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Fringe binge: Time Out reviews the best of Edinburgh comedy

Posted at 2:00 pm, August 8, 2012 in Arts & Entertainment

Alfie Brown
Thursday August 23

Alfie Brown – Soul for Sale, Underbelly Cowgate, 6.25pm, ★★★★☆

Let’s get this out the way to start: Alfie Brown is an arrogant man. It’s evident from his slight swagger and smug delivery that he believes he’s highly intelligent. But Brown is also an incredibly interesting new comedy voice, with a lot to say and he makes his points, well, intelligently. After a comedy industry bigwig told him he should ‘be funny, not clever – nobody cares how clever you are,’ the comic wrote this angry, unapologetic riposte tackling the corporate watering down of his most loved art form. It’s not just the comedy industry which receives his vitriol; Adele’s tax complaints and the bizarre censorship laws of pop music are attacked, and not always with successful punchlines. In fact, just as the industry player told him, Brown often sacrifices laughs for cleverness, but it’s no bad thing in this case; he’s genuinely exciting to watch and raises interesting questions. It would have been nice to see some positivity in there; what could, or should, be done to save comedy from becoming entirely a corporate moneymaking exercise? But maybe that’s his point: it’s all fucked and no one can do anything about it. Either way, Brown is certainly not going down that path, and I hope he never does.

Sheeps – Dancing with Lisa, Pleasance Courtyard, 5.10pm, ★★★★☆

In a comedy world chockablock with super-slick sketch troupes, it’s refreshing to see a trio who offer something slightly more shambolic. Sheeps don’t rely on glossy multimedia or music-pumping blackouts; the laughs arise from the slightly awkward performances of Liam Williams, Daran Johnson and Alistair Roberts and their wonderful onstage chemistry. It’s always perfectly rehearsed, of course, and the writing is tight, too, as the threesome deconstruct sketch conventions and rattle through skits about the third Chuckle Brother or a creepy Harrods toy salesman. Although there are some dips along the way, a narrative involving a riddle helps keep the pace up and has a satisfying reveal and there are some wonderful misdirections with clever punchlines. Sheeps are unpretentious and highly inventive, and definitely have a bright future.

Daniel Simonsen

Monday August 20

Daniel Simonsen – Champions, Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, ★★★★☆

It’s an odd, awkward intro for Daniel Simonsen – he performs the first five minutes of his show from behind the curtain. But it’s this offbeat, deadpan awkwardness that makes this young Norwegian comic stand out. ‘Champions’ is predominantly made up of observational material – tales of social faux pas, flat-sharing and shit jobs – but Simonsen is refreshingly low-key, with a pokerfaced, nonchalant delivery and ‘alienated outsider’ perspective, giving each story a quirky angle. It’s by no means a perfect show – the material feels a little stretched to make up the required 50 minutes – but there’s no doubt that Simonsen has proven himself a talent to keep an eye on.

Sam Fletcher ­– Good on Paper, Bannersmans, 12.30pm, ★★★☆☆

There’s a lot of potential in Sam Fletcher’s charmingly lo-fi debut solo show. The nerdy, bespeckled comic is modest and self-deprecating in his delivery of terrible ‘dad’ jokes, sloppy magic tricks and flipchart drawings. There are some inspired moments – his ‘Shoes’ song is a particular highlight and his obsession with keeping things tied to string, mittens-style, is a nice through-line (no pun intended). ‘Good on Paper’ is a scatty hour, though; it doesn’t quite feel like a show, more a mish-mash of ideas, and some sections drag out with no real conclusion. However, there’s plenty to enjoy here, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of Sam Fletcher. And it’s free!

I’m Not Crying in the Bathroom, I’m Crying in the Supply Closet – theSpace on the Mile, 10.05pm, ★★★☆☆

It’s always nice when you take a punt on a show that you know nothing about and are pleasantly surprised. There are some wonderfully sharp ideas in this show by Canadian female sketch trio Lady Business, made up of Laura Bonang, Alexandra Hurley and Deborah Ring. Many of the scenes focus on personal insecurities – whether it’s a witty ditty entitled ‘Never Flirt with a Fat Chick’ or a sketch where Napoleon is more concerned with his fashion than with winning a war. Not all the skits hit their mark, especially as some of the trio’s cross-Atlantic themes don’t resonate so well in the UK. But Bonang, Hurley and Ring are all utterly charming performers (if not the best of actors) and it’s a highly enjoyable 50 minutes. Go on, take a punt!

