Seeing that nobody read the review of my first week I’ve decided to condense my experiences into one point-form article. This is a format I was warned well-against. But even the greatest writing teacher I ever had could appreciate writing to a target audience, and much of mine can’t read a tweet without drifting off. Then, after writing the lengthy fucker, I decided that my target audience was solely me, if I get old and can’t remember what the fuck went down. So here are the 40 odd that I saw at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, something you can read more about here. It’s dominated by comedy, with a few things to keep you guessing. To summerise the nights after: half drunk off of booze I snuck into the venues, I moan about expensive booze at the club/bar, bought it anyway, realise the club/bar a bit shit, think the bus will take too long, walk, get overtaken by bus, wake up remembering a mixture of these nights. So roll with that.
Loyiso Gola: Dude Where’s My Lion?
I’m a sucker for occasion so on South Africa’s voting day I went to go watch a local lad I enjoy. Think of Trevor Noah, but taller, and doesn’t make so much money that he has to be Hillary-centric in all of his shows. Gola provides some decent views on British life. Simple things like fast internet and not trusting himself at the self-check out till. It’s funny but been done before. What he really shines at is chatting to the audience. Making a decent story out of my pretty shitty contribution to what a “safari” is like (the show was full of Anglicisms). He does well to shut down some old women talking during his show and a loud American who came in her pants when he spoke isiXhosa. Nothing rude, just got them engaged and moved along. All in all a good night out, and always good to hear some South African accents in comedy.
Free Fringe Launch
Running with the Fringe was the Free Fringe, a system set out to help the up-and-coming acts with performance charges. The idea is that the venue is not allowed to charge the performer to use their venue (other than a small tech fee) and the performer was not allowed to charge the audience, other than standing with a bucket and puppydog eyes at the end. This had apparently made the Fringe a lot more accessible and, to be honest, a little smug. This was their opening night and, starting late they shot through a few of their free acts. This included John Scott who said that the only way to get a show in the Fringe before the Free Fringe was to suck the cock of a fat Scotsman while he counted the money on your head, only to give you a broom cupboard to perform to two men and a dog. Discussions with various artists throughout the festival have confirmed this, saying that in modern times the cupboard had got slightly bigger. There were some average muso comedians, a larger than life Weegie in Janey Godley, who you’ll hear about later, some betty singing Doris Day songs, and finally an Singaporean comedian who made full use of Scotland’s racism.
Thrones! The Musical Parody
As a Throney (fuck you, that’s a real thing), this musical parody of Game of Thrones, updated for season six, was a must. The crowd was actually quite diverse (in age and class). It turned out to be like a Book of Mormon for those who hadn’t read the books. The show was framed as friends explaining GOT to a friend who had never seen it so they could shoot through the seasons at will. It covered most of the major events and didn’t require the in-depth detail that you’ve come to expect from GOT fans, especially the book-wankers. Although they did a multitude of genres, Khaleesi’s solo whilst being taken from behind was a personal favourite. Some of the dancing was a bit off, but it was preview week so that’s what you get for being cheap. Fewer boobs than expected. None to be exact. Unless you count the body-suit made for the “shame” scene which will forever be burned into my eyes. Good laughs, nice and dirty. Kind of like me.
This is Your Trial
This was a courtroom improv show where the crowd could accuse each other of crimes. I was on my own and was hardly going to incriminate myself, but the ticket was free so I decided I should show up for jury duty. It was a stellar cast of Marcus Bridgestock, John Hastings, Thom Tuck, and Charlotte Gittins. The crowd was pretty decent other than the folk who kept pleading guilty, thus killing the case altogether. But, as it went, the accused was called out to the stage. Judge Tuck and Clerk Hastings would read the charge, find out about the accused and make a meal of swearing them in. By the time that was done, the other comics had made full for- and against-arguments. It was incredibly impressive. Some were hit and miss, but a highlight was a man who was into animal genetics who was accused of being a Tory (conservative). Bridgestock asked if he was aware of the Tory animal breeding technique of putting your cock in a dead pig’s mouth. He had not. Some woman complained that I had laughed too loudly in her ear. Some woman can get fucked.
Mike Ward: Freedom isn’t Free
Another show I was coaxed into by a flyer boy who offered a good price. Ward had recently told a joke that had got him fined a few thousand dollars by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. These are the people in charge of Canadians saying sorry, so they’re a busy bunch. He also had quotes from Jimmy Carr on his poster so he had to be good. I sat down. He told his joke. It was not funny. I wasn’t even that offencive. This was in stark opposition to the rest of his show that was trying to hard to be offensive that it kind of forgot to be funny. A review I read after seeing it pointed out that he actually had nothing to say about freedom of speech, which is one of the reasons I went to go watch it. Freedom may not be free, but it’s worth a bit more than what I paid for his show.
Adam Kay: Fingering A Minor on the Piano
I’m a big fan of musical comedians and with a title like that I couldn’t resist. Being a former doctor, most of his show was based on his experience and worked on medical puns. But even besides his pedantic paediatric antics, this guy was a bit different to most of the musical comedians I’d ever seen. Firstly, rather than his own music, he parodied popular songs. Sometimes in a silly fashion (“oo-bloody oo-bladder”), and sometimes a little too intellectual. Like giving us little medical quizzes that we had to answer to the chorus tune of “Hallelujah” (the Shrek one). I managed to get the first answer “alopecia” and then fell into the wrong end of the bell curve. It got rather heavy as he took us through the tough times of being a doctor and eventually got into the traumatic event that caused him to leave his profession. It was really smart and a complete revival of medical humour for me, after every medical student I’ve ever met being completely unfunny to anyone but other med students. He said something I’ll never forget about Jeremy Hunt, some politician who said that doctors just want too much money. “Now I’m not saying that I hope he gets cancer,” said Kay. “But if he does get cancer I hope nobody treats him. Except they will treat him, because looking out for the well-being of their patients is what medical professionals do, it’s all they ever try and do”. I kind of left wondering what I had ever achieved with my life, and wondering how he avoided making a pun on the word humourous.
