The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the tag “political comedy”

Dominic Frisby: Let’s Talk About Tax

Here’s a tip for appearing younger. Join the queue for a show that’s all about tax. Of course this theory may not stand up to statistical or empirical scrutiny but it was anecdotally and personally true when I went along to see Dominic Frisby’s Let’s Talk About Tax yesterday. Dominic asks for a show of hands when he asks if most people think they are in for a masterclass on being creative with their tax returns. And the majority of the mainly unfair-to-say-but-I-would guess-they’re-retired audience raise their hands. Also – sorry to make assumptions again – but most of them also look pretty well-to-do.

Dominic ponders on how he can make tax sexy. More to the point – can he make tax funny?  The stage is set with colourful home-made pie-charts, graphs and tax quotes. His visual image is somewhere between Hector the Tax Inspector and Laurence Olivier’s The Entertainer. But like the latter is there something behind the flashy suit and the ready grin? To give us some idea Dominic – after asking us to guess his political persuasion – reveals he spoiled his ballot paper at the last general election. So disillusioned lefty or complete anarchist then? Well neither actually. He also reveals he’s the voice of Werther’s Originals – which creates a little frisson of excitement – and has been involved in the making of two successful films. At this point we’d have every right in expecting expert advice on canny investing.

Instead Dominic wrong-foots us again. After presenting the stats he presents the big theory: that we have to re-think tax completely. No tax on work or endeavour or goods but instead there should be a tax on land. Of course as The Queen and the landed gentry own most of Britain land-wise and therefore would be getting clobbered the most tax-wise – this is a pretty radical notion. And one where you could almost hear the heads of some audience members being turned inside-out.

Dominic’s strength is that he’s the polar opposite to your shouty lefty comedian or plastic anarchist (as in Russell Brand who gets short shrift) and can deliver a radical message with polite charm. The jokes are delivered in a knowingly awkward signposted way which is fine for a show about an awkward subject. With his other interests he possibly doesn’t have to fret too much about his stand-up career but a big question would be what does he do next and will the subject matter capture the imagination of an audience as (err) tax does? Dominic did make a casual comment about how he’d voted for Brexit and that did make me prick up my ears. With so many of this year’s Fringe shows rife with lazy assumptions about the Brexit vote this was a truly radical statement and made me want to know more. Maybe next time?

(Review for 24 Aug)


Geoff Norcott – The Look of Moron

2015GEOFFNO_OHAs far as setting yourself apart from the swarm of other white blokes – in their thirties doing stuff about domesticity and reaching their own personal mid-life crisis – billing yourself as an unapologetic Tory would appear to be quite a genius move. It could also back-fire quite horribly making you think that anyone who tries it is either very foolish or very brave. Geoff Norcott is certainly no fool but I wouldn’t list brave as one of his particular selling points.

Waiting for the big confession regarding Geoff’s political affiliations was a bit like waiting for the much-talked-about controversial scene in a film – like the horse’s head in The Godfather or when Halle Berry got them out in Swordfish. It’s difficult to concentrate on what’s going on before because all you can think of is the money shot. And of course It’s even more palpable in a live situation – we know that he knows that we’re waiting…

As I’ve said Geoff’s no fool so he doesn’t come on stage and launch straight into a Conservative party political broadcast but then he’s not that kind of Tory. When the big ‘fess-up on how he votes does come it’s more along the lines of there being no other viable option and as a working-class guy sharing certain Tory values. He does venture into Russell Brand territory with ‘politicians – they’re all the same’ but unlike Mr Brand, Geoff presents himself as a practical and pragmatic guy – however unfashionable that may be.

The political stuff – when it comes – is quite scant and is delivered quite timidly which is a shame. Also I don’t know if the voting-Tory confession/apology is necessary as the whole target of leftie lazy thinking and ideological knee-jerk responses is so huge Geoff could be getting endless hits without getting into personal disclosure. He does touch upon the above as well as dodgier areas like the NHS (game show euthanasia for the elderly) and the SNP (Scottish MPs entering the Commons in Braveheart type mode). Geoff does ask for a quick show of hands – there’s a scattering of older people and probably less Scottish people in. The older people laugh to prove they can take a joke whilst the Scottish stuff is moved along so quickly we don’t have much time to respond.

Overall the audience seemed fine with everything. They probably laughed more at the observational family-life / reaching-a certain-age type of material which served as the very thick slices of bread around the thinly sliced political meat. As for hecklers – there was one of sorts: an older woman in the front row who declared herself a Smiths fan about five minutes into the set which was bizarre but maybe an indication of the audience feeling they have to show where they’re coming from as much as Geoff does. As it is Geoff is very likeable with good comic timing and well written material but certainly when I saw him on a Sunday afternoon with a polite audience it was all quite.. nice. I imagine in the bear-pit of a late slot it would have been a very different show altogether and perhaps one I’d like to see.