Barbershopera – The Three Musketeers, Pleasance Courtyard, 11.05pm, ★★★☆☆

Comedy barbershop quartet Barbershopera – made up of Rob Castell, Lara Stubbs, Richard Holt and Pete Sorel-Cameron – have become Fringe favourites for their consistently witty, well-performed hours. Their latest is a take on Alexandre Dumas’ ‘The Three Musketeers’. In Barbershopera’s version, Nicole D’Artagnan travels to Paris, dressed as a man, to save the town of Pissypooville from Cardinal Richtea. You can probably guess the level of humour throughout, especially if I told you there’s also a mission to retrieve King Louis XIII’s golden plums. Though, what saves this show from  being a base, unsophisticated romp is a pleasant score, pitch-perfect close harmonies and well-judged performances. It’s an enjoyable farce, and is marvellously directed – you just wish the humour was a little more intelligent.

Marek Larwood © Claes Gellerbrink

Friday August 17

Marek Larwood – Typecast, Pleasance Courtyard, 6.20pm, ★★★★☆

Just like every comedian, Marek Larwood has Googled himself. But rather than find a stash of bad reviews, the comic discovered that the word most commonly linked with his name was ‘retarded’. Indeed, Larwood’s the moronic fall guy in ‘We Are Klang’ and, well, everything else in his career, and he’s playing the same childlike character here as he tries and fails to show that he’s actually a versatile performer. Alongside a good dollop of knob gags, Larwood brilliantly spoofs different genres of comedy (his panel show parody ‘Bloody Funny’ is especially well-observed) and tries his hand at deliberately terrible accents and some far too revealing method acting. There are some Edinburgh and comedy in-jokes in ‘Typecast’ that might be lost of general audiences, but it’s a brilliantly silly and bloody funny show from start to finish.

Chris Ramsey – Feeling Lucky, Pleasance Couartyard, 7.40pm, ★★★☆☆

Chris Ramsey is a TV producer’s dream. He’s young, trendy and instantly likable, making him the perfect fit for panel show stardom. As a stand-up, he’s an enjoyably safe pair of hands, if a little unexciting. The Geordie comic has a knack for livening up fairly mundane stories, but as much as he jazzes them up, they’re still pretty ordinary. He acknowledges this at one point, when a tension-building tale about his two-year-old self picking up a kitchen knife ends dramatically with… well, him putting down the knife. An hour in the company of Ramsey is safe and pleasant, if nothing more.
See Chris Ramsey in London at the Soho Theatre, Sep 12-15.

The Imaginary Radio Programme: Drennon Davis presented by the Pajama Men – Assembly Roxy, 10.30pm, ★★★☆☆

This Pajama Men-championed show may be listed in the comedy section, but Drennon Davis’ piece is more of a witty beat-box journey through fantasy radio stations. With the help of sidekick Monique Moreau on keyboard and backing vocals, Davis uses his voice and a loop pedal to create hip-hop, classic rock, death metal and many more made-up radio broadcasts. The US musician/comedian spoofs some genres wonderfully – his Kanye-style rapping is particularly good – and he mimics the tones of radio presenters perfectly. This is a fun, charming way to spend 45 minutes, if not the belly-laugh gig you’re expecting.

James Acaster

Thursday August 16

Josie Long – Romance and Adventure, Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, ★★★★☆

Since the 2010 general election we’ve seen Josie Long, via her shows, learning about politics and becoming more politically active. In ‘Romance and Adventure’, she’s as passionate as ever about her love of social justice, but the queen of whimsy is more mature here than in her previous offerings. Yes, the Tories are the ‘baddies’, but Long is now happy to admit that she occasionally contradicts her beliefs. The show’s a little less powerful than last year’s hour, but it’s also less preachy and arguably funnier. Plus, I can practically guarantee that no other performer at the Fringe, or anywhere else, is imagining Ed Miliband as a mobster boss – a particularly hysterical highlight in a superbly funny show.
See Josie Long in London at the Soho Theatre, Nov 5-10.

