There’s a wealth of comedy talent on show at the Fringe. VLADIMIR MCTAVISH recommends some homegrown acts among the international performers
You can always tell it’s the start of the Fringe. Almost overnight, the pavements are crowded, the roads are one continuous traffic jam, the rain starts chucking down, and Edinburgh City Council decides to dig large holes everywhere.
Just as well the city is also now thronging with comedians, as we all are going to need cheering up between now and September. Like most Edinburgh residents, I find the Fringe both exciting annoying in equal measure. It’s like having a loud, attention-seeking guest in your house for three-and-a-half weeks.
There’s plenty of brilliant entertainment on offer, though there’s also some that’s barely watchable. Over the next few weeks, this column will nudge in the direction of some of the gems to be found in the bottomless bin of Fringe comedy.
The first tip I have is to avoid watching any comedian who has a ten-foot high poster on The Mound. Some poor idiot paid a lot of money for that poster. In fact, the poor idiot who paid for the poster is the guy whose face is on it. Inevitably, it’s some young man just out of university with unfeasibly tight trousers and ridiculously large glasses.
There are still some people only watch comedy at Fringe time, which is sad because as the city’s year-round stand-up scene is more vibrant now than it has ever been. We have four permanent clubs, two of which are open seven nights a week. Furthermore, a number of Edinburgh acts walked away with gongs at this year’s Scottish Comedy Awards. So take a punt on one of the many talented local acts at this year’s Fringe. It may be an international festival, but there is some world-class talent based in the city all year round. Here’s a pick of the bunch:
LIAM WITHNAIL: HOMECOMING
Monkey Barrel Comedy, Blair Street, 6.40pm
Liam Withnail is one of the most exciting emerging comic talents in the UK today. This will be his fourth solo Fringe hour flowing on from the huge critical and box-office success on 2018’s Homeboy, which he toured to Australia and Japan at the start of this year. Dagenham-born, Withnail trained in drama at Queen Margaret’s University and stayed on in Edinburgh after graduating. Had he headed back down south to the epicentre of the entertainment industry, there is no doubt he would be a regular on our TV screens by now. If he does not become a household name in future, there is no justice in show business.
CRAIG HILL: BOTTOMS UP
EICC, Morrison Street, 8.30pm
Yes, it must be August because Craig Hill’s face is on the side of a bus again. For some Edinburgh folks, Craig Hill is the Fringe. He has a huge local following who flock to his shows every August. At the start of this century, Hill looked as if he was going to become the face of comedy on TV in Scotland. While that may not have materialised, he is a masterful live performer and has built up a deservedly large fan-base. Craig does cheeky innuendo like no-one else, and he has charm by the bucket-load. Outside of August, he is seldom to be seen on an Edinburgh stage as he plies his craft worldwide, so take your chance to see him this month.
BEN VERTH: SHITEGEIST
Monkey Barrel Comedy, Blair Street, 9.55pm
The show’s title is pure Verth, a slightly inappropriate mixing of the intellectual with the vulgar. A hugely talented writer, he has a unique comedy voice and one of the most enquiring comic minds on the circuit. Having seen much of this show in preview, this is definitely one of my top tips for this year’s Fringe.
GARETH MUTCH: THE OLD MAN IN THE CARVERY
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, Rose Street 8.30pm
Gareth Mutch has been around for a few years now, so it is surprising to find out how young he still is. His stage presence and the quality of his writing display a maturity far beyond his years. Since his debut hour at last year’s Fringe, Mutch has gone on to appear on BBC’s Comedy Underground. Definitely destined for bigger things, he is already one of the finest storytelling comics on the Scottish scene.
GUS LYMBURN: NONSENSE
Scottish Comedy Festival @ The Beehive Inn, Grassmarket 5.15pm
A true force of nature, Gus Lymburn is one of the funniest people in Scotland. His of-the-cuff, often alcohol-fuelled flights of fancy make him one of the must-see acts on the Fringe, so do make sure to catch this hour of madcap, infectious nonsense. If quarter-past-five is too early for you, he’s also doing a later show at The Nightcap on York Place at 9.45 when drink certainly will have been taken.
JO CAULFIELD: VOODOO DOLL
The Stand Comedy Club, York Place , 7.40pm
Star of Radio 4, and a regular panelist on Mock The Week and other game shows, Joe Caulfield re-located to Edinburgh from London to enjoy a better quality of life. Her live stand-up is a joy to watch. Her acid comic writing is beautifully-crafted and delivered with such appealing worldly charm that it won’t shock your granny,. An hour in her company is a total delight.
Vladimir McTavish’s solo show at the 2019 Fringe, “60 Minutes To Save The World” is at The Stand’s New Town Theatre, George Street at 6.50pm until Sunday 25 August.
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