If.Comedy Awards announced

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Written by: Dean Love

David O’Doherty pipped favourite Rhod Gilbert to the main award. A favourite of ours, we’re very happy he won. While in my opinion this year’s show wasn’t his best work, frankly he should have won the big prize around 4 years ago and it’s great that he finally has.

Sarah Millican won best newcomer to the surprise of no-one and while I didn’t see the show I’ve seen Sarah many times over the past few years working up the material for it and it’s certainly deserved.

The spirit of the Fringe award was a cop-out: it went to “all the performers” and the prize money was placed behind the bar. Rather have seen it go the Free Fringe guys, or even Simon Munnery who comes back year after year with a truly unique show.

Still congrats to David, I look forward to dragging my friends along to the (hopefully) inevitable UK tour!

If.Comedy Award Nominees Announced

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Written by: Anna Lowman

You wouldn’t know it from the if.comedy website itself, but Chortle is reporting that the nominees for the main award, and the newcomer award, have been announced as follows:

Main Award:

David O’Doherty: Let’s Comedy
Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler: Double Down Hearts
Rhod Gilbert and the Award Winning Mince Pie
Russell Kane: Gaping Flaws

Best Newcomer:

Mike Wozniak
Pippa Evans and Other Lonely People
Sarah Millican’s Not Nice

Here at FringeBlogs we think Rhod Gilbert might get the nod, with Sarah Millican receiving the award for best newcomer. I’d personally love to see David O’Doherty win though!

Guardian Gives Me A Laugh

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Written by: Dean Love

Have to love this piece in the good old Guardian

An increasing scarcity of comedy coverage in the national press suggests three possibilities:

1) The national press have decided that comedy, as an art form, has had its day and that ballet must now take its place.

2) That newspaper editors have taken offence at Brendon Burns’s uproarious five minutes on the sexual inadequacies of newspaper editors.


3) We’re approaching the third week of the Fringe and, well, most of the good stuff has been covered.

Then later:

Tim “four-star” Minchin gets another glowing review today, from the Guardian, and would seem to be edging towards an if.comedy nomination to go with his 2005 newcomer award.

I’d like to offer The Guardian a 4th option. There’s not much comedy coverage as either no-one can be bothered to do their research or no-one knows enough about how the Eddies Awards work to comment accurately in a national newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Minchin - Ready For This? (2nd Opinion)

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Written by: Dean Love

It’s hard to deny that the opening to musical comic Tim Minchin’s latest show is shit. It’s neither funny nor musically impressive. It’s just a racket that he mimes and plays air instruments to. It’s cashing in on the fact that he’s now well-known enough to an Edinburgh crowd and is kooky enough in appearance that he can get a laugh from an odd facial expression or a silly dance move. It’s turgid, goes on too long and is the exact same gag he used to open last year’s show just without the clever bits.

Good job the remaining 55 minutes is the best thing I’ve seen on the Fringe then eh?

Read the rest of this entry »

David O’Doherty - Let’s Comedy

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Written by: Anna Lowman

When a comic can make your jaw ache from laughing before they even take to the stage, you can pretty safely put large amounts of money on the fact that you’re in for a good night. David O’Doherty sets the bar high right from the off, very conscious, I think, of the rather soulless and sterile room he has been placed in this year. He explains that when he’d been asked whether he’d like to perform in a basement, he had visions of The Beatles at the Cavern in ‘62, not conference chairs and a doctor’s surgery-esque entrance.

Perhaps the feeling that he has to work that little bit harder to keep the audience onside has been a blessing in disguise, however, as this is a massively fun show that never falls from those initial off-stage heights. When I’ve seen O’Doherty before he’s always been utterly laid-back, and the perfect fulfillment of his promise of “very low energy musical whimsy.” But no more - just like Dylan and his own new toothbrush, O’Doherty has gone electric. He’s still the charming, thoroughly likable performer he has always been, but this year he has turned things up to eleven, and it really works.

