Chocolate Socialist (braisedbywolves) wrote,
Chocolate Socialist

Fringe: five star shows.

In chronological order seemed like a good idea, and has a nice twist.

Josie Long - Trying Is Good But not as sickly or twee as you might expect from some of her terrible interviews. She's fierce about what she loves, and about finding something to love in people who pour effort into the things they do, no matter how pathetic or wrong-headed. She's also an astonishing mimic (or possibly just a really good mimic that knows her limits), and can slip into other skins ("characters" suggests that there's supposed to be something intrinsically funny about them, which there isn't) really well. And through it all a search for an idea for what you do after you win the Best New Act, which is that you love stuff, and encourage others to love it too, with photocopied zines for programmes if possible.

This was my first show in Edinburgh, and her preview at the previous Sunday Night Adventure Club was almost certainly the last one I saw before I went up, but even so watching a set that I'd seen 90% of was still fantastic, and the additions were lovely too - particularly a bullet of pathos in a section about crushing snails. The preview even had a section at the end where she asked us for any feedback, particularly because there were a few things that might have seemed mean if you didn't get the joke immediately, and she was quite worried about that. Which is very Josie, she tries to make everyone feel included - which will exclude some, but they've probably made their minds up anyway.

This was also an early start to the suspicion that I should not be sat near my friends, less we set off a laughter cascade and destroy the universe. Co-culprit this time: curiousbadger.

Wil Hodgson - Straight Outta Chippenham

Wil's always been twinned with Josie in my head, because the first time I went down to her comedy club the theme was Punk and D.I.Y, and he was the final guest. He stood up, a sweating pink-mohawked chubby leopardskin wearing mascaraed weirdo, and talked for an hour or so about being a skin head and (briefly) a wrestler and in a marching band, and how he'd basically come to realise that he was "a failure as a man", and now he's pretty happy with this. He was electrifying, even though it was technically speaking short on actual gags.

This year's set is just an evening out in Chippenham, a tour of the place and the people found in it, local characters and ghosts from the past and a man on the casual racism diet. Funny and honest and absolutely unstealable.

Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamill - The Gently Progressive Behemoth

I'd never heard of them before (though I think I saw Luke do some of this at one comedy club or another), but several people repped for them, and so they were one of the tickets I booked on the Sunday, for as it turns out the following morning. They're playing in the Wee Room in the Gilded Balloon, which must be one of the smallest venues there (30 seater? If that?), and they start the gig (which I'm in late to for annoying reasons) in the audience. The show reminds me of that burst of mid-nineties childrens TV presenters, surface serious in the centre of mayhem of their own making, letting you into the joke while keeping it working (there's a microphone stand in the tiny ante room between the Wee Room and the main building, and every once in a while one of them will find an excuse to leave the room, and shortly afterwards a voiceover will occur due to some reason or other), and completely inventive. Also fond of bringing the audience into the act, and playing with the question of whether this lot are plants or not. They could save kids TV, if you believe.

Stewart Lee - 41st Best Stand-Up Ever!

He's first and foremost not the Stewart Lee he was 10 years ago - at the Lee and Herring 15-minute re-union last year he complained at one point that the dynamic of the act is shot to hell now that it's two fat guys. He's still a master of taking an audience through an exploded view of a joke, and slowing down a bit actually helps here, he drags the mike stand around in lazy arcs while he makes 10 minutes of gold out of a Tom O'Connor oneliner, circling like a very bored shark, taking occasional bites before wandering away again and back until the vicious end. He's also of course someone who loves how jokes work, which will always get me hooked, and this time it's me and drasticsturgeon and actual comedian Andrew O'Neill who, sitting down the front, take up the Making Lots of Laffing duties. This is duly noted (starting after we get a Watcher gag, FFS) and the rest of the audience is invited to ask "The Hardcore" afterwards if there are any jokes they don't understand. Erk.

Mark Watson's 24hour Jamboree to Save The Planet

I believe I have covered this.

