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Archive for the tag “Heroes at the Hive”

Joz Norris: Hello, Goodbye

Man in a box with only head visible inviting audience to come in and sit down. Now that’s what I call absurdist silly comedy.

What follows is a quick visual introduction to the man via family album photos spilling out of the box fax-machine like. The last one is of an elderly gent. The man breaks free of the box – changes his clothes with donations from the audience. A balloon with a drawn-on face and Princess Merida auburn wig takes the man’s place in the box. The elderly gent is the grandfather; the balloon is the girlfriend and the man is Joz Norris.

There is a story involving all three with much stopping and starting, false jeopardy and going off at tangents. The story itself is not so much shaggy dog but woolly mammoth and tangents include stopping off at the Beatrix Potter museum; allowing a tiny man hand-puppet to try stand-up and getting audience ideas for a – very structured – improvisation. But somewhere within all the mayhem there’s a fragile little tale of love and loss.

There’s quite a bit of absurdist silly comedy out there – especially on The Fringe – and if it’s done with a lack of conviction you’re going to be sussed. What joy then that Joz Norris seems like the real deal. Bags of energy with a madcap style reminiscent of a young Jim Carrey – his interplay with the audience is genuine and warm. In fact – you can almost feel everyone relax as we realise Joz is a nice guy whose main aim is to give us forty-five fun-packed minutes (many shows have the intention but can’t deliver).

By the end the fragile little story – more or less – is told and Joz hands back the borrowed shirt now covered in sweat. The owner could be keeping it as a souvenir in anticipation of Joz Norris making it big. Who knows? It could very well happen.

(Review for 21 Aug)

Joz Norris: Hello, Goodbye

Ed Aczel’s Foreign Policy

If I’d Googled Ed Aczel before going to his show I would have discovered he’s an anti-comedian. Not necessarily a bad thing as Count Arthur Strong also is – apparently. I have to confess I still have love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name feelings for the Count which the strangely anodyne TV series couldn’t destroy. All that obsession with the mundane and the everyday and ‘will he sodding well just get on with it?’ routine so rooted in classic northern comedy is always a winner with me.

Ed Aczel doesn’t appear to be from the north – but I won’t hold that against him. He’s an older gentlemen with more than a passing resemblance to the BBC radio presenter James Naughtie (if using a radio reference for a visual reference isn’t too anti). His style is deadpan and minutiae-obsessed.

I’m not sure if the show itself is anti-comedy. I’d say it’s more deconstructed with Ed signposting the stages of a ‘successful’ comedy routine – the set-up, interaction with the audience, some edgy bits, the uplifting finale – and taking them to levels bordering on the ridiculous (an exchange with an audience member on his shopping habits goes on for a very long time). Therein lies a serious timing issue – with people running off for trains/toilet/other shows – as the show tipped over the hour mark.

There are videos (which are good and professionally done) and pre-prepared surveys and questionnaires which are used to riff with the audience. But even with all the prep it depends on the audience on the day and whether they’ll provide good comic value (I think we were quite middling). I’d say – if you’re up for it – go along. It could fly, it could bomb – it’s up to you.

(Review for  14 Aug)


Adam Hess: Feathers

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Adam Hess. As he’s performing under the Heroes@the Hive banner I was expecting something quite out-there or perhaps expletive-ridden. Instead Adam Hess is a very polite and well spoken young man with a well constructed and professional routine.

I should have known when Adam stepped onto the big room stage at The Hive and made reference to the rank smell (try playing the Bunka next door… ) that he wasn’t an habitue of venues like this. This leads into a bit about how his parents came to his show the other day and didn’t quite ‘get it’. His parents are a touch eccentric and provide good comedy fodder throughout the show. As does a recurring image of a bald pet parrot – hence the title. The main set-pieces however are – hooking up with a girl he knew from university and their (semi) disastrous first date – and – a (completely) disastrous job interview.

There is much nervy paranoia about social situations and overthinking the situation ad absurdum. ‘How do you politely leave a conversation you haven’t been taking part in? and ‘How to cover up a dodgy stain on a sheet without your new date noticing?’ That – along with the embarrassing parents – is a touch Jack Whitehall. But glad to say Adam is totes less annoying.

All in all though – a very engaging and enjoyable 50 minutes (or thereabouts). And apart from the occasional F-bomb and talk of bodily fluids a pretty much family-friendly show.

(Review for 11 Aug)

Adam Hess – Feathers

Tim Renkow: King of the Tramps

He’s a cheeky one that Tim Renkow. He comes onto the Bunka stage (as it is) all flailing limbs and you can read the collective mind of the hushed audience – OMG! Will he be able to control himself physically so we can get things started? There’s no problem on that score as Tim settles himself down, cradling his mic, looking like the stage – any stage – is his true home.

So quite relevant that the show is – mainly – about homelessness. There’s no ‘how I fell on hard times, pity me’ routine (the words pity and Tim Renkow do NOT go together). Tales of living on the streets, scoring crack (or not) and dealing with cerebral palsy are all given the same matter-of-fact deal-with-it treatment.

I would imagine that the above issues aren’t going to be personal concerns for the average audience so a bit of vicarious amusement can be had. It’s when Tim ventures into the more general you-surely-must-have-an-opinion-on-this subject matter – the Holocaust, transsexuality  – and lets rip with some decidedly un-pc views that’s the time for gasps or unbridled laughter – depending on your opinion.

Are these truly Tim’s opinions? Well, they’re not so extreme but more of the ‘I was thinking that… ‘ variety so I wouldn’t label him a shock-merchant. Plus the punch-lines are delivered with a trademark twinkle in the eye and a mega-watt smile so there’s always an air of ambiguity. Not for him the disclaimer trotted out by lesser comedians – ‘these opinions are not necessarily my own… ‘

Bold, liberating, thought-provoking, laugh-laden – we got it.

