Chocolate Socialist (braisedbywolves) wrote,
Chocolate Socialist
braisedbywolves

Edinburgh: The Truth!

(Rolls up sleeves) This will be as short as I can make it, which will not be very short. I spent some time havering about the stars, so a lot of the middle here could change a bit if you ask me tomorrow. Or today, but I'm not letting myself change the marks.

THIS IS A JOURNEY INTO TL;DR, just so you know.


Five Stars: amazing, go and see them, one of these per day is the reason I go up.


  • John Gordillo: Divide & Congo: I was alerted to this via text by curiousbadger about a half-hour before. He'd agreed to dig out last year's show for the Five Pound Fringe, on a 'It might not be great, but it's fine quid' basis. It was GREAT. It was notionally about trying to understand the ideal of fundamentalism through considering his father, a hard-left Spaniard, but his father is a runaway character, and it turns into and hour-plus about their relationship. He plays both parts, of course, but the strength of personality and mannerisms seriously makes it appear as if there's some actual physical transformation when he drops (or rather rises) into the incandenscent character. Also it's clear, whatever is happening in the stories being told, that Girdillo couldn't do it if he didn't have a deep love for the his father. I still have no idea where the title comes from, though
  • Gagarin Way: From the Comedians Theatre Company, of whom more in a while. A taut story of a heist gone wrong, set in Dunfermline, in fairly uncompromising accents, not least from Canadian Phil Nichol, who is impossible to keep your eyes off while he's on with his jumped up, read up, senior security guard. Also reminded me of jinxremoving's stories about how it's quite difficult to maintain any sense of offense at the use of the word 'cunt' in Edinburgh - it's noticable in all the dialogue that when someone's being described as a clever or lucky or intransigent cunt, the emphasis is on the second last word, because that's where the informational content of the phrase lies.
  • Mould & Arrowsmith's Inventions: This is kind of cheating, as I know that I can't really give any kind of a 'five star' enjoyment-or-your-money-back guarantee, as some of you (notably whatsagirlgotta and her chap) saw it and did not at all like it. But then, I don't really think they'll be doing a nationwide tour, so. The criticisms did make me think a bit about what I do like about comedy. Three things that are definitely on the list are Shambolicism, An interest in dissecting jokes (see also: Stewart Lee), and playfulness. So when I say that this show features:
    • An opening 'individually taped' welcome film being projected on the back screen, where the bits of the show that vary actually coincide with one of the two leads accidentally obscuring their mouth: "Hello and welcome to" (takes sip of coffee) (Voice from offstage: "Saturday's!") "..show!"
    • The old repeating-words question with an answer of "James, where John had had 'had', had had 'had had'"
    • A contest between them as to who was better, which would be decided! Tonight!
    • A list of previous contests, all funny, but only produced long enough for anyone in the audience to see half of them.
    • But this would be decided tonight! By who had the best invention. Gemma has brought a pipe cleaner donkey! Steve has brought a working time machine!
    • A working time machine with a USB cable!
    • A USB cable that causes Steve's laptop to pop up a regulation window saying 'installing drivers for: Time Machine'
    • Their little faces when this gets a laugh.
    • A look back on their reviews, though Gemma notes, that The List, where the Scotsman had had "had had 'had', had had 'had had'", had had "had had 'had', had had 'had'", which is just typical, isn't it?
    • Actually, yeah, also actual tongue twisters crudely shoehorned into the act. You don't like that, well fuck you, that's what!
    • An emotional and logically consistent ending.

  • Pappy's Fun Club's World Record Attempt: 200 Sketches in 1 Hour: An overarching plot, lots of little jokes, out of shape men with not enough clothes on. Tick!
  • Daniel Kitson at the Stand: How Daniel Kitson knew that I'd been having worrying pangs of "Oh no someday I will die and that will be it" I don't know, but it was very nice of him to do a hundred-minute show entirely about that, and to have lots of jokes in it too.
  • Stewart Lee: If You Prefer A Milder Comedian, Please Ask For One: The one-minute tossed-off evisceration of Frankie Boyle would be worth the price alone, but it's the amazing second half that really made me love him. He's the best at what he does, and he has taken quite solemn and moving stories with a repeated absurd element to the level of an absolute art form. And you can see where the absurd element is eventually going to go, and it's still brilliant. My line from two years ago about "circling like a very bored shark, taking occasional bites before wandering away again and back until the vicious end", is very much still in effect. There then follows the oddest end to a show I think I've ever seen*, but it doesn't really matter.