Frenchy: World’s Worst Adult
Nothing can sort out a post-show depression like an Australian. Frenchy is an Aussie comedian made famous for his YouTube videos, much like Shooter Williams, Ozzman Commentates, and Neel Kolhatkar. I manage to meet him just before the show and he’s one tall mother-fucker. He also had to put down what he was holding so he could pull a zap in the photo we took, so we got on alright. His show was interesting, disrupted a little by people coming and going, as well as a father in the front that was “too high” to look after his son. All in all, Frenchy was really funny, although not as funny as his videos. He engages with the crowd (which was significantly younger than most) quite well and with a bit more arrogance than Loyiso, but it was that kind of show. There was a musical section, but most of it was anecdotal. In his final story he went out to absolutely ruin the Disney song “Let it go” which was great for me because I fucking hated it already. Over-hearing him afterwards at the end he said he had cleaned his show up a bit since you had to be a bit smarter for Edinburgh. I actually missed how often Australian comedians use the word “cunt” and made it my mission that night to teach Frenchy and Neel, who also I also met outside, the South African version “poes”. This was my gift to them and I regret nothing. They even remembered it weeks later when I saw them in the Hive.
There are a lot of late-night variety shows in Edinburgh. The later they are, the rougher they tend to be. Many people were out drinking in the sun of the afternoon while I bussed home to make food and pre-drink because £5 a beer is a fucking atrocity. But for most folk, by then they are well-oiled. As for the up-and-coming comedians, life at the fest is also not particularly easy. They spend their days flyering, their afternoons performing, and their evenings going on as many variety things as they can to entice people to come to their shows, that they are likely to lose hundreds of pounds putting on. But Spank! was actually quite a chilled one. Spank! was a party.
The venue is almost basement-like and has chairs just about everywhere you can fit. The show runs from midnight to 3AM and encourages folk to pop out and return with more booze that they had been ripped off for at their bar. Everyone scuffles in to claim a spot and we are surrounded by strobe-lights, large speakers, and other party paraphernalia. On stage is a wooden stool with two shots of something already in them. The hosts come in dancing, down the shots, and set the tone. Their party trick is that everytime they say the word “Spank” the strobe light goes off and everyone was to shout “you love it!” Not much to it, but it worked. The acts themselves were pretty average, even though I got pulled on stage, re-christened “Pablo” and made part of a foreign-language bit that I don’t think I helped very much. However, the most interesting part is the naked promo. This happens right after the interval and is completely voluntary. The premise is simple: you are allowed one minute on stage to promote absolutely anything you like. If you have a flyer, they’ll even put stick it on stage for the whole festival. But you have to be completely naked. Like to the point that one man was scolded for still wearing his secret socks. It’s a brilliant idea, but it contains just about as much penis as you think it does. Sure, I’ve heard stories of women jumping up in the spirit of things, but this night was all about the dick. So, it could have gone better. But besides the patriarchal exposure, good night out. And I got a few free drinks for being Pablo.
Laura London’s CHEAT
Once again, in the spirit of occasion I go to see a chick’s show on National Women’s Day. But just to keep women grounded, I go to a free one. Ok so there’s not really such a thing as a free show, but they get special rates and are usually set up at a bar. London is dressed up to the nine of diamonds yet still queer as a seven pound note. So she was hot and weird. The venue did not allow much vantage point, and things like card tricks had to be projected behind her on the screen in a live stream, but it worked. Her act was neatly dressed up as a telling of her growing up with magic through a great aunt who knew Geraldine Hartman, some old binty magician or scam artist or some shit. The tricks aren’t new but the story was cool. It was well-performed, with some dazzling card-flourishes but kind of lacked a big ending. I had seen Stuart Lightbody at the Grahamstown Fringe last year and unfortunately he had done a lot of the same tricks but a little better, with a complete mind-fuck at the end. Nonetheless London is going places. Hopefully one of those places is not actually London because that place is shit.
I decided I needed some culture and a show about all the baddies in Shakespeare sounded pretty groovy. Little was I to know it was actually just quite bad Shakespeare. The cast comes out and they’re American, to everyone’s disappointment. Now, there’s an argument that the English in Shakespearean times was more similar to American English than real English, but there’s also an argument that the Bard himself was just a time-travelling Disco-badger, so it’s swings and roundabouts really. Back to Much a Yanky-Do About Nothing, and the cast is firing off all kinds of lines from all kinds of plays. I realise how little Shakespeare I know even though I had it as a course in varsity, just by the sheer number of discussable plays he wrote. But I get excited at the prospect of them making one like super bad guy by stealing lines from all the plays. But no. This was a lecture. A grade 10 drama class lecture. Acting out the bad guy, and then explaining it. Sort of breaking the whole “show don’t tell” rule. It was well-researched, but really not well-presented. Kind of like the kid that forgot to bring something to show-and-tell, and spent the whole period trying to explain the symbiotic empathy he felt with a stick that he had found outside. Will all the liquor in great Neptune’s bars wash this from my brain? Apparently not.
Peter Antouniou – Happy Medium
So this looked a bit of fun and I’m not going to lie it was on half-price. Antounio was like a psychic comic, or “com-medium” as he called it, and was in a really small room. So small that he had to ask one of the audience members to be his sound guy. This didn’t bug anyone except the new sound guy, and fuck him anyway, he should be glad he got a job in today’s climate. He stated the show off by distributing stickers with numbers on them and pieces of paper. We were asked to write our names, an interesting fact, and a question we wanted him to answer. Anything from the bizarre to the biennial. He’d then roll a many-sided die and pick that number to pick on people. He did a few tricks guessing what people thought of him and was actually quite light-hearted about the mysteries of being a medium. However, a lot of people who worked at the venue were there that day and he did apologise for reading their questions out, but it did make the show look a little set-up. Nonetheless the butch chick behind me was amazed that he knew her question was about roller derby, and super-mom near the middle obviously asked the time of her death. Although judging by her presence, it was less of a “when am I going to die?” and more of a “how long is it going to take me to die?”. The best bit was when he used his own tarot deck and shaped the cards around some of the folk in the audience. He even offered a horoscope for the one lady. She said she was a Gemini. He said that on the good side, she was about to come into a whole lot of money. On the bad side, horoscopes where bull shit s\and she had to grow up. He never got ‘round everyone, and my question was what job I was going to get. He never answered me and I thought it was a fluke. I now realise I how good he really is.
