

 

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

Pleasance Courtyard, 8pm

Tolkein said that “The most improper job of any man… is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” Nish Kumar argues that comedians should not be politicians but with sparkling charm and wit, he gives you a better commentary on life in the UK than anything on BBC news. He’s also fucking funny. @MrNishKumar

 

Cardinal Burns

Pleasance Courtyard, midnight (23 – 26 August only)

Of course they’ve been on TV, but these guys have hysteria-inducing charisma onstage. Expect high energy comedy from performers who just morph into each new character and blow you away again and again. But remember, don’t try these jokes at home. @CardinalBurns

 

Bridget Christie: Mortal

The Stand, 11am

Beloved Bridget is back, a sort of brisk-mannered guru whose guide to life has audiences of all descriptions in thrall. She’s silly, she’s profound… she’s just what you need to make your morning scintillate. Don’t miss the best part of the day. Originally this was supposed to be work in progress about death ‘but then we voted to leave the EU, which is worse than death, and so I’ve re-written it.’ @BridgetChristie

 

Birthday Girls: Sh!t Hot Party Legends

Pleasance Courtyard, 9.45pm

If you don’t know these gals yet then GET A WIGGLE ON because they are a Fringe fun one stop shop. The title of the show could be a list of word associations to describe their comedy – hot comedy in a party atmosphere with a surprising quantity of jokes about poo. Three legends for the price of one! @BdayGirlsComedy

 

BEASTS Present Mr Edinburgh 2016

Pleasance Dome, 7pm

Oh the delicious anticipation of ruthless competition and monumental, messy arguments as the three lads we know and love tussle to become Mr Edinburgh. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence concur on this; Beasts prove that nice boys are the biggest beasts of all. @BEASTScomedy

 

Luisa Omielan

EICC, 9.30pm (26 & 27 August only)

This show is a rally to joy and a celebration of wanting what we’ve got as well as getting what we want. We want Luisa and we’ve got her right here in Edinburgh, for two nights only! Catch hit shows ‘What Would Beyoncé Do?!’ and ‘Am I Right Ladies?!’ at the EICC @luisaomielan

 

Tom Binns

Assembly George Square, 8pm

Tom Binns is like a bottle of Bollinger. Actually, he IS dry and bubbly, but what we mean is it doesn’t matter how often you go back because you know you’re getting the best. He makes it look effortless but this is world class character comedy. @tombinns

 

Lou Sanders

Pleasance Dome, 8.10pm

Another corker of a title from our favourite meandering meditator. Don’t be deceived by the dippy demeanor. She can and does do whatever she wants and doesn’t give two hoots about what anyone thinks. Happiness is an hour with Lou. @lousanders

 

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Punchline Recommends: Nish Kumar ‘Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever’

25 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Nish Kumar is a truly brilliant comedian, and he is showing Fringe audiences just how good he is with his new show ‘Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever’. As a self-confessed left-wing comedian, Nish covers some very big issues, and he covers them well, bringing humour to personal and pertinent topics.
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Nish Kumar’s show title may throw you off course, dumming down just how clever Nish is for a good laugh. However, Nish really is the smartest man on stage at this year’s Fringe, expertly weaving jokes and pure comedic gold in to his well thought out narrative. Nish puts his points across strongly, but more importantly, keeps the audience continuously laughing from the second he is on stage, to the second he leaves.

Catch Nish Kumar ‘Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever‘ at Pleasance Courtyard Upstairs at 19.15.

Punchline Recommends: Nish Kumar ‘Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity’

17 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar is back at the Fringe to perform his ninth show as the self-confessed “veteran underdog” of the Festival. ‘Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity’ is on in Pleasance Courtyard at 19.15, and is definitely worth a visit.

In his show, Nish discusses what it is to have an opinion, and how we, as a society, predict some people to have certain opinions based upon stereotypes. He opens this discussion with the apt idea of comedy, and how it is perceived by different people in different places to form complete opposite opinions on ‘what is comedy’. From this first mind-bending experience of Nish Kumar’s delivery, I am hooked on every hilarious anecdote.

Nish is a Durham University graduate, and is evidentially a very clever man. Not only are his jokes seriously funny, but they are well-researched, well-written, and perfectly-timed. He doesn’t just observe something funny and relay it to his audience word for word, Nish mixes it with passion and comedic skill in a show filled with laughter from beginning to end.

Nish Kumar ‘Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity‘ is on every night at Pleasance Beside, 19.15.

An Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Interview with Nish Kumar

12 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

The festival is still going strong, and I’ve had the delightful opportunity to speak to some of my favourite comedians for Punchline. Today I’m with Nish Kumar, the “veteran underdog” of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Hello Nish Kumar how are you?
Pretty good thanks friend – how are you? (Bit cold but in love with the Fringe – SF)

Are you enjoying the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Yeah it’s been pretty fun. I’m eating a lot of noodles. Is that weird? (Who doesn’t love noodles? – SF)

Is this your first time at the Festival?
Nope – it’s actually my ninth consecutive year here. They call me the “veteran underdog”.

What have been your highlights so far?
The noodles have been pretty great. Also David Trent has been constantly photographing my every move on his twitter feed.

Without giving too much away, what is your show about?
Opinions – how they are formed and how we express them. It does have jokes in it though.

What have the audience reactions been like so far?
Pretty good. I’m expecting a terrible one any day now.

What other shows do you recommend this year?
Nat Metcalfe, Tom Neenan, Stu Goldsmith, David Trent and Massive Dad.

See Nish Kumar’s act ‘Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity’ at the Edinburgh Festival, 7.15pm in Pleasance Courtyard (Beside) until 24th August. Buy tickets here

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