Hannibal Buress – Still Saying Stuff, Pleasance Courtyard, 9.45pm, ★★★☆☆

Following his impressive Fringe debut in 2011, smooth American stand-up (and former ’30 Rock’ writer) Hannibal Buress is back in the UK for the third time in 12 months. He isn’t too pleased to be back, though, he tells us, and the Chicago-born comic makes no attempt to look as if he’s enjoying himself. Buress begins promisingly in his new hour with some inventive Olympics material and playful judgments of Britain. In fact, the whole first half is a solid, sharp mix of offbeat observations and ‘picking up girls’ stories. But the quality takes a bit of a dive in the second act, where a lot of the material falls flat. Buress has some wonderful turns of phrase and a few excellent routines, but unfortunately the standard isn’t consistent throughout.

James Acaster – Prompt, Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, ★★★★☆

It’s a risky strategy, to immediately de-energise a room, as James Acaster does with his understated entrance. But very quickly this whimsical young comic proves we’re in safe hands. The Kett’ring-born comic has a knack for turning seemingly flippant remarks into slow-burning, wonderfully offbeat routines. He strides past the point where most comics would end a joke, stretching each section to ridiculous lengths, and keeping the laughs flowing throughout. Rather than simply an hour-long compilation of stories, ‘Prompt’ is a beautifully structured show, with smart, unexpected callbacks and clever resurfacings of earlier material. A lot of effort has gone into this intelligent, low-key show, and it’s paid off – ‘Prompt’ is one of the best hours of straight stand-up at this year’s festival.

Steve Shanyaski’s Life Survival Bible, Pleasance Courtyard, 11pm, ★★☆☆☆

I’m sure Steve Shanyaski goes down well in the weekend clubs. His material about his girlfriend ruining his life is perfect for pissed-up weekend party-seekers. But as an hour-long show, it’s predictable and old-fashioned. The Manchester-based comic hangs his routines on a theme of a ‘Guidebook for everyday life’, but it’s such a flimsy through-line you wonder why it’s there at all. The material is just as feeble, too; we’ve all heard that Jägerbombs are dangerous and Susan Boyle’s ugly, right? To be fair to Shanyaski, his audience tonight are clearly enjoying themselves, and he does try to add some variety with a couple of songs. But when a show ends on a Prince-Harry-DNA-test joke, you know it’s not the most original of hours.

Pappy's © Idil Sukan Draw HQ

 

Tuesday August 14

Pappy’s – Last Show Ever!, Pleasance Dome, 8.20pm, ★★★★☆

Fringe favourites Pappy’s have really hit the mark with their latest offering – a tightly written, beautifully structured hour of silliness. The show sees the trio as three elderly versions of themselves, trying to recall what happened in the Pleasance Queen Dome back in 2012 that made it their last show ever. We’re treated to a bunch of brilliantly absurd songs, ridiculous characters and a narrative that skilfully hooks all the elements together. There are moments of creative brilliance – the relationship-from-first-encounter-to-death is marvellously staged and surprisingly poignant – and although some skits aren’t don’t quite keep the quality as high, overall, this show is a real treat.

Elis James – Speaking as a Mother…, Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, ★★★★☆

This wonderful Welsh wit is always a pleasure to spend time with, and James’ latest show is a joyful hour of lyrical storytelling. Kicking things off with a tale of a disastrous gig at last year’s festival, the big laughs come thick and fast in this collection of beautifully told anecdotes. Even when dealing with much-covered comedy topics – weddings, muggings, moving in with his girlfriend – he has sharp, fresh angles and an endearingly playful innocence. It’s a shambolic affair, in parts – the Carmarthen-born comic stops to tie his shoelace, forgets a bit of material and steps on his dry-ice machine at the wrong moment – but the mistakes just add to the fun and make James all the more charming.