Bad Luck Cabaret
In my head, cabaret was fancy dancing and singing with boobs. Alas, it was bad luck indeed. The tent itself was beautiful, set up like a circus with its own bar inside. The ring leader for these unlucky sods was a half blonde, half brunette Australian chick who ranted that the show was all about “kicking bad luck in the dick”. I thought the assumption that bad luck was a man was a bit rough, until I realised that bad luck got blamed for all the shit things in the world even though it hadn’t really been trying very hard at anything, so the metaphor stuck. She was alright, bit of sing, bit of piano. Then came the first burlesque dancer. Now she was a bit chubs, even for burlesque’s standards, but she managed to pull off a no-hands double tassel titty swing which is beyond impressive. I have not the parts to pull off such a stunt, but can only think it’s like doing the windmill except you don’t have the control of a pelvic thrust and there are two of them so they can’t collide. Next was a clown guy who spun some yarn in the voice of the Lion from Wizard of Oz and finally some twins or sisters or some shit. I don’t know it was late and the bar was close-by.
This was the single worst act I saw in the Fringe, in Edinburgh, and in my life. The premise was that it was a combination of Kurt Cobain and Macbeth. The only way it managed to achieve this connection was that if Shakespeare was alive to watch it, he also would have shot himself in the face. It fell under the category of “new writing” which is always a gamble. It quickly taught me why I was not a gambling man. The story made no sense and was difficult to pick up on from the get go. A guy with an unplaceable accent and a woman with a horribly-pitched voice sat on a couch talking shit. They then went behind the couch and butchered the Scottish play. In Scotland. Next thing a large tray of forks is being lowerd onto them and mother-fuckers are vomiting babies. Perhaps I just didn’t get it, but judging by the airborne chunder babies, perhaps that was a good thing.
Late ‘n’ Live
Late ‘n’ Live was another light-night comedy and compilation show, similar to Spank!, but where Spank! was quite kind to its performers, Late ‘n Live was not. In its own review, it champions the the Scotsman that calls it “‘the celebrated comedy abattoir that has slain a thousand comics”. A visit to their site will show similar quotes from people like Johnny Vegas, who likens it to “the performing equivalent of self harm”. (If you’re still not sold here’s a preview). The premise is simple: it’s the latest show anywhere in the Fringe, running from 1AM to 5AM. So when Late ‘n’ Live is still on, some people are already on their way to work for the next day. But there are a couple of other things: there is no limit to how drunk a person is allowed to be to enter. I saw folk passed out and heard stories of people vomiting, choking, and things being thrown. And crowd participation is encouraged. That means heckling. So when one of the four or five acts gets on stage, they have a few seconds to try make people laugh or they get called out. Brutally. Often incomprehensibly, due to the whole drunken thing, but still quite mean. It’s been known to break some comedians and send them off in tears. Kind of like this.
Unfortunately, this was a bit of an average night on the heckle side. I had gone on a Thursday as it was cheaper, and it had not paid off. The MC was John Hastings and he was brilliant, dealing with a woman that was screaming to her own show next to a guy that had weighed it out and decided she was hot enough to put up with. Many of the acts were a bit average. A guy called Jarred Christmas, a fattish man who was one of the older performers, was pretty decent and had a bit about a Kit-Kat being a chocolate bar if it was a finger, but a biscuit if it was in a packet. “What about a Chunky?” yelled some poor chap who had fallen into this carefully-laid heckle trap. “What!?” Shouted Christmas, viciously interrupting his own set to find the culprit “What?! Who the fuck just called me chunky?!” At which point the guy’s entire table of friends sold him out and he was subjected to a pretty hairy, very sweaty motorboat to everyone’s amusement. A gay Australian comedian was alright, and actually returned on stage later to prove he could fit his whole fist in his mouth. The audience was quite impressed. It finished with the Noise Next Door, an incredibly impressive improv group. I made a mental note to go see them when the one impressionist went from reviving Alan Rickman to clearly being a remaining horcrux of Voldemort. House band was old people trying to sing club songs. Walk home in the daylight.
Happily Never After
Almost missed this one since I got home after 5AM. A complete flip on what I’d seen until then. It advertised itself as a Tim Burton-inspired improv musical. So quite a niche market. All the actors had the angry high school girl mascara and black and white stripes in their outfits. There were five actors on stage and a keyboard player. They asked for a profession of someone’s grandmother. The answer was sculpturer. From there they composed a five-scene play with a different song for each scene. The keyboard player set the tone as the actors flew between different roles while still forming a coherent story all with next to no preparation. It was fantastic. I never knew such a combination of elements could be so beautifully married. I also never knew how cool Tim Burton shit is hung-over. Would recommend that shit.
Neel Kolhatkar: Neel Before Me
The other Aussie YouTube sensation. Makes quite a range of videos, from cutting social commentary about political correctness, to music videos that are 90% the word “cunt”. His show was really funny, but a bit tamer than some of the stuff he’d put online. But his impressions were good and it was really clever. Also peaked with a story about Disney but a bit of a different take on it. You could see the social commentary peaking through the weed jokes, but he was a bit off his game as I found out later. But an incredibly insightful dude, with a lot to say.