(Review for 9 Aug)

Tim Renkow: King of the Tramps


Luca Cupani: The Admin of Death and Other Confessions

Religion, sex and death – eh? Endlessly fascinating providing an endless source of comic material. Many comedians have had a go at shattering the taboos and pointing out the absurdities. The favoured style is usually aggressive – maybe it has something to do with the cathartic nature of the routine. But in the past we did have the cool mockery of Dave Allen or the manic neuroses of Woody Allen proving you didn’t have to beat the audience into acceptance.

And so it is with Luca Cupani. Actually it just struck me when watching Luca yesterday that he is a bit like Woody Allen in comic style. Initially calm but soon revealing a catalogue of anxieties and obsessions building up to a crescendo of comic satisfaction. Of course with the old masters there was a limit on how taboo-breaking you could be…

I was lucky to catch Luca last year on the Blundabus just before he ran off to be crowned winner of So You Think You’re Funny? And at the risk of sounding a bit soppy it was almost like a religious experience. Maybe it was all the talk of confessionals, his dead mum, the light streaming through the painted windows of the Blundabus making it seem quite miraculous. Suffice to say I loved it.

Anyway, back to this year. There is still a lot about religion, his dead mum (of course, of course) but it’s the sex that is the main jaw-dropping set-piece. I won’t give the game away but it does involve Amsterdam, fifty euros, an assignation with someone brilliantly described as being physically ‘a glass half full type of person’ and Luca being too polite…

Is it real? Is it doggerel? Who cares! It’s wildly funny and brilliantly performed. If you can take taboo-breaking in all its graphic glory get yourself along.

(Review for 7 Aug)


Funny Guys


Thursday, 8th August

Funniest day of the Fringe yet with two five star shows. Started the day seeing the Alan Partridge film – classic British humour – was expecting a lot and wasn’t disappointed. Was a bit worried that any comedy seen later that day wouldn’t be up to the same standard but such thoughts were blown away with the first show: Toby Explains the Universe (Free Fringe at The Dram House, venue 299, 3pm)

Toby Muresianu is American Jewish, LA based, part of the Facebook generation – in the literal sense as he was a classmate of Mark Zuckerberg, former software engineer, app designer, atheist, vegetarian. All these topics and more inform his material which is sharp, insightful and intelligent – reminds me a bit of classic Woody Allen with that style of drawing you in on the personal and mundane and ending up talking about the Universe and the meaning of life. Clue is in the title of the show, I guess… His delivery is refreshingly laid-back with quiet confidence which is a nice change from the in-yer-face brashness that many stand-ups feel they have to employ to grab your attention. Imagine an updated Groucho Marx or a Jackie Mason with better diction. Another thing I like is despite having impeccable geek credentials he doesn’t take the easy route of ‘laugh at me cos I’m a nerd’ school of comedy a la Big Bang Theory or ‘let’s laugh at everyone else’ a la Infinite Monkey Cage (god help us!). And you have to admit the guy has balls when he lays into inept rich kids who dabble in the arts (‘I’m a photographer. No, I think you just have a camera…’) when that kind of person will more than likely be sitting in your audience. Toby also comperes the Free Samples show every day at Whistlebinkies at 11am where you can catch part of his act but either way do yourself a favour and see this guy before he becomes huge.

Talking of Whistlebinkies moved on to the New York All-Star Comedy Hour there at 4pm. Closing act was Alex Edelman – definitely the stand-out.  Again American Jewish but in the more animated style, talking about serving in the Israeli army and working at the KFC in ‘the dirtiest train station in New York’. Plenty of good material there and a nice line in self-deprecating humour – pointing out that his latest designer haircut makes him look like Anne Hathaway, not sure which came first – the joke or the cut, good visual joke at any rate. Definitely worth checking out his main show.

Day of comedy was going so well, could it get any better? Well, astonishingly, it did! Went to see David MillsThe Gospel Truth at Heroes @ the Hive (5.30pm). The venue is yet another sticky-floored nook of the whole Cowgate underground network resurrected from olden times to house present day entertainment whilst cleverly managing to maintain that filthy, urine and beer sodden historical detail – lovely! Mr Mills starts by making reference to said surroundings – ‘Breathe it in, breathe it in…’ And what follows is just under an hour of deliciously waspish, bitchy and just ever so slightly camp humour. The image is sharp-suited, clean-cut, American evangelist but the comedy is full blooded drag-queen with added depth. Topics included why does David Bowie keep on bothering us with his latest artistic endeavours, the intricacies of how Elton John and David Furnish ‘fathered’ their children and the problems of employing political correctness when you’re part of a trans-sexual, trans-gender, inter-species three-way marriage!! As is usual with a Fringe show in the afternoon the audience is smallish but that works well in this case as intimacy is the key with the front row just inches away from the host, perching early Dave Allen style on a stool. Everyone comes in for a bit of light ribbing leading in with topics like Scottish independence (launching into a hilarious routine about a messy, expensive divorce with Wales as a layabout child) and when it’s generally time to stop and take a good long look at what our lives have become.(‘De-clutter, de-clutter’) OK we’re maybe getting a bit deep here but like with all great comedy there is that edge of pathos which draws you in before delivering the sucker-punch. This man is solid gold and I can’t urge you strongly enough to go and see him. And I know the phrase: ‘Go and see him before…’ is getting a bit shop worn but it couldn’t be more apt in this case as I’m pretty sure David Mills would just not be the same in (mercy!) a stadium gig or on TV.

Still early, got a bite to eat and swithered about seeing some sceptics show with flying ectoplasm at The Southsider but decided day couldn’t be topped. Will check out said show at later date. Enjoyed pint of Carlsberg at £2.95 – bargain!

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