Will Franken – Things We Did Before Reality, Just the Tonic at the Caves, 10.35pm, ★★★☆

American actor-comedian Will Franken is undoubtedly a talented character comic. In this rapid-paced hour he truly showcases his talent – playing everything from priests to prostitutes, Michael Caine to Stephen Hawking – all with skill and believability. Each scene is a one-man sketch, with each piece drifting seamlessly into the next. The script, though, is a little hit and miss, and it moves at such a hurried paced that it’s easy to miss important lines.

Claudia O'Doherty

Monday August 13

The Pin, Pleasance Courtyard, 4.45pm, ★★★☆☆

There’s an innovative idea behind posho sketch trio The Pin’s debut show. The story is told in reverse, with each scene ending with the beginning of the previous one. A common problem of sketch comedy is ‘how to end a skit?’, and that’s avoided with this gimmick. But the material in the scenes themselves doesn’t quite have the same inventiveness. There are some good performances – their ‘re-wind’ acting is spot-on, and a mirroring sketch is skillfully rehearsed. But they rely a little too heavily on the ‘pulling the rug’ technique, and quite quickly the punchlines become a bit predictable. The Pin show a lot of potential in this enjoyable debut, but the show doesn’t quite have enough substance to really impress.

Claudia O’Doherty – The Telescope, Underbelly, 7.45pm, ★★★★☆

This is ‘difficult theatre’, insists Claudia O’Doherty, ‘It’s not a comedy, so don’t laugh’. Sorry Claudia, but I couldn’t help myself during this mad, brilliantly inventive hour. Having given up comedy, she starts by introducing her piece of confronting theatre, ‘The Telescope’ – a tale on suicidal monks, computer hackers and time travel. Very quickly, however, she fumbles, gets out of synch with the backing video and sound effects (she doesn’t trust a techy, so has pre-programmed all the cues) and begins trying to distract us from the play’s bizarre events which continue around her. O’Doherty’s panicky delivery is wonderfully convincing; she tries anything from guessing punters’ PINs to some dreadful butcher-themed improv to fill the rest of the hour. Delightfully offbeat and packed with laughs, upsetting theatre’s never been so funny.
See Claudia O’Doherty in London at the Soho Theatre,  Oct 10-13.

David Trent – Spontaneous Comedian, Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, ★★★☆☆

There’s much hype around David Trent’s technology-heavy debut show, which is the opposite of spontaneous, as he mocks in his opening gambit. A junior school teacher by day, Trent uses slickly edited video clips to help bring his routines to life, and has a bravado attitude similar to Nick Helm (funnily enough, Trent is in his backing band). But underlying the nicely presented routines is material that’s lacking in originality. God’s Facebook page, Sigur Ros’s emotionally blackmailing music, embarrassing YouTube clips – it’s all been done before and Trent doesn’t have particularly fresh angles. He knows this, of course – his computer even tells him so: ‘You were shit before me’. There’s potential there, but ‘Spontaneous Comedian’ doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

Trevor Noah

Sunday August 12

Bec Hill is More Afraid of You Than You Are of Her, Gilded Balloon, 2.45pm, ★★★★☆

The premise for Bec Hill’s show is that she’s more afraid of the audience than we are of her. She has nothing to worry about, though, from the crowd’s perspective; she’s such a charming, friendly performer that we’re not frightened of her at all. Over the hour, Hill dissects her fear and attempts to overcome it through a series of roleplays and stories. Backing up her sharp gags are beautifully crafted pop-up flip charts, acting as a live comic book to illustrate her tales, and there are some fun twists as the show approaches its dramatic conclusion. A highly creative, delightfully funny show – Bec Hill’s an innovative talent to keep an eye on.

