According to the Guardian, the broadsheets have largely abandoned reviewing productions on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and folk are having to turn to other less traditional sources for information (though I don’t think they were directly suggesting GofaDM). This came as news to me (which I guess fulfils their remit as a soi disant newspaper) given the tendency of these same broadsheets to give very good reviews to things I want to see, thus making them either very crowded or sell-out in advance of my intended visit. Or perhaps this is just further evidence of my deep connection with the current zeitgeist and I should soon expect a lucrative writing gig with one of the aforementioned broadsheets.
I am far too lazy, and frankly lack the skill, to offer readers detailed and star-based reviews of the shows I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. Instead, I shall offer you my recommendations of the best shows I have seen to-date. Why is he inflecting his irrelevant opinions on us again, mummy? Well, at least one person asked for it (though not, I will admit in blog form) and so now you will all suffer! So, please blame him or her: as so often it is always one person who spoils it for the rest.
Before I proceed, I should remind everyone that comedy (as so much in life) is a rather subjective experience and so just because I enjoyed something, there is no guarantee that anyone else will (though I would note that other people were at least laughing and giving the appearance of having fun at all of the gigs I am about to mention – however, this may have been the result of peer-pressure or the use of mind-altering substances, like cheese).
In roughly the chronological order in which I saw the shows, the following receive the GofaDM imprimatur of quality.
Nick Dowdy: never has going to a hardware shop in Crouch End been so much fun (or so disturbing).
Josh Howie: some have said he under-sells his punchlines, but this was great fun for those who remember the 80s. I also learnt how useful a pregnant woman can be, as I sat near one and she (and by extension, yours truly) was cooled by the only fan at the gig. Could the gravid hire themselves out to over-heated Fringe-goers as a way of defraying the high costs of bringing up a child?
Nish Kumar: how could I resist a fellow insomniac with a “statement” nose. Sadly, I had tried even his most outré aid to sleep – and, for me at least – it doesn’t really work (though I had never tried mixing the two elements).
John Robins: even better than last year’s show (which was a tough act to follow) and somehow quintessential Robins. Incidentally, I would thoroughly recommend his show on XFM with his radio wife – Elis James. I listen via the podcast as it neatly avoids the adverts which otherwise make commercial radio anathema to me.
Stuart Goldsmith: a show for which I had seen an early preview – which was itself very good. The final show had changed enormously and was even better – and for those that listen to comcompod covered all the key elements of “Goldsmith”.
Wittank: by some distance the silliest show I have seen this year and also uproariously funny. I do feel that anyone who doesn’t laugh at this must be at least somewhat dead inside.
Tim Key: I can never explain why he is funny, but even in the cavernous surroundings of the Pleasance Grand he still made me laugh.
More recommendations may follow, as an unusual proportion of my first week was spent at the “proper” Festival, pretending to be a serious adult, and so attendance at more comedy gigs will be scheduled in the week ahead. You have been warned!
All of the other shows I’ve seen have been perfectly decent with many a laugh, but didn’t achieve the consistently high standards of those listed above, so I’d thoroughly recommend taking a punt on a show on the basis of an even sketchier recommendation than mine. This is especially true on the Free Fringe which seems to improve in standard every year and where you can also, in a very modest way, feel like you are sticking it to “the man”. It also one of the few times when you can feel a moral obligation to partake in a pint of beer. When I bring my middle-aged, gymnast comedy show to the Fringe to mark my fiftieth sidereal year on this rocky outcrop, I’m wondering if I can stage it in a fromagerie – with the venue costs being covered by purchases of cheese by my audience. I will, of course, need to find a cheese shop with nice, high ceilings – but, frankly, that is the least of the issues involved in preparing my “show” as the comedy stylings of this blog will have made clear to regular readers. I may be presenting the first Fringe show which requires its own York Notes or (alternatively) to insist that the audience pre-qualify (perhaps by means of an NVQ) for attendance to ensure that they will at least understand my faltering attempts at humour. Twenty-three months and counting to EdFringe 2016, so given my usual rate of progress I better get my skates on (and invent a time machine).