Although Macbain was the single worst thing I saw, this variety show was equally shit and it didn’t even have the decency to hide behind being weird. Still hungover from Late ‘n’ Live, I wanted a fun, cheap variety show before heading to bed. Unfortunately, at the Fringe you often get what you pay for. There were two average comics, one horse-shit comic, an unfortunately ironic burlesque dancer. The opening act and MC was an Australian musical comic, but since it’s 2016 she was accompanied by a banjo. She was m’kay. But she hardly managed to work up the lackluster crowd and thank fuck for that since the bar was not to be raised much that evening. There was then another Aussie comedian, who wasn’t bad but wasn’t really anything special. He had a running show called Alcohol is Good For You, which is a cracker of a title, but I never got around to seeing. Also a modern, floral-wearing hipster of an Italian-Australian, I mean how many of those have we seen about. Next chick was a ginger comedian from, hold applause, Australia. She was very bad. I couldn’t work out why and then she pointed out she was a feminist comic. That answered a lot of questions. Modern feminists, not known for their humour or wit, really have to dig deep for laughs, and in a late-night Edinburgh show this was like pissing against the wind. Pissing sitting down of course. There may have been another comic but I think my brain has mentally blocked it. Then the finale was a rather large burlesque dancer. Like very large. I don’t want to be mean, but I believe in playing the hand you’re dealt. I would probably not be a very good high jumper. Giving me a class of children to look after would be a mistake. But I can be wordy. In such a fashion, I commend this woman on the guts it take to do such in front of a crowd, but wow. Didn’t float my boat. It’s difficult to pick up on awkward silences when a crowd really hasn’t made a noise the whole night, but there were many. Poor line up, and the only thing that did a good job of supporting the acts was the stage.
Paul Currie: FFFFFFFMILK!
I had finally recovered and needed something to salvage my festival slump. I’d seen Curry flyering and he seemed a really funny chap. But now I met him again, this time in the line, where he was queuing for his own show. I asked him if he had seen himself before. He said that it was his first time but he heard that he was really good. This was the least goofy his show would be. At the start, he jumped into the crowd and swapped a couple that was sitting in the front row for a couple in the middle, and gave no reason. He then made members of the crowd block out the safety lights as he used a torch and an action figure at the end of a sick to start a superhero movie. I generally don’t find prop humour very funny, but Curry, a bear of a Northern Irishman in his white jumpsuit and with wacky facial expressions, made me cry with laughter. This was one of the few shows where I teared up from laughing. The show changed direction violently several times. Including the crowd in a virtual Atreyu ride. He then put two green clothes pegs on his ears, got on his knees and became Yoda, using the force to move a rubber duck up and down. And by the force, I meant manipulating some poor dude in the crowd. There was a brilliant snake charming bit, but the climax of his show was that of a man having a mental breakdown while eating a bowl of corn flakes. This was expertly executed and resulted in many a soggy flake soaring through the air into the crowd. It’s difficult to communicate physical comedy in words, but let me just say of all the shows I saw, this was probably the funniest.
Jon Hastings: Integrity
Having loved his MC work at Late ‘n’ Live I decided to go watch Hastings, who would be one of my new favourite comedians. One of the guys that had worked his way up from doing free shows in the afternoon, to an £8 evening show in one of the major venues. His show was decent, but maybe not as good as some of the other things I’d seen him in. He spoke about the mare of getting a Visa every year from Canada to be a comedian in the UK and the fun and games he had when he last went home. “I don’t know if you know this, but if you do something funny and are friends with a comedian; that’s our now” he admitted, on telling us about his friends. After getting teased for being around his girlfriend all the time, John’s friend tried to come back by saying that at least he was having sex. Unfortunately, he had worded it as “I don’t need you guys, I have a pussy” and his friends still haven’t let it go, from printing it on T-shirts, to John convincing a room full of Scandinavians to find him on Facebook and message him all at once. But John is really the king of awkward moments, owning it when a joke doesn’t go so well, and assuring the crowd in a cocky way that he’ll win them back. Very funny guy, check his shit out.
Forgetting the fact that it started a good 30 minutes late, this was disappointing. Kind of a modern, fun look at bingo, where the air smells of fornication rather than formaldehyde. They took pride in the fact that they annoyed the regular bingo community (who are actually a big thing in the UK) with a sweary host, hot number-callers, and bizarre prizes. The host was actually good, and the atmosphere an upbeat one, but after that it fell flat. They were running out of time so they flew through numbers to eventually award some chap a pair of rollerskates to move between Fringe venues. There were some other prizes, but at the end of the day, besides for the three winners, the rest of the night was only semi-entertaining, rushed, and lacking. Maybe it was because I was at a shit table. Maybe I had seen this concept before three years prior in a bar in Stellenbosch where it was actually much more fun. Either way, it was average.
Lee Kyle: I Came Here to Burn This Place to the Ground and Build a Table and I’m All Out of Table Making Equipment and Matches
With a name like that, I couldn’t miss it. Not many others felt the same as there were only three of us in the venue. But comedian Kyle soldiered on and was able to get to know all three members of the crowd pretty well. The man had had a pretty groovy life spanning from being a pro-wrestler to happily living in a council house in the North of England. Then there were the party tricks. He could describe any flag in the world with some comment on their origins, he claimed to have the world record in the circuit-ring-buzzy thing you play at the fun fair with the buzz provided by yours truly, and then he went on to name all the popes that he was forced to learn at school. After giving us a complete pope-log (plog), he finally revealed that the first letter of each pope also made up the first letter of each word in the title his show. This was impressive. He then told us that this was all a lie and that half the names he’d come up with were just wrestlers (“Pope Therock” was just “The Rock” without spaces). This was less impressive but much funnier. Good lad.