Review for 16 August

Erich McElroy’s Imperfect Guide to Picking the Perfect President

2015ERICHMC_UBI like political comedy but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. US politics has a bit more of a universal appeal though. Maybe it’s the dumbing down of the political message and the jaw-droppingly awful gaffs and infomercials that can get us non-Americans chuckling and feeling superior. That, along with there not being much in the way of political comedy this year on the Free Fringe means that Erich McElroy is onto a winner. It also helps that he has put together some cracking material, has great timing and has a very likeable and engaging personality.

Erich starts out by telling us he’s lived in Britain for the last fifteen years and does an effective routine about his young son pestering him for a balloon from the UKIP stand during the election campaign and the fact that he just happens to support Chelsea makes Erich fear he may have bred a racist.

Next Erich helpfully illustrates where the two US parties fit on a diagram of left and right UK political parties – with both being worrying to the right. And while Power Point and multi-media in general seems to be gratuitously in just about every other Free Fringe show Erich has a good reason for using it and he uses it expertly. So we get to see some of the aforementioned gaffs and infomercials which are both hilarious and chilling.

Funny, informative and very entertaining – the hour flew by. Whether you’re interested in US politics or not you should let Erich be your very far from imperfect guide.

David Mills – Don’t Get Any Ideas

2015DAVIDMI_4QWhen David Mills rolls into town the competition should just roll over in its bed of unwanted flyers and forget about it. But actually – there’s no competition. There’s nobody doing his unique brand of super-cool, politically-aware lounge lizard with a whole lot of evangelical preacher thrown in.

David is like your bitchiest and sharpest best friend as he doles out ‘helpful’ lifestyle advice on getting through days of crushing boredom (why don’t you just kill yourself… ?) But the real barbs are kept for when he casts his net over the world of celebrity and politics. Benedict Cumberbatch gets it tight (‘who knew Sherlock Holmes was a burns victim ?’) as does Ed Miliband (‘good that people with learning difficulties should want to be Prime Minister’).

Other prey that wanders into the Mills gun-sights includes past best-of-The-Fringe winners, gay cruises and just how boring and uncreative the gay world (and possibly the world in general) is now. I’m sure when he shouts ‘Shut that door’ a couple of times it’s a subtle homage to a time we may now mock but should acknowledge fostered creativity and individuality.

David this time around is appearing at the Voodoo Rooms. While not Caesar’s Palace the venue is still a considerable improvement from the Hives hovels he’s had to endure in the past. And with cool jazzy musical support from guitarist Laurence Owen he also gets to show off his cabaret chops throughout the set. From the storming opener of ‘Am I Black Enough For Ya?’ to a goose-bump inducing finale of Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’.

Peerless, fearless and consistently producing comic gold David Mills is an essential part of the Fringe experience.

Richard Brown – Art is Easy

2015RICHARH_DRRichard Brown pretty much belongs to the ranty school of comedy. I can’t be too mean though as I pretty much come from the same places he does – politically, philosophically and geographically (as in Scotland). But I also happen to like well crafted comedy so as a result I found Art is Easy not a completely satisfying experience. A bit like being stuck with the ranty guy at a student party where you start off nodding eagerly but are soon giving your watch furtive glances. Like most earnest young men in that situation he does try to re-engage by throwing in some pro-feminist comments but he presents them with some double-bluff irony (see – he is making an effort). Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on whether you were performer or audience – a young woman interrupted Richard mid rant with a quiet – but assured – challenge on a particular point. I liked that part, I have to admit.

Richard states at one point ‘I hate stand-up’ which kinda begs the question ‘why are we here… ?’ In many ways reminiscent of an underdeveloped Frankie Boyle. To be fair though there is some good stuff in Art is Easy – the line about seeing an aggressive Scottish woman in London and being filled with a strange mixture of shame and pride had me laughing. And there’s an effective recurring theme about gay/black friends pretending he’s homophobic/racist so they don’t have to hang about with him. So a bit of a loser and a bit of a ranter and a whole lot of ‘work in progress’ but there are some nuggets therein and it’s always refreshing to hear a Scottish voice – from the Borders even – that’s got to be a USP!

The Divine Miss D


I’m gutted that I can’t get along to see the inimitable Daphna Baram at The Stand in Edinburgh tomorrow night (17 Nov). But if you’re in the area and want a reminder of those heady, laughter-filled days of last August’s Fringe (see below). Get yourself along…  I believe it’s only a measly two quid (with other acts as well!) Whatcha waiting for?

Caught the marvellous Miss D (aka Daphna Baram) ‘s show at Cowgatehead 3 (20.30) the other night. Ballsy, bold, bolshy – it’s a brilliant show with tales of serving in the Israeli army to having a heart attack at age 39. There’s the reliable Jewish schtick of constantly disappointing her mother – for example not marrying the doctor that treated her or just not marrying at all. Daphna moves with ease between the political and personal in a riotously funny show. Be quick though – she finishes up on the 16th. Go see!