Adam Hills - Joymonger

As recommended by Carsmile in his Edinburgh review last year that started me down this path in the first place. He's a really good comedian, also occasional star of the 24 hour show, and a generally likeable guy in the way that some Australians can pull off. He starts the show by walking through the audience, picking people to talk to, climbing up to the top of the three-tiered auditorium. At the top, he finds some white Barbadians in, and tries to convince them to sing their national anthem, which they refuse with good grace (in fairness it is astonishingly bad). He gently upbraids them with the claim that if there were any Americans present, they'd sing theirs, at which point two yanks stand up and give the most spirited rendition of a national anthem I've ever seen. Adam recognises one of them as a comedian, asks him when his show's on, and tells us to all go see it. One quick sprint around the backstage later, he's ready to start, and two kids yell something from a few rows back. He gets them to repeat it ("Barbados sucks"), then recognises their father as another professional amuser, and tells us to go see his show as well (about half an hour after the yank's ends, so that's all right). Then for some reason, I think maybe wanting to ask a question from a punter, he engages a local called Dougie from the front row:

"Will you be able to help me, Dougie?"
"You won't have to take your clothes off."
"...No. But I can't get down there easily (there's a slight drop to the seats)"
"Okay, you won't have to move"
"(laughing) I really don't think we're on the same page here Dougie"
"That's alright, I've used my best lines."
"(laughing quite hard for a bit) .... and where's your show, Dougie?
"I'm opening for Adam Hills."

Which is a roundabout way of picking out what makes Adam Hills great: he's just been completely shown up by a character in the front row, and he LOVES it. When he can speak again, he declares that this is the best show he's done so far, then realises he still has 40 minutes to do 60 minutes of material in. He plows through it, a great show with lovely gems (Welsh Dragon Sausages being banned for misleading advertising) in a general theme. Which is (AGAIN) learning to be excellent to each other. For all his confidence and demeanour, he's every bit as committed to it as Josie Long with her badges and zines. Including at the end, where he says no really, let's all go and see those guys shows, tonight!

Andrew Maxwell - Waxin'

The Fullmooners' compere, and someone that I know from some experience has material about anyone and anything. My mate Paul's producing this, and gleefully showed me the review in the metro that praised him for keeping Max on track when he could clearly shoot off at any point. Based on the previews I saw (and the ton of 'Mooners) there only seems to be the one tangent tonight, about a gig up in Derry that used to attract Irish and British comedians - the Irish wouldn't do much better than the Brits, but they went up just to see them lose the crowd with the first welcoming line. The rest of it is solid gold - convincing his son he's a vampire, meeting the Taoiseach in a pub four days after calling him a motherfvcker on national television, a text message he's received from the IRA on a professional matter, the tensions in the first man arrested for inciting terror between being a jihadi and an 4rsehole from Peckham - it's stuff I've seen before (well I did go to a preview), but it's been pared down and fattened up, and I can definitely see how my mate earns his money.

Robin Ince - Knew This Would Happen

Another compere, this time off Book Club, and another man with a wide range of interests - only this time there's no particular order, he just rants about dinosaurs and evolution and the Daily Mail until I can't really breathe and then he announces that he has two minutes left to do the last 30 minutes of material. I wish I'd seen him earlier, as I can easily imagine seeing him twice and getting different shows (he is only slightly annoyed when he tells us that he's only actually hit the proper end of his set twice the whole run). I remember he was actually the opening act, that first Sunday Night Adventure Club.

Maxwell's Fullmooners 18th Aug - Reginald D Hunter, Ed Byrne, more Ed Byrne

And this was my last show, my fourth Edinburgh 'Mooners. They're never less than entertaining, thanks to Andrew Maxwell's commitment to entertainment - he's not joking when he says that they got two five star reviews, but the problem is that they're a seven star show. Okay, he is actually joking, that being his job, but you get the idea. A few days ago the local breakdancers pulled out and he attempted one of their best tricks (Run up wall, backflip off) himself: showmanship meant that his attempts filled the same amount of time as the breaking, though he's been pissing blood since.

But anther large part of my enjoyment is that, like my first one a week ago, I've brought friends along - my friend Nessa who moved over a few years ago, her boyfriend Gavin, and John who's also over from Dublin but more temporarily. Between the previous three Mooners and his solo show, I've seen Maxwell's "Who here's from the furthest away?" patter a few times, so I'm delighted by it's derailment - we seem to have no Aussies or Kiwis at all tonight, so it's up to the Dublin Nortsoide, Germany ("Did I hear you right, friend, are you actually comedy gold?") and eventually Japan to cover this section.

Then it's on with the show - Reginald Hunter isn't playing his own set, he's even looser and funnier, and sticks in the middle, rather than the end, a big serious question with a viciously childish punchline. After that it's the big guest, Ed Byrne, who does more or less the same set that he did a few days earlier at the Amnesty gig - though since that's the only other gig he's doing the whole festival, fair enough. And it is in fairness completely killer material, with his "Now some have called me blasphemous" line probably the joint funniest thing I've heard all festival (tied, bizarrely, with Steve Hughes also at Fullmooners).
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