The territory that O’Doherty covers may not be especially innovative, but he moves from topic to topic, gag to gag, and witty observation to witty observation with such ease and joy that you simply don’t care. This is a comedian hitting his stride, and I feel an if.comedy nomination could easily be forthcoming - and would be thoroughly deserved.

Tim Minchin - Ready For This?

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Written by: Anna Lowman

Tim Minchin, AKA the coolest rock and roll nerd in the western world, has come to the Edinburgh Fringe with a completely new show, but the themes that we have come to expect from this astonishingly talented entertainer - comedian doesn’t quite cover it - are all in evidence. Ready For This? is an unashamed love letter to rationalism; nothing gets this Aussie going like facts, evidence, and methodical analysis (except being thoroughly silly once and a while, of course, and thank goodness for that).

Among the topics suffering the slings and arrows of Minchin’s musical ire this year are those who refer only to the Bible for their moral compass because they’ve been told that “it’s a Good Book, and it’s good, and it’s a book”, and the idea that love is anything other than a combination of shared experience and circumstance. When you realise that Minchin has actually been with the same woman since the age of 17, the song “If I Didn’t Have You (Someone Else Would Do)” instantly takes on an extra piquancy, but it is testament to his lyrical dexterity that a song which contains the line “I don’t think you’re special” can also be touchingly romantic.

The only slight quibble one could have about this show comes, I think, from a quirk of the British psyche as much as any flaw on Minchin’s part. It can be quite hard, sometimes, to have a guy with a microphone telling you how right he is about certain things, without a really healthy sprinkling of “but what do I knows” and “I could be wrongs”. We just don’t trust it. I suspect, however, that this minor issue will be sorted out on tour when the show is lengthened, and perhaps a couple of Minchin’s self-parodistic songs are added.

But in the end, there’s no real need for Minchin to be modest in any case. This show is achingly funny and thoughtful, with a good dose of frivolity, and to watch Tim Minchin, one of comedy’s most gifted performers, is always as much a privilege as a joy.

Russell Kane - Gaping Flaws

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Written by: Anna Lowman

In a recent interview, I heard Russell Kane say that he’s happy to do work for anyone kind enough to offer it to him, whether it’s E4 or BBC Four - “I have the hair for one and the mind for the other” he said, with a flourish reminiscent of his namesake, Mr Brand.

I was looking forward to this then, expecting some wonderful collision of high and low culture, and while that’s clearly what Kane is aiming for, I’m not sure it really comes off. The show’s title refers to the fact that we British like people to be imperfect, in direct opposition to, say, Americans, who openly strive for perfection in all walks of life. When you’re taking this rather commonplace conceit as the focus of your show, you’ve got to be pretty darn innovative in how you expand on it, and I just don’t think Kane went far enough beyond the obvious.

This isn’t to say that Kane isn’t incredibly fun to watch, however. The most energetic comic I have seen at the Fringe, he bounces around the stage constantly, matching every line to a physical movement - related or not. He’s clearly a talented performer who delights in letting his intelligence slip through in little asides every now and then, but he is here unfortunately restricted by a rather uninspiring theme.

In Defense of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival

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Written by: Dean Love

The Edinburgh Comedy Festival is an idea that’s taken a lot of flack. Basically the big four Fringe venues (Pleasance, Underbelly, Assembly Rooms, Gilded Balloon) decided to get together and market all their shows under the banner of the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. Now this isn’t that new. For years the venues have been pairing up to help with promotion, producing joint programmes and so forth. Most of the consternation comes from the name: it implies that they’re the only comedy shows on the Fringe, ignoring the smaller venues.

It’s a valid complaint, but it’s hardly the first time someone has pulled something like this. Some years ago Avalon (a comedy management company) produced a “Fringe Highlights Guide” which was styled like the official Fringe program and had just their own acts in. Still nothing has been done on this scale before and the argument appears to be that it discriminates against the smaller acts that can’t afford to play the big venues, which is against the spirit of the Fringe (though the organisers have suggested other venues could join the “Comedy Festival” banner in future years).