Earlier review (from Austerity Pleasures): Another woman who could most probably wipe the floor with some of the autocue-numpties from Mock the Week is the force of nature that is Daphna Baram. The tiny Kasbar space on a Sunday lunch-time did well to contain Miss D’s huge personality and her rich and ripe collection of (mainly) one-liners which veered from the political (serving in the Israeli army) to the sexual (‘how many of you guys lost your erection when you heard my accent?’). Stunning – like a politically aware, pre-Hollywood Bette Midler.

Yes? No? Just go, go, go!!

RefWent to see The Referendum Review Show yesterday at the Free Sisters. With – even by Fringe standards – an inauspicious setting (basically a cupboard) and a difficult remit: a non-partisan view and revue of the Referendum debate so far – my expectations weren’t that high. For a start – could it possibly be completely neutral and secondly – could it be funny? Well, they managed to tick-box the first requirement by ripping the p*** out of both sides; and funny? OMG! Yes, yes, yes!! I’ve seen a fair amount of comedy in my time so I’m not that easily impressed but this had me almost incapacitated with laughter. Very much in the Only an Excuse vein with razor-sharp political comment. You know – razor-sharp but done in that gallus way that’s not above wringing every last ounce (or should that be stone?) of comic potential re Alex Salmond‘s girth; but the No side get it tight too with the Brown/Darling pairing being described as the Un-Chuckle Brothers. Ah yes! They’re all there – The Krankies, John Barrowman and the unnamed ‘bawbags’ (you know who they are) who wax lyrical about the old country from their Hollywood poolside. There were a few people in the audience for whom, I suspect, English wasn’t their first language – with Scots probably being a wee bit further down their curriculum – which I think explained the puzzled looks on some faces. That along with exploring the whole Scottish psyche thing (‘we’re s**** and we know we are’) must have made them think they’d wandered onto another planet. However personally speaking – being Scottish and politically aware but pretty much fed up with both sides – this was right up my close! From the jaw-dropping vox-pop video footage of Rangers fans giving their ripe appraisal of Alex Salmond to a sing-a-long Referendum version of D.I.V.O.R.C.E the whole thing is hilarious and insightful in equal measure. Go see even if only for a crash course in what it’s like being a Scot, and if you are one – prepare to have some oxygen and maybe a fresh pair of pants on standby. To the guys – loved it, loved it, loved it!! We may be back before the end of the run, just to pick up on the jokes we may have missed by laughing too much – so be warned! The Free Sisters (Staff Room) @ 20.30 every night until 24th Aug.

After that experience there was no way anything else would be able to register on my radar so called it it night.  I saw a couple of other shows – both with a political slant – earlier in the day and while there’s no way in hell they could compare in my book I must give them a mention. First off was Austerity Pleasures (Espionage, Kasbar Room @ 13.05, until 24th Aug). It was actually very good and on a normal day would have been outstanding. Hosted by Robyn Perkins; from New Hampshire so she did the whole being able to pretend she was from Canada when abroad thing, but the new slant of ‘we Americans don’t realise we’re not liked, we just have a positive attitude’ was funny, fresh and prejudice-challenging.  Assured, confident (what else?) delivery – Mock the Week producers should be getting her phone number – that’s if she’d want to appear on such a tired piece of crap that is! Another woman who could most probably wipe the floor with some of the autocue-numpties from MtheW is the force of nature that is Daphna Baram. The tiny Kasbar space on a Sunday lunch-time did well to contain Miss D’s huge personality and her rich and ripe collection of (mainly) one-liners which veered from the political (serving in the Israeli army) to the sexual (‘how many of you guys lost your erection when you heard my accent?’). Stunning – like a politically aware, pre-Hollywood Bette Midler. I will most definitely be checking out her full show. Also on the bill was Paul Ricketts – his main show is called West End Boy and he did remind me a bit of Mickey Flanagan. Paul did go to university though – a while ago, and to do media studies – so there is plenty of comic potential there: ‘it was more difficult in them days – there were only four channels’. Likeable and easy going with tales of being a union rep and having to deal with ineptitude on both sides. Kate Smurthwaite also stopped by to do ten minutes – will be going to see her full show later.

Had high hopes for The Michael Gove Expose but it didn’t have that much about Michael Gove and it wasn’t that much of an expose. Well – unless you regard ‘Ed Balls is quite a nice guy and Gove is a bit of a tosser’ earth shattering pieces of insight. To explain: Gareth Morinan is a former civil service statistician who worked in the department for Education and with that as a show premise I was expecting all kinds of intrigue and Official Secrets Act implications, but it turns out Gareth is no Edward Snowden and the subject matter certainly ain’t Watergate! I’m not sure what I was actually expecting – maybe more puerile comments re Gove’s appearance and personality – there was a bit of that, but for the most part it was more like an office-drone’s Friday afternoon moan. Fair enough, but when it became a two way moan between him and an ex-social worker audience member it really did feel like being stuck with the two people you would least like to be stuck with at the office do. If you find spreadsheets and databases and the discussion of their misapplication fascinating – go see. Until 24th Aug, Canon’s Gait pub @ 15.40.


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