Edinburgh Fringe day 4 – ever more comedy

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Stewart Lee is the focus of the day and anyone expecting an easy ride from this apex predator in his natural habitat has already been told where to go. Critics and fans alike are told they are “not equipped to review me” and the audience are grouped into fans who are “cackling sycophants” or those dragged in by friends who are the enemy. Blessed anonymity is Lee’s future and his ideal audience will soon be his again. His ideal audience? One that never laughs at anything he says but can form break-away discussion groups.

Those days of small rooms aren’t coming back, and no amount of snarling at 4-star Telegraph reviews bringing in “all cunts for the rest of the month” is going to derail the success Lee is experiencing and nor should it on the face of his new show, billed a work in progress, as they always are. Today’s show had a tight half hour about the insanity that comes from chasing awards and centres around Graham Norton winning a BAFTA over his Comedy Vehicle. In true Stew style, he builds up a small annoyance into a hurricane of vanity and bitter rage. Why is Norton allowed to accept the award and why aren’t people stopping him getting to the stage? What begins as Lee seeming a little bemused that his show didn’t win ends with him outraged that a show where people mostly just go “yeah, I am in a film” and is it possible that chatting can be funnier than he, a proper comedian? It’s excellent stuff.

Even better is his discussion of the prostitutes behind his house and the ways in which he needs to become creative in telling his kids what the condoms at the bottom of the garden really are. He weaves this into a narrative about money and how it changes everything in life. Without his and his wife’s run of success, they’d not have a garden for prostitutes to throw condoms into, so the story has a partially political slant as he counts all the ways that his sources of income are all being demolished by our evil government.

For the second half, Lee recycles some jokes about Islam – which are of course hideously politically correct. We find Lee showing real outrage towards Quakers and the way they live their lives. The point being that you may as well be angry at thee Quakers if you’re going to pick on a religion, surely? Nobody seems to care about those guys.

Where Lee has excelled for a long time is in his ability to make us look at our own prejudices and even better, helps us see how his repetition of themes and flashing the inner workings of comedy at us help create something so much more nourishing than simple stand up. On this showing, he might not be the funniest comic in the UK, but he’s untouchable in intellect and narrative form.

Stewart Lee – A Room with a Stew at Assembly Rooms until 31st August – 2.15pm



My biggest Fringe surprise was Simon Munnery’s Fylm School, held in a smelly pub reminiscent of the pub from Trainspotting…


Lovely loo

The surprise wasn’t just how awful the venue was, but how brilliant the show was. Munnery has a great mind for the absurd and instead of appearing on a stage, chooses to have us seated facing a screen. He is projected from the back of the room, using a camcorder that he skillfully alternates between his face and the many cartoons he has drawn on the table. It is a strangely effective way of communicating to us – even though he is not performing directly to us, we all see an exploded view of him, giving a sense of intimacy. The contrast to this, of course, is the absence of comedians at venues like the 02 where all the video screens in the world can’t make them appear anything but very remote and distant.

Lolly Adefope has gained rather a lot of attention at Edinburgh this year, all totally justified on tonight’s showing of her character Gemma – a first-time stand up who has drinks “Red wine no ice” and is a study in tragic comedy. Gemma is all wide-eyed wonder at the world around her, desperately trying to find out what a Vajazzle is and confused as to why “women have to sit down to pee but men never call you back”. We’ve seen these comic characters plenty before, but Gemma feels like a fresh creation, partly down to the sheer exuberance of the performance. Lolly’s full show is based around 5 characters who all are hitting the stand up circuit for the first time and reviews suggest each is fully formed and worth seeing. I can’t wait to see the rest!

 Rhys James is apparently all over Twitter and uses the form of Fylm Show well by imagining famous last words on Twitter. It is said that Oscar Wilde’s last words were “either those curtains go or I do” but here, it’s suggested that Wilde repeated this phrase non-stop for 12 years, so mad was he. Twitter gives you the perfect way to have your final word and James hits on a great idea in his short segment. There’s an air of cockiness and vulnerability in his set and alongside Munnery and Adefope is very funny.

 Flym School is something I will be returning to again. It was genuinely the funniest hour I had at the Fringe.

 Simon Munnery’s Fylm School at Heroes @ The Hub until 31st August at 19.40

For just a fiver, you can catch some of the best acts at the Fringe perform short sets from their shows. A seriously good two hours showing just how many talented comics are at the Fringe.

Best of Hub at Pleasance Dome Aug 26 at 22.00

Edinburgh day 1 – What a Rush!

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This is my third visit to the beautiful city of Edinburgh but my first at the festival, and day one was a wonderful rush! Arriving at the airport and onto the cursed tram, which was smooth and pleasant, offering no idea why it cost over £375m over budget!

A walk through the city to get to Richmond Apartments is a reminder that grey weather does not bestow upon Edinburgh great beauty, but all the same you feel like you’ve arrived somewhere important. It’s a glorious city and the buzz of the festival adds to the atmosphere.

Collecting tickets on the high street ticket office makes things as simple as possible, allowing you more time to develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you emerge back out into the throng of everything. 

To the left of me was a woman dressed as a witch banging a drum, a cacophony of bagpipes rising from the east, a phalanx of ticket jockeys. Everyone was friendly – handing out leaflets without being pushy. All around, posters for shows are pasted to all available open space; it’s a fantastic spectacle that can feel a little overwhelming. In two minutes you’ll see more happening than a city would have in a day. 

Our first show was at the Pleasance Dome. Adam Riches has moved on from performing a sketch-based show to what he describes as a sport movie on stage. Opening with a mash up of three major film studio themes merged into one, it’s evident that Riches isn’t going to lose his comedy touch, but Coach Coach is more about farcical drama than it is about comedy. The premise is simple, sort of. Coach Coach has a family who love Volfsball, but Coach isn’t any good at getting his team to win, not helped by a player with two left hands. Luckily a new player comes on the scene, able to whip up excitement and passion because he’s… a wolf. The opposite team are the centaurs, featuring a player who only communicates by finger clicks and arm movements and a mannequin. There’s also an appearance by Richard Gadd.

At times, the storytelling gets in the way and shows a script that could be tighter. Some jokes fall flat and others work a treat, but when Riches let the cast roam around the audience, things perk up and chaos is controlled but hugely enjoyable. The ending shows the skills that Riches has for audience participation, his ability at bringing storylines together and generating excitement in the audience. Coach Coach is weaker than ‘Bring me the head of Adam Riches’ which won at Edinburgh in 2011, but few comics could pull off a sports movie on stage that is as dynamic as this. He is a natural team player and doesn’t dominate a show peppered with enough gags to make for a highly enjoyable if not spectacular evening. 

At the Pleasance Courtyard Beside venue we caught Twins do a free midnight show. Free is hugely underselling the show, full of quick wit, shambolic sketches and introduced by my favourite new comic duo, Wack and Wanny who the Twins keep trying to kill.

The show is based on Jack’s bucket list that he must complete before he dies (he has until the end of the hour) and through the magic of imagination he goes to Vegas “it’s Vegas baby, roll the dice!” “I don’t wanna!”, sees the Northern lights in Northern England, hunts down a dastardly Mexican who tells everyone they’re rubbish and gets involved with a Pony Club. The Pony Club is particularly sharp, and who doesn’t want to see audience members ride comedians round a racetrack made with plungers?

The Twins have so much enthusiasm and joy in their work that the hour flew by far too quickly. A definite highlight.

Twins at Pleasance Courtyard Beside until Sunday 30th August – Midnight

Adam Riches is Coach Coach at Pleasance Dome until August 30th – 21.45