This is Your Trial 
I had enjoyed this courtroom improv quite a lot, and they were half price so I took the opportunity again. The line up was a little weaker, but this show had a significant difference: I was able to charge someone. I met a girl called Izzie in the the line and suggested that we join in on the fake charging fun. I charged her with ditching her workmates for the Fringe (which actually happened) while she couldn’t think of anything for me. I said say Visa fraud or something. We go through a few cases and the clerk asks if there is an “Izzie”. My new companion is about to crawl under my seat and I’m about to warn her that that’s a kak idea since I’m about to piss myself laughing. But then the follow up. “Ah, thanks Izzie. You charged Greg, Greg could you come up here please”. Fuck. I get up, am sworn in and tell the folk I am from South Africa, presumably giving them all the ammunition they need. The lawyer asks Izzie for any details. All of a sudden, guess who’s chatty as fuck? Izzie, the modern-day Judas, spins a yarn about us having just met, but me saying I’d overstayed my Visa, and about how I didn’t care, and how they can’t make me go home. Isabella, how could you? The judge asked if, in all this commotion, I had tried to marry her, to which Izzie conceded that I had. I was asked how much of it was true. I said none of it, besides us meeting minutes ago. I was asked if I had proposed. I replied that I had said I was South African, and that she seemed to have mistaken this for a proposal. People laughed, and it felt good telling a well-received joke on stage at Edinburgh, even if it wasn’t my joke. The prosecutor went on about some EU shit and my defence piped up with the argument that I am guilty of little more than dressing like a bit of a dick. The judge found me not guilty of Visa fraud, but guilty of stalking. I was sentenced to follow Izzie around the whole night. It was pointed out that this may not help the stalking bit, but the judge allowed it. Izzie was a looker. Justice may be blind, but I was not.
Hyprov: Improv Under Hypnosis
The two premises that this was based on both kind of fell flat. For a start, the improv chap was meant to be Colin Mochrie from Who’s Line is it Anyway? He was sick and the replacement chap was average. But the biggest fallacy was their premise of combining hypnosis and improv. It’s not that it didn’t work, it’s that all hypnosis is technically improv. If someone is hypnotised, and I have seen it happen to a friend, they’ve hardly rehearsed anything. Also, for some reason the show was very Americanised, with most of the settings and characters being American. I’m not sure why you’d do this for a British crowd. It was still funny, but it wasn’t the best hypnosis show I’d ever seen and it was far from the best improv I’d witnessed.
I flew across a park in the middle of the night to find some dogey bar venue for Foxdog Studios. The two were billed as interactive musical comedians and they kind of looked like a Flight of the Conchords rip-off. But I got there and everyone had logged into their network with their phone. We joined them in an interactive game, where we maneuvered little letters on the big screen they had up, in an effort to randomly sort us. When the game was done there was a little bit of banter, and then all of our phones showed little squares with something like an MS Paint interface. We were all instructed to draw something (we were asked to double check that we had not “accidentally drawn a Nazi flag like last night”), and these later turned into avatars for a story. This was cool, but the input from us after that was pretty much just moving the character on screen from time to time. The main guy on stage had some kind of tablet/box situation that he was wearing on his head, and the other sort of stood there with a bass guitar. When they did play, they were good, but the story was a bit lacking and got boring. The show was mainly about all the cool contraptions they made with your phone, and after that, I kind of lost it.
Viva La Shambles
This also lived up to its name to some degree. Basically a whole bunch of amatuer comedians would get up and try do some funny skits that often turned into a bit of a shambles. So it was a bit kak, but they kind of knew that was a possibility, so by running with that they kind of salvaged it to some degree. They started trading funny stories that the others had to act out, which was funny in various degrees, although a lot of it seemed to be Fringe inside jokes that didn’t make for much viewing. A few musical guests, and some decent bits, but all in all a bit average. I did, however, receive the best put down of my life. Although I’m not much of a heckler, my traveling on my own usually guarantees me a seat near the front. At this point one of the hosts told me, due to my new facial hair of a moustache and a half-assed beard on my chin, my black T-shirt, and red chinos, if I was in a band. I said no, and supplied some other information. After some average South African jokes, they didn’t have much to say so they asked if I worked in a craft beer place. Once again, I said no. I fucking hate craft beer. Then, just as they were going to have to move on, the one piped up and said I look like a musketeer. This was funny, and a few folk laughed. But his co-host remarked that this could not be true, since the musketeer had at least two friends. Good one boet, credit where credit is due.
Yes you guessed it, mass karaoke. I was not sure about this one but took it after enquiring at the ticket office. The ticket folk are not allowed to endorse any shows, but after asking about it, the woman at the desk danced in her seat and sang the word “Massaoke” after I had butchered the pronunciation. There is a live band, with a screen with all the lyrics on behind them. You as the crowd from the main vocals as the band pelt out anthems. This sounds quite novel. Until you go there and realise that this is what you normally do with any band. Granted there were some guest singers but that really doesn’t change much. But now there are words on the screen and you feel awkward not staring at them and reading them. Worse still, you realise how many of these famous songs’ words you’ve been singing incorrectly, and nobody deserves dealing with this kind of cognitive dissidence while drunk in Edinburgh. It was an alright jol, the kind you need to hit after or before a better jol.
Thinking Drinkers: Around the World in 80 Drinks
Definitely one of the best shows I saw at the Fringe, and a decent break from comedians. Two learned alcoholics take you on a journey through a boozy history with their catchphrase “drink less, but drink better”. Granted, the “drink less” bit didn’t go down too well in Scotland, but they provided shots on everything they spoke about, so the crowd was happy. The act began with the chaps in high heels dressed as air hostesses (sky slette) and struggling to walk down the aisles making sure everyone had stowed away their baggage. The two guys were actually quite a laugh and turned it into a performance with the cunning use of a bar table that would double as a ship, plane, elevator, and other transportation. We bar-tabled our way around the world picking up on gin, whiskey, rum, and vodka along the way. The show wasn’t nearly long enough to cover the whole globe, but the guys were entertaining enough to make the journey worthwhile. Between the antics and somewhat archaic jokes, we actually learned some cool shit about booze that I have since forgotten. But trust me, it was cool. Lots of work put into a well-informed performance. Nice.