Matt Forde – Eyes to the Right, Nose to the Left, Underbelly Bristo Square, 4.05pm, ★★★☆☆

It’s not often that you hear George Bush called a ‘legend’ by a stand-up, and even more unusual for the audience to then stay on side. In Matt Forde’s latest political comedy offering he knows he has some unpopular opinions, but he keeps the crowd on board with good solid gags and a great deal of charm. Forde’s politically confused, hence the title: he’s a Labour man (the comic’s 2011 show was one big love letter to Tony Blair), but he has little confidence in Ed Miliband as a leader. If all this sounds a little serious, never fear, there are gags aplenty from the Nottingham-born stand-up, who has greatly improved since last year’s offering – he’s tightened up his writing and seems much more relaxed on stage. Ford’s a good ad-libber, too; some of the biggest laughs come from his audience interaction. There’s nothing spectacular here, but this is a good, solid, enjoyable hour.

Nick Helm – This Means War!, Pleasance Dome, 5.30pm, ★★★★☆

Following his intense Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated hour last year, Nick Helm’s even more ambitious in his new show. ‘This Means War!’ sees the chaotic comedian dressed in a too-tight Napoleon-esque suit, with full backing band, war-zone set and 50 quid’s worth of faux-barbed wire (a nice detail, I should add). The ‘Nick Helm’ character stays much the same – aggressive, terrifying and emotionally unstable – and it follows a similar structure to his previous hours. He can’t quite match the intensity of last year’s offering – the fear-factor isn’t as high, partly due to him playing a larger, less claustrophobic room. But, once again, Helm’s come up with a high-octane, brilliantly silly hour with tons of big laughs throughout.
See Nick Helm in London at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Oct 19.

Trevor Noah – The Racist, Pleasance Courtyard, 7.15pm, ★★★★★

When your show is personally co-produced by Eddie Izzard expectations are, understandably, very high. Thankfully, South African comic Trevor Noah doesn’t disappoint in his slick, intelligent, blissfully funny Edinburgh debut. Noah, the son of a black African mum and a white Swiss dad, grew up in apartheid South Africa, and wanted nothing more than to be considered black American, who he considers to be the coolest people on the planet. It’s here, his stories from his time in States, that Noah’s at his funniest – his tales are superbly reenacted with spot-on accents and mannerisms – and the softly-spoken comic has a unique, brilliantly sharp perspective on race. This is insightful, warm, classy comedy. Good spot, Mr Izzard.

Doctor Brown – Befrdfgth, Underbelly Cowgate, 9.05pm, ★★★★☆

The latest show from Doctor Brown, aka American mime artist Phil Burgers, creeps up on you. There’s no big opening, no voice-over introduction; in fact the show has begun before the audience even knows it. Burgers is a silent, physical minimalist; his black-gloved hands, raised in the surrender position, are his props, helping to transform him into silly, occasionally dark characters in scenes of bullfighting, parental abandonment and unnerving sexual encounters. The intensity builds steadily throughout, and so do the laughs, until the final act, where the true magic happens, in a celebratory finale that has the audience in hysterics. Thrillingly unpredictable and gloriously funny.
See Doctor Brown in London at the Soho Theatre, Oct 30-Nov 10.

Mark Little – THEBULLsh*tARTIST, Assembly George Square, 10.20pm, ★★☆☆☆

At one point during Mark Little’s show he says, ‘I’m billed as a comedian, but I don’t actually do any jokes’. Well, he does do jokes, but unfortunately they’re pretty naff. Of course, he warns that he will talk a lot of bullshit over this hour, so perhaps he didn’t mean that statement. But the former ‘Neighbours’ actor has very little material, bullshit or not. It’s 40 minutes in before he’s properly ‘started’, following a long-winded attempt at warming up the crowd, a lengthy faux-risk assessment and a strangely large chunk devoted to getting the ‘Neighbours’ questions he’s expecting from us ‘out the way’. He fumbles over lines and, at one point, says, ‘We’ve got a huge age range in’ before he realises he forgot to ask our ages at the beginning. His charm is what saves him: he just about gets away with it because he seems genuinely, and endearingly, pleased to be performing at the Fringe. If seeing Joe Mangel in the flesh is your goal, you’ll achieve it here. If it’s a funny hour you’re after, you’ll be very disappointed.
See Mark Little in London at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Nov 10.