I’m not so convinced it’s that clear-cut. For a start pick up the Fringe programme and thumb through it. 1000s of shows, but adverts for only around 10% of them. If you can afford an advert in the programme you get better advertising. If you can afford and convince one of the ‘Big 4’ you should play there you get better advertising. It’s most certainly a question of degrees rather than a fundamental issue. Read the rest of this entry »

Edinburgh Late Show Round-Up

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Written by: Dean Love

You know the feeling, it’s Edinburgh, 11pm and after a day of watching comedy, you quite fancy watching some more comedy, but in a slightly more laid-back fashion. A strange tradition has been established at the Fringe, and that is while most individual stand-up shows are done by midnight it’s these late hours when the traditional club-style comedy nights start up. You pay your £12, you get 3-5 acts doing 10-20 minutes each with an MC and it’s all a bit Jongleurs but later in the evening.

And there are loads of them. While in years past there were only two or three, these days there are 5 or 6 every night and closer to 10 or 12 at weekends. They serve numerous purposes. For the comics it’s a reminder of the day job, a tap on the shoulder telling you not to get too complacent in playing to tiny attentive audiences. Your main function remains, for better or worse, to make large rooms of drunk people laugh. Also much like said day job and unlike most solo shows, the late shows actually pay money, helping off-set the horrendous losses most comics make in bring their own shows to the Fringe. They’re also a good way for a comic to promote their solo show to the paying punters. Likewise it gives the audience a chance to check out a whole bunch of acts in one night, so they can note down the good ones and go and see them do a full length performance. Most comics are aware of this and do mainly material from their previous shows at the late-night showcases so you won’t be paying for the same jokes twice.

But with so many to choose from, which one do you go for? Well generally, the one with the best line-up that night. But unless you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the comedy scene, you won’t know half of the acts. Fortunately there are other things you can base the choice on: each night has it’s own style, atmosphere and approach. But since the reviewers don’t cover the late shows it’s something previously only picked up on by experience. Until now, as FringeBlogs presents the ultimate guide to Edinburgh late shows.

Late ‘n’ Live Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4th-25th, 1am-5am
Late ‘n’ Live is the daddy, the big one, one of the Fringe’s first late shows and known by it’s reputation as one of the greatest. Past compères include the likes of Daniel Kitson and Russell Howard. The event runs from 1am-5am but the comedy is normally done by 3am after which there’s live music. The problem with Late ‘n’ Live is it’s trading on a reputation. It used to be the best for a reason, I remember it being my first introduction to a late night comedy club when I was first at the Fringe in 2002 where it featured a man whose act appeared to be downing 5 pints of Guinness and a headline set from a not-yet-famous Jimmy Carr. It was wonderful and brilliant. But then the venue it was held in on Cowgate burned down a few years back. The Gilded Balloon relocated it to their other venue but there’s no room there that’s really suitable for this sort of show. The old venue was this ornate ballroom and it had cabaret style seating, people sat around tables with drinks and it was great fun. Now it’s in the big room at the Teviot and it just doesn’t work. If you queue early, get one of the 10 or so tables near the front and never turn around it can be great. But behind that people are squeezed into rows of seats theatre-style with little leg room and the whole thing falls apart. Not to mention that if you’re at the back you can barely see the stage. It’s hard to create an ‘anything could happen’ and ‘go ahead and heckle us’ vibe in that sort of room. It’s a shame. And for a gig that used to pride itself on regular comperes doing the job nearly every night, it appears to have 6 or 7 different ones this year. It’s a shame, it’s not the gig it used to be but it can sell out every night on the Late ‘n’ Live name alone so there’s no incentive there to improve it. Like the website says, it truly is “one of the hottest tickets in town”. It just shouldn’t be.