Four Stars: good to great jokes, not a foot wrong, just didn't set me on fire.


  • Iszi Lawrence: Part of the Free Fringe, in a venue called Espionage, which is basically a downstairs pub - a square room with a square bar in the centre. Some lairy drunks (at 3pm!) in the other corner to her take the edge off, but her jokes and delivery are still great.
  • Phil Kay - Oh Edinburgh: He has many great tales to tell, gets them all out (as part of his advice for how you, yes, you should definitely do an Edinburgh show). Two highlights are storming Edinburgh castle naked, and using his flyer as photo ID at an airport.
  • Wil Hodgson: Punk Folk Tales: Still lovely. Sitting him at a table with a pint rather than at the mike staring straight ahead for the duration probably makes a difference to some, but I heart him anyway.
  • The List Operators: Some really good jokes, but also just a great double-act chemistry. Also how to speak Australian in four words.
  • Randy's Postcards from Purgatory: Muppet tells tale of sorry descent into drinks and being a P.I. Probably amazing if you've never seen Avenue Q.
  • Adam, Jason & Friends: Soweto Gospel Choir as one of the guests! David O'Doherty as another! I have annoyingly forgotten the others. Mess. Hills and Byrne do their thing between acts.
  • David O'Doherty: arrived late, but generally upbeat semi-musical comedy from a man with a small plastic keyboard. Some overlap with the above, but so it goes.
  • Geraldine Quinn in Hex and the City: excellent musical about how Geraldine doesn't deserve to be killeded as a witch simply for being ginger childless and over 30.
  • Celia Pacquola in Am I Strange?: a show about a breakup which goes through the cliches with an axe in the first few minutes, and is funny and clever for the rest of the time.
  • Robin Ince - Bleeding Heart Liberal: Yum yum Robin Ince. This is last years show, and seeing this and his live show and the other one all in the same day did feel like 'every funny thing Robin Ince has said in the last two years'. Turns out they're still funny.
  • Bec Hill in: If You Can Read This, My Cape Fell Off: Superheroes! What happens when you decide to be one! Puns!
  • Dinosaur Planet: Of the many mediums that 'Sci-fi epic about space dinosaurs returning to earth' might be adapted for, you might think that 'man with acoustic guitar' would be at the bottom of the list. BUT YOU'D BE WRONG! M.J. Hibbett has put a lot of thought and passion into giving you the full and quite funny experience.
  • Sarah Bennetto is Lucky: Some of the luck she makes, some of it is just ridiculously jammy.
  • Glenn Wool: Let Your Hands Go: Evil genius finds vague narrative framework on which to display his last year's jokes.
  • Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Return Letter To Richard Branson: A simple train journey that changed our laws. I have proven this by science to be not as funny when told by people who aren't Tom Wrigglesworth.
  • Storytellers' Club: Comedians telling stories. This was about Edinburgh, so some of them were quite frankly telling stories out of school, which is obviously great.
  • Micky Flanagan: Spiel: I don't know quite what it is that I like about Mr Flanagan, perhaps it's the complicated scenarios that he is Observational about. This was in one of the big ugly portaloos that half the venues in Pleasance seem to be, and half way through he opened the 'back door' and a door back stage, declaring that in his experience, if there's one thing the English like, it's a through-draft.



Three and a half stars: should be great but held back by something
Most of these are actually just 'quite good' and interchangable with the three-star ones. Of note:


  • Hugh Hughes in ... 360: How he dealt (out of necessity) with a hyperactive child before the show started really undermined his character of a hyperactive man-child, and without you believe that, no show
  • Adam Hills - Inflatable: The regular material was quite good, but he'd just come from the 24-hour show, and brought some young women over with him. So he took a 12-year-old from the crowd and got him to sit in the middle of them, while they game the kid back massages and other slightly skeevy stuff. I left just before the end, before a punter's suggestion of 'get them to kiss him' was enacted.
  • Eleanor Tiernan - Trouble: I love her jokes, I hate her delivery, which just appeared terrified and stuttery.
  • Maxwell's Fullmooners: Glenn Wool: Tick! Naked Cuban Brothers wrestling: No Tick!
  • Symphonic Mayhem: I'd never seen martylog's stuff with an orchestra behind him, it was great! The bits where the bandleader of the other accordion-led orchestra in the world took over weren't so awesome. Amanda Palmer arrive after a while and made sure everyone knew it, laughing louder and clapping longer than anyone else. She got up and did a song she'd recorded with the other orchestra, based off Harry Nilsson's 'One'. It turns out that (for me) doing something that invites direct comparison with Aimee Mann is not a particularly wise move for her.



