How about that for a snappy title? I must still be under the influence of all these politically aware (leftie) comedians I’ve been going to see. Though, out of all them, no-one as yet has mentioned the most striking element of Edinburgh’s current visual landscape – the huge, monolith-like ad-boards strapped to every lamp-post, traffic-light-post and available garden railing in the city centre; on them the gods of yesteryear – Alan Davies, Frank Skinner and the rest – gaze down on us flanked by comments like ‘the funniest thing you will ever see’ and ‘life-changing’. It’s proper old school propaganda – don’t bother with the new wee guys – we’re the real deal. Don’t believe them! Get yourselves out to the Free Fringe and discover the brilliant new talent that is out there.
That’s the hegemony, now the money. You’ve heard the old chestnut – that Tory scandals are always to do with sex and Labour/socialist ones are always about money? Socialists are obsessed with money maybe because we (yes, I do include myself) don’t start out with much of it. Keeping that in mind we’ve devised a little game to be played at the Free Fringe: when the show ends and the inevitable happens – ‘This is the Free Fringe, but… ‘ and the bucket is produced, try and guess what will be said next. In the vast majority of cases the performer will be charming and funny and say ‘give what you can / what you think it was worth’. However, in my experience, any show that is of a political or leftie nature (I haven’t actually seen any right-wing political stuff as yet) they will always – always – put a price on it. ‘Shows up the road are charging £15, so…’; ‘A drink costs £4, so give me the price of a drink’ ‘; ‘What can you buy for £10 these days?’ I guess they probably expect their audiences to be the well-heeled middle-classes and whilst they may have the interests of the poor and downtrodden at heart, it’s like they don’t actually expect them to be at a Fringe show. Seriously though and that aside if you see a Free Fringe show and the performers don’t seriously piss you off and you don’t get into a fight with anyone, always try and give something. And if you’re really on the breadline – just tell the performer you liked the show (if you did!) and say you’ll recommend them through the usual channels. Going back to my initial point, maybe it’s just as well right-wing nut-jobs don’t tend to put on shows as I can guess what their lines would be like – ‘Don’t worry about the money, my dear – you can pay me in kind… ‘
Talking of money – Aaaargh! It’s the Monster Stand-up show (until 24th Aug, 15.00 @ Jekyll & Hyde pub) is terrific value. Five comedians in one hour hosted by your genial – if slightly wasted – host Masai Graham – who brings you the equally value-for-money Aaaaargh! 101 Jokes in 30 minutes (see my earlier review) at the same venue later that day.
First off was Jon Pearson – imagine going to see your bank manager and he starts telling you about his marriage break-down; not in a melt-down kind of way but matter-of-fact interspersed with twisted little barbs of petty revenge. Coupled with tales of going to weight-watchers and starting to date again – it’s perfect fare for anyone who has ever split up with anyone. For the full story you’ll have to see him at WNCLUB on George Street @ 12.30, until 23rd Aug.
Next up was Nicole Henriksen – whimsical, charming and slightly bonkers – her show is called Rainbow Rabbits with Rabies (Bar 50 @ 23.00 until 11th Aug); which kinda gives a ‘something nasty lurking in the sugar-bowl’ impression… interesting. Potentially risky abortion joke ending – bold!
Freddie Farrell is also appearing the same venue immediately after this show as well as The Counting House (22.30 until 24th Aug). Name, looks and voice all have good comedy potential; reminded me a bit of Johnny Vegas but with actual comedy material! Effective routines including a tale about remonstrating with would-be gangsters.
Dane Baptiste was probably the slickest member of the line-up with a ticketed show (17.30 @ The Pleasance) and numerous telly appearances. Assured routines about friends and their pretentious pronunciation of McDonalds meals (‘feelay of fish’). Good stuff.
Last up was Jay Handley; looks like Jesus; slightly sad-sack style with tales of folding his business to pursue his dream of doing stand-up. Nice laid-back style with sketches of everyday scenarios where paranoia creeps in (bus seat etiquette). Catch him at The Dragonfly @ 22.10 until 23rd Aug.
Caught Kate Smurthwaite in her new show Lefite Cock Womble (I’ll let her explain the title at Viva Mexico every day at 17.00 until 23rd Aug (not 12th)). Now, I support pretty much everything Kate stands for but when I go to see her I feel like I’m stuck in one of those middle-class dinner parties that used to feature in Bremner, Bird and Fortune. I also want to subvert the Voltaire quote: ‘I agree with everything you have to say but probably wouldn’t feel the need to defend you’. The show starts, as usual with Kate, with the ‘who’s got a nice job and who’s got an evil job?’ routine. Fair enough, but I get the feeling if I came out as a non-skilled minimum wage earner there would have been an embarrassed silence followed by being given the address of the nearest food-bank. As it was, the show I was at had Kate’s super-fan in the front row and a nice chat about his nice job ensued, so that was – nice. Come to think of it he may have been the same guy from the day before at The Michael Gove Expose but I can’t be sure… I’m sorry if this is sounding a bit mean – I like Kate and her bold defence of important issues like feminism, socialism, freedom of speech – but shows like this are always going to be a bit of a leftie love-in. However Kate does get my daily ‘most brazen appeal for inflated remuneration by a socialist performer’ award by saying ‘you would pay ten or fifteen pounds for a show like this… ‘ yeah, okay, have heard that one before – then ‘if you’re unemployed or really struggling for money… let’s call it two pounds!’ I wouldn’t have minded but this was following on from her detailed description of a particular lobster-guzzling, all-expenses-paid TV gig that she received as the regular go-to-girl for a leftie quote. Move over Tony Blair – that’s all I can say!