Mark Watson’s Edinborolympics
The name may not ring a bell, but Mark Watson is the weedy-looking chap from Live at the Apollo and is a Fringe favourite. He does the Edinborolympics and Comedy Wealth Games as often as possible, where three guest comedians compete in some arguable menial tasks, each representing a country. The audience helps out where they can and are sectioned off into supporting a country. It was rather fun, although I would have liked to have heard more from Mark. Adam Kay, from way back in this ramble, started us off with a song about Oscar Pistorious and later commented on the moral compass of South Africans. I was too drunk to think and too sober to shout out, but I find it interesting that an Englishman can comment on moral decisions through history, coming from the nation that colonised the world and profited on racism, but it was not that kind of show.
Shappi Khorsandi was fit to represent Iran, but they had got the flag with the wrong symbol so she morally objected and took England. Some Aussie dude was given Australia, and afterwards went on about how he actually hated his home country and why he moved. Watson remarked that one of the many differences this show had to the actual Olympics was that when given their nation’s flag, most athletes didn’t take a giant shit on it. Finally, the guy who was meant to represent England was late, so they got Irishman David O’Doherty to replace him. But Shappi had taken England. So we had an Irishman, pretending to be an Englishman, pretending to be an Iranian woman. It was nice. The games ranged from having to put a double sheet on a duvet, to having to run outside and grab a person from the quad to come on stage, to various other races. The games were silly but did erupt into chaos, and it was nice to see the comedians sort of at ease. They were still funny, but they didn’t have to get up and do a bit. I was sorted into Australia, which is not great, but we did win, so I’ll claim it.
The Footlights are Cambridge’s comedy group, and boast some strong alumni in Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Their standards have somewhat dropped since then. In their defence, this was their free show, and was more an ad for the paid one, but it wasn’t that funny, with the exception of some chap who read a book about an old-time, patriotic Britain, complete with Winston Churchill shitting Union Jacks.
Imaginary Porno Charades
Kind of funny. The premise was that a panel of comedians, albeit a bit second rate, played charades and various other spin-off games. But instead of the original titles of films, songs, and books, they were replaced by the porno version. Saving Ryan’s Privates, Much to do about Humping, and so on. It was amusing, and always amazing to see people act out the dirtiest of moves in a room full of strangers. Funnier when one comedian included a larger audience member in the front when doing some humping move. And funnier still when it was revealed that said audience member was to be the host’s father in law. Needles to say, he was used in just about every dirty act from then on. Their sort of charm to it all was that if the audience thought the act was a bit shit, they had to shout “more Shatner” encouraging the performer to imitate the over-acting style of William Shatner. This would have been cool if most of the performance, as charades goes, hadn’t required silence, thus disabling the Shater way of speaking which is kind of what he was known for. Was alright.
Late ‘n’ Live 
I like to think I did a good job talking Late ‘n’ Live up previously in this article. But on that occasion, its major draw, that of the heckles, was a bit disappointing. So much so that when I met MC John Hastings just outside I asked him about it and he recommended I come on the weekend despite the extra cost. I did and it was worth it.
I had booked the tickets in advance for fear of them selling out. Luckily for me, this was the Saturday in the middle of festival so the line-up was a stellar one. John Hastings as MC, JJ Whitehall, a few names I didn’t recognise, Axis of Awesome, and a mystery musical guest who turned out to be Hot Dub Time Machine, a guy who made his name at the fest by mixing music and music videos from the 60s to today into one long set.
Anyhoo, the night begins and the place is packed, apparently word had got out about the musical guest. Hastings did a superb job of rallying up the troops. He’d used a few jokes I’d heard before from him but tailored a few to the new crowd, a rich-looking work group near the front got the brand of it, with an excellent use of the word “regatta” which Hastings had admitted to pocketing when seeing the rich folk, and confirmed with himself that he had used at the right moment. The crowd really seemed to dig him and was in a good mood for JJ. This guy was a lot slower tempo, but was quite funny so the crowd spared him. Just as you thought he got too boring, he’d make another really good joke. Hastings was back and the crowd rallied, and then he brought on an act of twins.
I’m not sure if they had a bad night, they were the wrong type of act, or if Late ‘n’ Live had just booked them to see what would happen, but the last things bombed that hard in Britain was the Luftwaffe. The act was that the two performers, a man and a woman, were twins but they were the world’s worst twins. There were a collection of lame jokes and not-so-funny sketches.
So out they came to a well-rallied, well-oiled crowd. Perhaps even tamer than usual since many were there to see the dub guy. The performers started out will a few quick-fire lame jokes and the energy in the crowd dropped almost immediately. It got quieter, then picked up as folks decided to chat to each other rather than listen to the jokes. Finally there was a joke about being “womb-mates” and I heard a few hisses from the front and a couple of boos at the back. The hissing and booing and general disinterest was picking up until the pair tried a sketch where one had made up a poor attempt at a Chinese language. I don’t think it’s hard to get a racist laugh from a Scottish crowd, but they had failed. And the chap a few rows behind me had had enough.
Chick twin: You didn’t actually learn Chinese for this did you?
Dude twin: I thought we-
Heckler : SHITE!
Dude twin: I thought you-
Chick twin: Why did you learn Chinese!
Dude twin: What?
Chick twin: They wanted us to shout.
Heckler : NO, THIS IS SHITE!
Chick twin: So anyway, you didn’t have to-
Heckler : SHITE! THIS IS SHITE!
Chick twin: Oh you think it’s shite, well you should come see us you’d really love us.
Crowd grows more restless, hissing and booing
Heckler: IT’S DEAD!
Twins look at each other, unsure of what to do. I try to crawl under my seat
Chick twin: Do you want to hear the end of the joke?
Heckler : (Somewhat joined by the crowd) NO! IT’S DEAD! YOU KILLED IT!
Twins make an early exit to the applause of the crowd.
The gig did pick up from there and Hastings said that the heckles were fine but asked us not to boo. The rest of the acts were pretty good. Axis of Awesome (the 4 chord guys) were the last formal act and Hot Dub Time Machine was interesting. I did miss the beginning since some chick had spilled about 4 drinks on me while falling down the stairs. Luckily, she used to be a performer and took me to the Loft Bar to buy a drink to make up for it. This was the bar that all the performers went to, so I met a few of the acts that night. Jimmy Carr was even there and I wanted to shake his hand and say I was a fan but he had come down with a serious case of being a complete poes. I realise I’m not as famous as you yet sir, but when someone like me has forked out this much to be there and wants to say thank you you shake my hand. Doos.
