Comedy Acts Star Ratings
- Daniel Downie- ‘Hour of Scotland’ ****
- John O’Brien (Obie)- ‘The Fuck It List’ ****
- Burt Williamson- ‘I’ve Not Heard of You Either’ ****
- Sam Dodgshon (20 minute set) *****
- Alex Farrow- ‘Philosophy Pig’ ****
I have only seen two dreadful shows and not a single so-so, ‘it was fine’, place-holder of a show. Edinburgh is usually up to its yawning parts in those.
To my great delight I have discovered the Scottish Comedy Festival (now in its ninth year but hitherto all but buried under the tsunami of ‘product’ that engulfs the city each August) at the Beehive in Grassmarket. Here you get the killer combination of a great venue, serving good food and decent beers at proper prices, brought to you by lovely staff with a month-long programme of terrific Scottish comedy. Daniel Downie offers an extraordinarily satisfying hour of laughter wrapped around some great Scottish heroes and superheroes, unicorns, a whole lexicon of wonderful Scottish words , a worrying theory about the origins of the Taliban, important information about the dreaded Scottish midgie and some expert political weaponising of Burns’ poetry. It is a wonderful way to spend an Edinburgh hour.
Elsewhere John O’Brien, professionally and affectionately known as Obie continues to be proof that when God created man he might have given the Swedes great beauty and the Kenyans the ability to be the fastest in the world over long distances, but he gave Glaswegians the Funny. The show is not about anything in particular. There is no dramatic twist at the forty minute mark. And it is not going to change your politics. What it will do is give you an hour of pure enjoyment. An hour of laughter and the feeling that you have a new best friend and that he is hilarious. Not sure it gets much better.
If you fancy your laughs al fresco, itinerant, fascinating and educational in ways you could probably never have imagined and yet will absolutely never forget then let Elaine Miller and her interactive vulva take you on a tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town. There is pretty much no publically permitted level on which this extraordinary Scotswoman and her passion for your squidgy bits does not make your life better.
The Holy Grail of the Comedy Fringe has always been, for me, going in to see an act about whom you know nothing whatsoever, ideally one making their Fringe debut and finding comedy wonderful. You can see, especially, the free shows as a sort of one way comedy Tinder. You just flick left till you find something you fancy and take it from there. Tonight I scored. Big time.
Burt Williamson is a public school educated, 26 year old, mild mannered, self confessed nerd who would remind me of Miles Jupp, were it not that he looks so much like Richard Osman. He speaks in a gentle, considered flow of beautifully crafted one liners on unlikely topics, before moving on to colonialism, cress, a marvellously creative campaign in support of Palestine, and The Crazy Frog. None of these topics is milked for its funny in an expectable way. Nothing in the entire show feels predictable, derivative or over-extended. Even sitting here reading my notes I am giggling at the memory sparked by the scribbled words “disrespect, Tesco carrier bag”. The routine to which that note refers is one of the funniest, most unlikely, rudest yet sweetest few minutes of laugh out loud comedy I have seen this year.
While I appreciate that the straight white male is no longer allowed to dominate the comedy stage, I have to confess that, along with Burt, the other two stand ups who impressed me most this year are … also male … and white. I have not asked them about their sexual orientation, but I would guess they probably would struggle to tell a bugle bead from a rhinestone. But Sam Dodgshon and Alex Farrow are two more performers I recommend unreservedly. Well, other than that Sam does not yet have a full show. But the twenty minutes I saw him do at Peter Buckley Hill And Some Comedians – the iconic comedy showcase that started the entire Free Fringe, do NOT attempt to leave Edinburgh without seeing it at least once – was quite brilliant. His grandmother’s DNR documentation is an unlikely source of hilarity, but hilarious it is. Alex Farrow’s Philosophy Pig is another ‘top of the class of ‘21’ show. Yes it does contain philosophy. And some unforgettable pig references. This is a classy, clever hour and although fans of Cardi B might have a bit of a moment, fans of Schrodinger, JS Mill and Nagal, classical masturbation jokes and bats (especially bats) will love it. It is such rich, multi-layered writing that, between this, Sam, Burt and other developing comics like Tom Little having room to play and big audiences to play to, in this New Normal Fringe, I am beginning to warm to Covid …
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