Luca Cupani: It’s Me!

Some comedians have an indefinable quality. That certain je ne sais quoi. Something you can’t quite put your finger on but you know you like it. Here we go though – I’ll have to try and describe how good Luca Cupani is so I can convince you to get along to see his show before the run ends on Sunday. Oh – and it may be helpful to Luca himself as the big question he’s been pondering of late is ‘who am I?’

To start with – Luca is a class act. But the great thing about being in his company is that you never feel he’s acting. He has trained in the dramatic arts though so he’s either the most brilliantly naturalistic actor ever or he’s just being himself. I suspect the latter.

Open, guileless, refreshingly honest – Luca’s material is always a seamless match with his engaging personality. He’ll start off innocently enough – telling you what he’s been up to in the past year. This time around it’s been getting one of those DNA tests to find out his ethnic origins. Disappointingly – for him – it turns out he’s mostly Italian, with some British and a hint of Kazakhstan. Soon though we’re heading into raunchier territories with nude photo shoots and (sort of) group sex. Although Luca – as usual – isn’t getting any of the action.

Okay – big ticks for material and personality. But here’s the difficult part – trying to define the idiosyncratic beauty of a Luca Cupani show. A lot of it has to do with the structure and the rhythm. It’s a bit like being on one of those fairground rides which starts off gently and gradually picks up speed until you’re being flung (mentally, in this case) in all directions. Slowing down now and again, giving you time to breathe and think: did he really say that? And more to the point – did he really do that?

I’ve been thinking of who Luca reminds me of. Maybe a touch of Roberto Benigni – but with far better control of the manic tendencies. Ultimately though – Luca doesn’t need any comparisons, personality tests or horoscopes to confirm who he is. He’s a gifted story-teller and comedian, and an hour or so in his company is worth any number of introspective workshops and scientific tests.

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/luca-cupani-it-s-me

 

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Kev’s Komedy Klub

Let’s face it – most people who come to the The Fringe want to be entertained. They don’t want to be harangued, ridiculed, interrogated or made to feel socially anxious. Also a good many people will only go and see one show – a handful at most – the reason could be completely logistical or it could have something to do with not wanting to shorten the odds of being harangued, ridiculed, etc…  So how do you match audience with show and not put them off the Fringe for life? Difficult enough to pluck something suitable from the tidal wave of ‘funny’ which engulfs Edinburgh every year – but imagine if you set yourself up with the thankless task of organising a ‘Fringe outing’ for friends/colleagues? Yes, masochism is a thing and there are shows you may like (see above). So great bullet-dodge for the person who organised the work’s outing, filled up the front row at Kev’s Komedy Klub yesterday and whose workmates must be saying today – ‘yeah, good choice!’

It wasn’t just the front row – the rest of us had a great time as well. My reason for being there – in a year of going to see only a handful of shows –  was that I know Kevin Dewsbury is a safe pair of comedy hands. As a host he got us nicely warmed up with routines about Weatherspoons and ‘posh’ Cheshire. And even if you’re not familiar with Cheshire, Kev’s vivid description and classic deadpan delivery make the place totally hilarious.

A reliable host in a showcase is pretty important but the other acts have to be good as well. Yesterday there were two recruits from Kev’s other show (Kev’s Komedy Kitchen – also worth a visit) : Will Hutchby and Mike Newall. Will is all boyish enthusiasm masking sadder elements like his mum’s cancer (it’s OK, she’s OK!) and his failed Star Wars audition in Manchester. Mike out-deadpans Kev with tales of typical Manc lads realising they’re not ‘lads’ any more – for example drinking red wine instead of scoring drugs at a music festival.

If this is all sounding quite Manc-centric – let me introduce you to one of the other acts: Rachel Fairbairn – from Manchester! Rachel wrings every bit of comic potential out of her Manc accent, OCD and her family relationships – particularly her footballer’s wife of a sister. Good assured performance.

The star of the show however was Jinx Yeo from Singapore. What a find! Brilliant routines taking British and Chinese stereotypes but mixing it all up into a very tasty stir fry! Yes, there are cooking jokes including a Chinese Spiderman eating his enemies as they are all based on animals. Fresh, funny with loads of first-rate material – Jinx is definitely one to watch.

Showcases are great for dipping a toe into the Fringe sea but they can be dire if the acts aren’t up to scratch. The good thing with Kev’s Komedy Klub is that Kev has so many contacts in the northern powerhouse of comedy so you can be sure there will be excellent quality control. The Newsroom venue is a little bit outside the main Old Town Fringe hub but the 18.15 time slot makes it a good starting point for the evening with the Klub the perfect aperitif!

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/kev-s-komedy-klub

 

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Dharmander Singh

The show’s full title: Dharmander Singh from Bollywood and Birmingham to Berlin and Brexit is clarified pretty early on in the proceedings. Dharmander shares a name with a Bollywood actor; he originally comes from Birmingham (although he doesn’t have to explain that one – the accent rather gives it away); he now lives in Berlin so obviously Brexit will be mentioned.

However as the show isn’t overtly political the Brexit element is quite low in the pecking order. This is a wise move as Dharmander (or Da – as he helpfully invites us to call him) isn’t your hectoring politico type of comedian but rather the kind who invites you into his world and introduces you to all its quirks and oddities. In Dharmander’s case this means a fair amount of culture-class comedy centering on the Berlin psyche – on one hand avante-garde and anything goes – on the other petrified when the ticket-inspectors board the train. Even if life in Germany in general – and Berlin in particular – isn’t a hot topic for you Dharmander’s mega-watt smile and brilliantly energetic style will win you over. And of course there’s the Brummie accent which adds to the cheeky chappie persona and is always good value in the comedy stakes.