Last week, I decided to take the Tuesday as well, especially since it was half-price. Shit-faced showtime is a company that puts on plays with a small cast playing various roles. The plays are quite famous and the actors play multiple roles, knowing all of them really well. O yea, and a few hours before showtime they randomly select one of the cast members to get completely drunk. This may sound like something they put on, and I’m sure they do put it on a bit, but it looked pretty real. This year it was Pirates of Penzance. I’d seen it once at high school and this version was rather different. All the other cast members were very professional and serious, and there was also a host who tried to keep everything under control. She even gave one or two folk musical instruments that they were allowed to chime in when the actor in question was judged to have been too sober. The drunk actor, however, was very evident. Tonight was a ginger-bearded Irishman who played the main baddy and a couple of other roles. His dancing was shit, but he knew all the lines. Too well. He’d constantly interrupt the other actors telling them their lines, and referring to them by their real names. The rest of the cast would have to act bewildered as to how he know this and to whom he was referring. After a couple of seconds the chap would remember and catch back on. He also constantly commented on his own performance when he had done things right, on holes in the plot, and went into a habit of kissing the other cast members, almost trying to auction off one of the chicks that he said he’d have dated if he were “that way inclined”. Quite a laugh, and the actors all knew the story well enough for it not to be totally ruined.
ACMS: The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society
This was one of the stranger shows I saw. It heralded itself as sort of an off-beat humour comedy compilation show. It had only run a few days and this was the final night. Much chaos was to ensue, but ACMS was not without its own rules. For instance, people were not allowed to shout out anything that wasn’t a permitted heckle. We were given a list of permitted heckles that included “We appreciate what you’re trying to do” (not to be said sarcastically), “I drew you a cat” (to be accompanied with a cat-drawing), and “Oh Tom!” in reference to Thom Tuck. Thom Tuck and John-Luke Roberts, the creators and MCs, were perhaps the highlight of this show and the reason so little of it made sense. Thom had his own running joke of calling the musical guests, Johnny and the Baptists, backwards as “And the Baptists, and Johnny”. He then proceeded to get progressively drunker as the evening went on, at some point mistaking his new beer for the microphone and speaking into it instead. ACMS, I would find out later, was meant to be a safe space for alternative comedians to try some new stuff, and if it didn’t work everything would be OK. Since it was the last night, they made up a whole bunch of awards, used a random number generator app, and gave them out. This was meant to be part of the evening, and the other part performance. But not for Thom. Turns out he had messaged everybody on a WhatsApp group to come to the gig and whoever pitched up was added to the list (including Paul Currie from earlier). And as with any performance at ACMS, it ended with an MC announcing it “a failure” to which the crowd would respond “a noble failure”. John-Luke did well to keep the awards funny and actually making a show out of it, but I did spend most of the show wondering what the fuck was going on.
Nevermind the Busstops
Having not been baffled enough for one night, clearly, I decided to head to the Blundabus. There are some arbitrary venues at the Fringe and this one was one of the more special ones as it was a double-decker bus. Not in motion, of course, they only drove it around on Wednesdays obviously, but parked in the corner of an underpass. The bus was complete with a bar, piano, and seating for a few folk. All day it had various performers, all performing under the “pay what you want” method, and between 12 and 3AM it was Nevermind the Busstops. That night was one of the strangest characters I’d ever come across in my like, an Australian called Jolly Goodfellow. He was a strange-looking fellow, quite old, with some mean overgrown mutton chops that were in a transition of brown into grey. Jolly had a particularly twangy Aussie accent, and he’d often start a story with a long drawn-out “so yeeeaaa…” at an ear-blasting pitch. And then he would start and talk the biggest load of shit I have ever heard in my life. I realise that I am young, but I’ve met some folk that can fill hours with words that made syntactical sense but meant nothing, like a half-pissed Lewis Carroll. He’d speak about his life and travels, often forgetting where he was but never where he had been. Most of it seemed like lies, since his stories ranged from sneaking his jester costume accross the Middle East, to being in a Beatles music video, to touring with Cirque du Soleil. He’d then link it by asking for a country suggestion from the crowd or moving on to an arbitrary thought like, “So yeaaaaaaa, consciousness hey?”. I was baffled and amused, as were most of the few people there that weren’t passing out against the bus windows. Later research found that he was, in fact, a jester that had done 24 hour-long shows and had actually toured around the world as such. Who could have believed it?
Thom: Foolery with Thom Tuck
Having enjoyed the chap from a few nights before, I went to see Thom Tuck’s show. Only it wasn’t exactly his show, but rather a show he ran, allowing any comedian to take part as long as their name was also Tom. Even audience members sharing his name could get up and tell a joke. He was quite funny himself, going on about stats while Thom Tucking into about his third drink of the morning, and his guests a bit hit and miss. I did hear a fantastic joke from some chap whose name I could not find, but I presume the first bit was Tom, “I don’t know why the postman is so sad, he gets to play pass the pasle for a living. Then again, his wife did just die.” This was pretty much the theme of the show and there seemed to be an automomous agreement that this had been their strangest show to date. Person who tipped the most got a hand-drawn poster, presumably of a cat.
Pete Firman – TriX
Firman is one of the pioneers of comedy-magic in Edinburgh, this being his tenth show at the festival. Don’t get me wrong, the squirrely man was very funny and his magic pretty inspiring, but I couldn’t help but feel it was lacking a bit. The tricks pretty flawless, and of various types, so it kept us entertained. He also used a lot of suggestions from the crowd, and a jokes teetering on the edge of being naughty. So it was pretty high-energy and changed a lot, but I still couldn’t help but feel it was missing something. The final reveal almost had to be set up and either he didn’t hide it very well or he is actually capable of magic. Either way, a good night out that he thanks us for choosing him, and veteran worth the money and the praise.
