Shortcutting… The Edinburgh Fringe

28 Aug

The world’s biggest arts festival had its last day yesterday, and it all took place in wee Edinburgh, home to authors Arthur Conan Doyle and J. K. Rowling, comedian Ronnie Corbett, and the roots of one of the nation’s favourite author/comedians: me! Yes, yours truly has heritage not only in fair Athens, as I have mentioned previously (and so can therefore lay claim to the Olympics, Maths, Philosophy, and all that jazz), but also in the Athens of the north, thanks to which I am a frequent attendee of the bizarre, crazy, glorious Edinburgh Fringe.

If you are unfamiliar with the Fringe, I shall give you the lowdown – the original Edinburgh Festival was all plays and opera and the like, reserved for the highbrow among us. But then around it grew the Fringe, where the comedians and the improvised musicals and the student sketch shows took to pubs and clubs and any rooms they could find to bring entertainment to the masses, until the Fringe became a muuuuch bigger deal than the festival. Just to give you an idea, a few clicks on the website revealed that anyone looking for a show last Saturday had around 1700 to choose from. In one day. It went on for 25 days this year. There are about 300 different venues, ranging from the tiny – one at the Gilded Balloon was called The Wee Room, whose name my dad mistook for the bathroom (and he calls himself Scottish!) – to the huge – the biggest I went to was the Pleasance Grand, which seats about 1000 people. Some venues are theatres, some are university lecture rooms, some are little basements or attics, and I even saw a show taking place on the top floor of a disused double decker bus. From my experience, there was a direct correlation between ‘size of room’ and ‘funniness’, so if you’re squeezing into a little ten-seater attic room, don’t have your hopes too high.

So, what to see? I saw about ten shows, whose size and funniness ranged quite considerably. As I’m a very kindhearted person, I won’t mention the really awful shows – they’ve already either been slated by critics, or worse, are simply unknown. But I will share with you my four favourites:

4) Morgan & West: Clockwork Miracles. This magic show was the only show I went to not professing to be a comedy, but it turned out to be a lot funnier than many I saw. Almost all of the magic tricks were un-work-out-able and like the best magicians they had great patter which made it  fun as well as confusing.

3) Pappy’s: Last Show Ever! I saw Pappy’s three years ago and this sketch show trio were as hilarious this time as they were the time before. What’s great about them is that every joke comes back later in the show, and it’s all structured very cleverly. My personal favourite sketch involved a game show called ‘I Can’t Do That’, in which contestants get through rounds based on their inability to do things, which probably doesn’t sound that funny but it was hilarious. It might seem a bit pointless me telling you to go and see an act whose last show was called ‘Last Show Ever!’, but I think it might not actually have been the last show, so keep an eye out for these guys.

2) The Boy With Tape On His Face: More Tape. This one man show involved a man with tape over his mouth and very expressive eyes getting members of the audience to join him in different games involving different everyday objects as more well-known things, e.g. tape measures as lightsabres, wind-up teeth as castanets, and there was a great cowboy-style stand-off where The Boy and an audience member both had balloons under their arms and between their legs, were armed with staplers, and had to try and burst each others’ balloons (don’t worry health and safety, they were wearing safety goggles!), all of which was highly entertaining. A good solid laugh, this one, with a good climax too.

1) Paul Merton’s Improv Chums. Despite the cheesy name, this was completely and utterly hilarious. Paul himself has a great talent for one-liners which will you in tears with laughter, while Mike McShane and Suki Webster were brilliant at creating improvised songs from nowhere, supported by Richard Vranch’s great piano playing. Richard and Lee Simpson had the art for improv too – in fact, I wouldn’t say any of them were the weakest link, which meant that every little sketch had laughs guaranteed, be it King Kong’s coronation, two penguins at a chocolate factory, or a professor explaining how he trained budgies to play hockey. And the other benefit of improv – a different show every day! Well, I’d go again…

To finish this post, I thought you might enjoy what have been voted the ten best jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe 2012, as voted by Dave:

1. Stewart Francis – “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.”

2. Tim Vine – “Last night me and my girlfriend watched three DVDs back to back. Luckily I was the one facing the telly. ”

3. Will Marsh – “I was raised as an only child, which really annoyed my sister.”

4. Rob Beckett – “You know you’re working class when your TV is bigger than your book case.”

5. Chris Turner – “I’m good friends with 25 letters of the alphabet … I don’t know why.”

6. Tim Vine – “I took part in the sun tanning Olympics – I just got Bronze.”

7. George Ryegold – “Pornography is often frowned upon, but that’s only because I’m concentrating.”

8. Stewart Francis – “I saw a documentary on how ships are kept together. Riveting!”

9. Lou Sanders – “I waited an hour for my starter so I complained: ‘It’s not rocket salad.”

10. Nish Kumar – “My mum’s so pessimistic, that if there was an Olympics for pessimism … she wouldn’t fancy her chances.”

I always think the second one’s the best.

Keep shortcutting,


P.S. I know I haven’t blogged in aaaages – yeah sorry about that, but I’m back now eh 🙂


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