Tony Law @ Rob GreigFriday August 10

Tony Law – Maximum Noonsense, The Stand 1, 12.30pm, ★★★★☆
We’re assured ‘Maximum Noonsense’ in Mr Tony Law’s latest and he sure delivers on that promise – it’s nonsense, at noon! From the get go he’s straight into commenting on his own comedy and ridiculing stand-up protocol, and it’s all flippin’ funny. The Canadian loon plays with stand-up stereotypes; giving both audience banter and observational comedy a Tony Law twist, and attempting to merge genres (musical shock-comedy, anyone?). There are a few lulls over the hour, but Law quickly bungees us back up to hysterical lunacy, and his finale is brilliantly silly.

Jessie Cave – Bookworm, Underbelly Cowgate, 2.30pm, ★★★☆
A lot of effort has gone into Jessie Cave’s Edinburgh debut – there are cardboard props, lavishly painted murals and a homemade set – and there is much to enjoy here. Cave is the host of ‘Bookworms United’, a newly created book club that we, the audience, are now members of. Cave’s character is a controlling, over-excited book obsessive who explains her life-long love affair with fiction, with the help of her sister and ‘unofficial PA’, Bebe. There are some witty lines in the fast-paced script, but the show’s lacking any big laughs, and is a little messy: some odd moments which you hope will be tied up at the end are left unexplained. The true star of the show is Bebe, whose performance as Cave’s long-suffering assistant is marvellously understated.

Simon Munnery – Fylm-Makker, The Stand 1, 3.45pm, ★★★★☆
Simon Munnery is consistently one of the most innovative comedy talents out there, and yet again he’s come up with a super-inventive format for his latest show. The comic spends the entire hour sat in the audience, broadcast live onto a screen on stage. Using some cunning lighting and a piece of glass, Munnery’s able to switch the shot between his face and whatever’s sitting on the table in front of him, Science Museum-style. It’s a relaxed show, there’s no over-arching theme or slick links; it doesn’t need them – he’s simply experimenting with his new toy, and brilliantly so. There is some rehashing of old material into the new format, which could be argued to be classic Munnery jokes, but the highlights are the cardboard animations, some of which are incredibly cinematic using only minimal movement. Ambitious, artistic and hugely funny – comedy connoisseurs will love it.

Richard Herring – Talking Cock: The Second Coming, Underbelly Bristo Square, 8.15pm, ★★★★☆
Go into Richard Herring’s slightly updated version of his 2002 hit expecting an hour of knob-gags and you’ll be both pleased and disappointed. Yes, there are plenty – some brilliant, some terrible – but there’s much more to Talking Cock than an ejaculation (sorry) of penis jokes. Herring describes the show as ‘man’s answer to the Vagina Monologues’: he’s set two anonymous questionnaires online – one for men, one for women – with the aim of discovering our true opinions of the ‘spam javelin’. Cock facts and statistics are mixed with slick pieces of sarky stand-up as Herring reveals the results of his survey and some of the most bizarre answers he’s received. Many of the silent worries men have about their wangs are openly discussed, but it wouldn’t be Herring’s place to give definitive answers on issues like the ‘size’ debate or whether men think with their dicks – this is simply a celebration of the penis, with Herring’s major message being to keep it clean, unlike this show. See Richard Herring in London at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Apr 12-13 2012.

Oyster Eyes presents: Some Rice, Underbelly Cowgate, 10.25pm, ★★★☆☆
There are moments of inspired lunacy in this oddball sketch troupe’s show. The polo-neck donning foursome – Tash, Phoebe, Liam and Phil – are all terrifically bonkers performers, and there’s good dollop of inventive writing and loony characters in this audience-interactive hour. The quality isn’t consistent, with some sketches, including a creepy hairdresser, falling flat, but there’s plenty to enjoy in this extremely silly, rapid-paced bizarro-fest.