Three Stars: solidly entertaining but nothing more

  • Janeane Garofalo: Bill Hicks has a lot to answer for.
  • Phil Kay - London Aye!: This could've been a good show, but some dude was texting on his way into the show, so Phil walked behind him miming a text all the way to his seat. The dude then kept on texting for the next FIFTEEN MINUTES, until Phil Kay sat behind him and sang a song suggesting that it might be disrespectful. His notoriously wandering attention was completely shot after that.
  • Andrew O'Neill: Occult Comedian: Comedy's good (though I've seen him more than most in the last 12 months, it's a bit familiar) and the magic lesson is interesting but at odds with the rest of the show.
  • The School for Scandal: Comedians do panto. Bridget Christie wields her two accents well, Phil Nichols appears to be impersonating Rowan Atkinson.
  • Martin White: Accordions of the Gods?: The best show made in powerpoint and photoshop in about as long as it took to perform it.



Two Stars: this wasn't fun, though possibly it might be in future


  • Moore & Metcalfe: one of them (Metcalfe) was recommended by Josie Long, and is basically funny in a way that Richard Herring no longer has to be. He does appear to beat beating a joke to death to death, mind. I honestly don't remember much about the other one, except that he wielded the great geek humour mistake of confusing referring to something with making a joke about it. The compere, James Acaster, was considerably the funniest of the lot.
  • News At Kate: This is information dragging me down: From the moment that Kate Smurthwaite mentions the Rev'd George Hargreaves, leader of the Christian Party, halfway through her current(-ish) events related set, I knew that the one great fact about Mr Hargreaves (he wrote and produced Sinitta's So Macho) was on the way, and when it turned out to be the punchline of the entire thing, I felt a little let down.
  • Sean Hughes: What I Meant To Say Was...: Sean Hughes is Getting Old. So he has done a set about Getting Old. Why has no-one ever thought of this before?



One Star: avoid at all costs


  • Act on downstairs late at night in the Gilded Teviot: I went to this because a Facebook Friend was in it. A lot of the promotional material was her and her female costar being naked EG up on Arthur's Seat. There were all of eight people there, counting me. The show was dreadful comedy with occasional dreadful songs and dreadful audio conversation while they went for costume changes. During one of these, a punter fled. They did stay clothed throughout, with occasional 'is it time yet?' 'no not yet' conversations. At the end, they came out and thanked us, and also thanked their technician, and said that we should be proud of the technician, at which point it became clear that of the six people in the audience who weren't me, four of them were the tech's family, who had come down and suffered in silence while he did his thing. And were still there for the 'twist': after the show ended, the girls disappeared backstage, then came on naked and took their gear offstage. It was kind of amazingly misconceived on every level.
  • F*cking Funny For A Fiver: A multi-act show, it was late, I was tired, sometimes shows don't get second chances. A bunch of chatty theatre people, off work and looking for somewhere to drink, were sitting at a table in the underpub that this was held in, it was clear that the compere would have to act to contain them or that the dynamic between them and the acts would come to dominate the rest of the show, which might be unfair to the other acts. He stepped to the breach, and called the a bunch of fucking bitches. I didn't really see how that ended, as a gambit.
  • Charlie Chuck, Uncle Peter and Me: This really is entirely my fault, I went from 'I recognise that name' to putting him in the sodding schedule and buying a sodding ticket without at any point thinking to find out if a little jostling of my memories would prove him to be any good. He wasn't.
  • Spank: I went down to this three hour extravaganza after missing the first hour due to seeing John Gordillo, who you may remember all those aeons ago. It was infernally hot, the comperes were rubbish, the first act I saw was shite.



*Not counting Tommy Cooper
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