Dharmander is also appearing in two other shows for the whole Fringe run. Hopefully he’ll be able to keep those energy levels up!

(review for 4 August)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dharmander-singh-from-bollywood-and-birmingham-to-berlin-and-brexit

 

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Juliet Meyers

There’s an old adage that if you want to have a friend in politics – get a dog. You could also stretch that one to Edinburgh Fringe shows – get a dog if you want to experience a noticeable spike in audience numbers. I couldn’t possibly comment but according to Juliet Meyers – ‘co-star’ of This Flipping Rescue Dog Has Ruined My Life – this adage has empirical truth.

Okay – Juliet did have healthy audience numbers yesterday on a typically dreich and disgusting Edinburgh weather afternoon. And that could possibly have had something to do with the other co-star – Homer, the adorable rescue dog. Here’s the irony though – Juliet is a fine comedian and doesn’t actually need a gimmick. But the paradox is – her show is all about Homer the rescue dog so there would be a big dog-shaped hole if he wasn’t there.

Statistics and philosophy aside – let’s talk about the show. Juliet is warm, funny and weaves some cracking material about middle-class pseuds, Mumsnet and everyday casual sexism into the main tale (hmm, I promised I wouldn’t do doggy puns… ) of how Homer came into her life. Homer – for his part – isn’t made to do that much which is a relief for those dreading Britain’s Got Talent – type animal exploitation. He’s just there – and he’s absolutely gorgeous.

Dog existentialism aside – although there is a fair bit of that – this is a very funny and heart-warming show which is definitely worth an hour of your time.

(Review for 4 August)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/juliet-meyers-this-flipping-rescue-dog-has-ruined-my-life

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A Gentle, Shy Antichrist

Can anyone remember when the stereotypical Italian twin obsessions were food and music? Anyone who knows Italians of a younger vintage though will confirm it’s religion and sex. Well… maybe that’s more an Italians on The Fringe thing. And Daniele Fabbri is no exception.

Daniele is a welcome addition to the impressive roster of Italian talent which has graced the Free Fringe in recent years. As for the title – I wouldn’t say particularly shy – he’s a confident performer who was unfazed by the smallish audience (an occupational hazard due to a noon start in a venue off the usual beaten Old Town track). And if the epithet of antichrist conjures up the image of a head-spinning, vomiting demon – you’re going to be disappointed on that count too.

What we do get are tales of a disconnect with his parents, an early obsession with Michael Jackson and the forced purchase of a Papal fanzine. The separate strands being brought together in a neat conclusion.

There are only two more shows left in this very short run so you’ll have to be quick if you want to sample an early lunch of skewered and barbecued Catholic faith with no guilt offered!

(review for 4 August)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/gentle-shy-antichrist

 

 

 

 

 

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Letter from America / World Watch Out

I’ll say one thing about that Donald Trump. He’s going to be good for artistic creation. As you may have read in my last post I had the germ of an idea for a Twilight Zone type story which had elements of Back to the Future and Brigadoon (I admit, a bit of an obsession for me!) Well, here’s the finished article.

Hopefully people will find it humorous and a little chilling but I felt incredibly sad when writing it (and not for the obvious reasons of looking ahead to the next four years!). The whole idea of people having to leave a land they love for whatever reason – to make money, chase a dream or perhaps because their own land isn’t fit to live in anymore. So it is anti – Trump but it’s also an early valentine to immigrants, the LGBT community, all those who stand up to bullies – in the past and in the future… and of course the beautiful Western Isles.

Apologies to The Proclaimers for pinching their title – although they pinched it from Alistair Cooke first! (I’ll square it with them if I bump into Charlie or Craig down in Colinton Woods anytime soon!)

Talking of Scottish music legends. Rev Mulvey from Lone Head Records tempted me out of musical retirement to collaborate on this track. Could be a creative four years – if we survive, that is!

 

 

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Back to the (No) Future

 

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You have to hand it to The Donald – he has succeeded in uniting the world. The show of solidarity across nations is impressive. Particularly with women. Particularly with people who won’t be taken in by grubby, rabble-rousing politics delivered by a rebooted Mussolini brought back to life as a Simpsons character. Particularly in Scotland – but then we’ve always been united in our disgust for the big bully who Trump-trampled his way over large areas of our bonnie land.

Everybody knows the story regarding the Scottish connection now. The young Scots lass leaving the Western Isles to seek her fortune in the U.S. Which got me thinking – surely a new version of Back to the Future is on the cards? In this one the main character would travel back to make sure sweet and gentle Lachlan from the local croft ends up with the young Mary and not the big American blow-hard visiting businessman*. Get it wrong – history is changed and the world is doomed.

There are lots of other Twilight Zone style twists in the real tale. The grandfather settling in America only because he got kicked out of Germany. For the full – and chilling – story check out Matt Frei‘s excellent documentary on Channel 4.

Back to the real world though so I guess we just have to get on with it. That doesn’t mean sticking your head under the duvet and self-medicating with your drug of choice  – however tempting that may be. Get up, stand up and don’t let the big bully win!

*Biff was based on Trump – spooky!

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/23/back-to-the-future-writer-bad-guy-biff-was-based-on-donald-trump

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/meet-the-trumps-from-immigrant-to-president

 

 

 

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