The Noise Next Door’s Comedy Lock-In
I’d not forgotten these guys from the first Late ‘n’ Live and had been well-converted on the improvised front. They had a fairly large hall in a popular hub of venues with a big audience so I could assume they were pretty good. I was in line early, and managed to get a seat near the front. To try and keep it interesting, the group had a few tricks up their sleeve. They had guest performers who change every night, they had encouraged people to Tweet famous celebrities while in the line that they later used faceswapping technology to imitate them, and they played a lot of improv games that toyed with time and setting and what not. A highlight had to be the internal fights between the lads who had different tolerances for race-based jokes (including making a situation more Tai-like by throwing in a neck tie). Although their screen wasn’t particularly big, their technology gamble paid off when they used Skype. The audience came up with a situation that a guy was meant to go and “live report” on via Skype while in the bustling courtyard. The situation was something like waves of seals that were eating people’s children. The reporter managed to find some people that were ok, and then the gem: a stoned Australian. He pretended to be a fisherman and everyone loved him. The idea was thrown in that he must come and join the performers so he did. The guy looked a little overwhelmed but played along where he could. As a bit of a lifeline, he didn’t have a mic so when the spotlight fell on him, he was suggested to explain himself through interpretative dance. He then dropped to the floor face first, held his hands by his side and dragged his face across the stage by lifting his legs to his knees and then pushing forward in a move called the Slug. Not only because of its motion, but because of the slimey trial he inevitably left. Some performers joined in on the fun, some were still unable to figure out what had happened.
Gillian Cosgriff: This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
I thought I had not seen enough musical comedians or women, which is an odd combination because musical comedians are usually very good and women are not. But Cosgriff was a good laugh and not shabby on the eyes. Yes I’m straight, I factor these things in, get used to it. Unfortunately, she was an Australian comedian who played the piano, and the bar for that combination had been set almost unattainably high by Tim Minchin, who had also made his name at this festival a few years prior. But in her own right, Cosgriff was a really funny, drawing on a lot of real-life experiences, including what sounded like authentic drunk voice messages that she had left for friends, dates, family and so on. Her music sounded perfect, and stories, although a bit womany, were interesting and entertaining. She touched on the whole not being able to adult thing, which hit a bit too close to everyone in Edinburgh in that month I believe. Well worth it.
Chris Gethard: Career Suicide
Now this was an interesting show that I had read about. Lots of comedians are touching on mental health issues these days, and the UK as a whole have had a big drive trying to spread awareness about mental health. South Africa has no such drive. If you say you’re depressed in SA people think you’re just bored and must grow up because sometimes they’re sad and they got over it. Kind of like the masturbation-attitude. It’s a phase that if anyone makes too much of a deal out of, they’re just looking for attention. Chris Gethard suffers from some pretty serious depression, like physical-attacks and suicide-attempt serious. But he’s a pretty funny chap and he talks the audience through his journey, assuring people that he is on medication and that he is seeing a therapist. These were some of his major points: he commented that everyone has an opinion on his medication, something that would never be done to any other kind of illness. Nobody would dream of asking if you were trying to wean yourself off of insulin or ask what could possibly be so wrong that you need chemotherapy. But for depression people feel they have this right. He also speaks highly of finding a therapist that works with you. He often noted that his therapist was not very good at her job, giving him free samples of drugs and going off on her own during sessions, but she knew him and they worked. He showed great distaste for a therapist who had ignored his calls after he was no longer legally required to look after him. The very same distaste that Adam Kay had for folk that though doctors did nothing. The story of his career was interesting and littered with incidents that Chris felt easy to talk about. The biggest message seemed to be that it was alright, and that not wanting to get involved with someone you know because it was not your business is bullshit. It was eye-opening, albeit a bit American-centric. I’ve changed my view on my own mental health, and mental health in general, and will continue to have a vested interest for sometime. Chris was a great performer, although I don’t recommend he hit Late ‘n’ Live any time soon.
As a final treat I went to a Spank! with my family who had hosted me. This line-up was a bit better, although the hosts not as good. Even if the funny Irishman from the previous Spank! had now been bumped up to MC. The night opened with two older guys as a musical duo who claimed to be the least successful boy band in Ireland, Totally Wired. They were really good, particularly with the song called “Sex Face” where they imitated various celebrities.The ball didn’t really get dropped as the evening went on. Some chap reading a story out a book, as in the Footlights or Thom Tuck’s Toms, but really got the mix of suspense and ridiculous comedy spot-on. The penultimate act was Axis of Awesome, who had loosened up a bit from the Late ‘n’ Live performance. To be honest, since this was the last Saturday and the fest ended on Monday, most acts were half-past giving a shit at all. They played a classic Elton John cover in “Benny’s Got Tourettes” and did their famous 4 chord song again, seemingly annoyed when folk kept shouting it out. This version had been updated. So updated, to the point that it now included the song “Sex Face” that was only about 2 hours old. But the Highlight was a woman called Janey Godley. This woman is the personification of the city of Glasgow. Rough, funny, crude, and all out of fucks to give. You may know her as the woman who held the “Trump is a cunt” sign when he came to Scotland, or from a previous set at the Free Fringe opening. She hit the ground running with that story and didn’t slow doon, knee-deep in Scottish slang with all the cunts, fucks, and anything else she could muster. We got a few stories out of her husband, a man so socially awkward that she calls him “Rain Man” and the rest of her family who were also performers. She was funny, shocking, and never gave you a chance to recover. A major advocate to the Free Fringe, and self-confessed socialist, she encouraged people to leave money in the bucket at her show if they could, or take some out if they needed it. A fitting end to a fitting season.
That was 40 shows in total with 37 different types. That means through all time and effort and money, I barely managed to pass 1% of the over 3 500 shows available. That is the size of Edinburgh Fringe. And out of all the blogs in the world about it you chose to read mine. Ha.