FRINGE fixtures – and firm favourites (that’s quite enough alliteration, Ed.) – Foil Arms and Hog have sold out their Edinburgh run every year since their debut back in 2009.
And judging by the fact the McEwan Hall, one of the biggest venues available in the festival, was bursting at the seams when I saw them that record isn’t about to end.
The majority of the crowd appeared to be ardent fans, too, as they enthusiastically responded to the trio’s exhortation to sing the theme song to which they like to take the stage.
By that point, however, they’d already spent 10 minutes fooling about with the audience, helping themselves to props they’d later employ but – as became increasingly apparent – scoping out appropriate victims, er, volunteers for later.
Make no mistake, audience participation is a big part of a FAH show and, as the recorded message before any show by The Boy With Tape On His Face warns, don’t refuse or you’ll look like a dick.
Reluctance was never going to be a problem this time round, though. Indeed, at times the boys almost had to kick their over-enthusiastic temporary cast-mates off the stage such was their enjoyment of the audience’s whooping and hollering.
Everyone was along for a good time, and as the viewing figures for the likes of Father Ted and Mrs Brown’s Boys demonstrate, there’s a huge appetite in this country for Irish comedy.
FAH have more in common with the latter than the former, being all about broader, mass-appeal comedy than the on-the-surface normal but actually deeply weird priestly sitcom set on Craggy Island.
The lads, though absolute masters of what they do, aren’t pushing the comedy boundaries but that’s not what their fans want them to do.
There is a terrific flight of fancy with Jerry and Mary, though, a bickering married couple who just happen to be suitcases but when you forget that fact this skit could have been written and performed by the Two Ronnies four decades ago (not that not being cutting edge has held the aforementioned Mrs Brown’s Boys back at all).
For my money, the best bits were when one of the three would deviate from the script or something wouldn’t go quite right as the subsequent sniping between the three reminded me of watching Bottom live, when the anarchic Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall would intentionally try to put each other off to joyous effect.
It’s a good, solid hour-plus of comedy and I certainly laughed a lot more than on my previous visit to McEwan Hall, to graduate back in 1991.
But, as Columbo used to say, there’s just one thing. As a journo and sub-editor of 25 years’ standing, that lack of a comma in their name makes me want to set fire to commemorative tea towels.
Foil Arms and Hog: Hogwash, 21.15, Underbelly Bristo Square, August 5 – 28,