Felicity Ward

Thursday August 9

Paul Foot – Kenny Larch is Dead, Underbelly Cowgate, 7.30pm, ★★★★☆
Only in a Paul Foot show will you find stories of the world’s largest Cheddar collection, single-father wasps and Sue Johnston landing awkwardly on a trampoline. Yes, the brilliantly odd purveyor of fey whimsy’s latest offering is a collection of wonderfully ludicrous tales (many of which seem to end in the characters’ deaths). Foot’s manic on stage – he’s shouty and unhinged – and seems to be enjoying his own ridiculousness. The slightly crow-barred ‘tie-everything-together’ finale feels a little clunky and unnecessary, but that’s only a minor criticism in what is a superbly silly hour of surreal delights. Worth the ticket price for Foot’s ‘appropriate anagram’ of ‘ASDA Supermarket’ alone.
See Paul Foot in London at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Oct 31

Heath Franklin’s Chopper – A Hard Bastard’s Guide to Life, Underbelly Bristo Square, 8.50pm, ★★★☆☆
Replace ‘hard’ in title of Heath Franklin’s hour with ‘moany’ and you’ve got a more accurate description of what the show is. The Australian character comic – donning a pair of aviator shades, a handlebar moustache and Sharpie-tattoos – performs as his caricature of Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read, the badass Aussie ex-criminal. In reality, the character’s an excuse to sling out stand-up material on the general theme of ‘Why is everything going to shit?’. Many a well-covered comedy subject is tackled – airline safety, modern music, Bluetooth headsets – but Franklin often has a fresh angle on them and the gags come speeding along at a rapid pace. An enjoyable hour, but from a self-labeled ‘international ambassador of hard’, I was expecting more punch.
See Heath Franklin’s Chopper in London at he London Wonderground, Aug 20-24

Felicity Ward – The Hedgehog Dilemma, Underbelly Bristo Square, 10pm,  ★★★★☆
You’d think a show dealing with alcoholism, therapy and unhappy relationships would be a depress-fest. Not in the hands of uplifting Aussie storyteller Felicity Ward. Wearing the wedding dress she was due to marry in, she explains that the hedgehog dilemma is a metaphor for human relationships: do you snuggle up with another hedgehog, sharing warmth, but risk hurting one another on your spikes? Or stay alone, lonely and cold, but hurting no one and no one hurting you? It’s a predicament she struggled with after she left her fiancé, moved back in with her parents and dealt with her alcohol addiction. Ward’s a talented character and physical comedian – she skilfully acts out each character from her autobiographical tale – and every minute of the show is packed with jokes, even in the most emotional sections. Tremendously entertaining and charmingly funny, this is heartwarming comedy goodness.
See Felicity Ward in London at the Soho Theatre, Aug 30-Sep 1 

Eddie Pepitone’s Bloodbath, Just the Tonic at The Tron, 11.40pm,  ★★★★☆
I could attempt to come up with a pithy analogy of Eddie Pepitone’s act, but someone’s already done it: he goes by the nickname ‘The Bitter Buddah’. The Brooklyn-born comic is the antithesis of slick, sharp-suited stand-ups: he’s dark, angry and depressed. At first, there’s nervous laughter from the audience as Pepitone barks abuse at them – ‘I didn’t like that kind of laugh!’ – but that quickly becomes genuine hysterics as his switches between bursts of philosophical outrage to moments of calm, introverted self-loathing. It’s a disjointed show; Pepitone’s continually distracted, but he brilliantly ridicules the notion of stand-ups performing scripted, rehearsed material as if off-the-cuff. It’s a thrilling mix of comedy and anti-comedy. Just don’t try heckling him: he has far better put-downs for himself than you could ever come up with.

Edinburgh

That’s it, guys, the fun’s nearly over. The Olympics draw to a close this week, and a lull will last until the Paralympics kick off at the end of the month. But, what’s that? A whopping great big arts festival is in full swing in Scotland? CORRECT, and for comedy fans the Edinburgh Fringe is the place to be this August. As comedy editor of Time Out, it’s all strictly business for me, of course, and this year I return as a member of the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards judging panel, taking in seven to eight shows a day until the end of the month. I’ll be tweeting updates from @TimeOut_Comedy and posting new reviews on this blog post every day(ish). Most of the shows will be making their way to London at some point, so keep checking back to see which names to remember. Ben Williams

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