Spank! – Underbelly, 4th-24th, Midnight-4am
Spank! is pretty much what Late ‘n’ Live used to be. And not just in it’s use of strange punctuation marks which make it awkward to type. The acts on slant slightly less mainstream than Late ‘n’ Live with a tendency to pick weird acts while maintaining the traditional bear-pit atmosphere. It’s in a lovely wide room with cabaret seating and rows with actual leg room at the sides. While both gigs go for the high energy, loud music, plenty of intervals for drinks approach to late-night gigs, Spank’s room is just more conductive to creating that. Neither are gigs you go to to see a specific act, more they form a fun part of a night out. Nor are most particularly tolerable sober! But anyone that’s a fan of comedy but mainly sticks to the more arty end of the spectrum with theatre gigs and such really owes it to themselves to check out a gig such as this at least once. The highly charged combative acts vs audience atmosphere is at once unpleasant but still strangely alluring. It’s comedy in a very raw and primal form, where seeing an act die miserably while failing to win over the vicious crowd is often as entertaining as seeing one do brilliantly. Seeing such shows at Edinburgh offers a slightly different experience to your regular Friday night at Jongleurs, as the audience are generally more comedy literate (if also more drunk), the acts a cut above, and there are less stag and hen parties. So if you’ve ever wanted to see such a gig, Spank is your best opportunity. You probably shouldn’t sit at the front though. Like Late ‘n’ Live, it’s scheduled till 4am, but the comedy finishes about 2.30-3am, after which there is some sort of club night. Also there’s always at least one naked person on stage at some point. 98% of the time it is a man.

Late Show – Underbelly, Thu-Sun 3rd-24th, 00:40-03:10
The Late Show is The Underbelly’s other late night comedy showcase. It’s in a smaller room so the whole thing is more intimate, and less Rock ‘n’ Roll than Spank, aimed slightly more at people that want to enjoy the comedy rather than get drunk. Not that there isn’t heckling and audience interaction but it’s a little more restrained. Nice if you’re finding it too early to go to bed but would rather wind down a little than be fired-up.

Political Animal – Underbelly, Wed-Sun 6th-24th, 22:30 – 23:50
Another Underbelly show, this one isn’t so late but is worth including. It mostly features political acts or acts doing political material and as such is a little bit more intellectual than the other late shows (though there’s not that much you’d really term ‘cutting satire’). Ably MC’d by Andy Zaltzmann it’s a great show that often showcases comics doing material they don’t normally do to an appreciative audience. Well worth checking out.

Honourable Men of Art – Sun-Thu 3rd-24th, 00:00 – 03:00
So at some point Daniel Kitson got bored of MCing Late ‘n’ Live and adopted a far less aggressive style of comedy. But he also missed having somewhere for him and his friends to hang out of an evening, and so Honourable Men of Art was born. Up at The Stand away from the hustle and bustle of the more southerly venues and purposefully not running on Friday or Saturday evenings to avoid ‘that sort’ of crowd, Honourable Men of Art is a million miles away from your traditional late show. It features Kitson and some of Andy Zaltzman, David O’Doherty, John Oliver (via webcam) and Alun Cochrane. It’s all quite laid back and silly and certainly the comedy connoisseurs choice of late show, even though Kitson would probably argue such a description made it sound far to elaborate.

We Need Answers – Pleasance Dome, 10th-16th, 00:15 – 01:25
Another rather different late show, this features Mark Watson, Tim Key and Alex Horne presiding over two other comics in a quiz format, as the comics compete to win. The catch? All the questions have previously been asked of AQA, a text message answering service that isn’t as good as Texperts (66000). You can text them any question and they’ll send you an answer for a pound. Quiz contestants have to guess exactly what answers AQA sent back. It’s not at all serious, there may be cheating involved and it’s done in a brilliantly over the top gameshow fashion. Hopefully Tim Key’s sliding chair will make a return this year. If you want something totally off-beat and bizarre at midnight, this is the thing to go for.

Storytellers’ Club – C Central, Saturdays, 2nd-23rd, 23:45 – 01:15
This aberration of logic is a friendly, relaxed late night gig on a Saturday night in Edinburgh. Presided over by Sarah Bennetto the point of the gig is to offer a different sort of comedy gig. Interesting and amusing stories are valued over punchlines and traditional jokes making the whole thing the ideal tonic to the rest of Edinburgh on a Saturday. Come along, sit, relax and be taken on a funny journey by some brilliant comics. Especially on August 16th when they have an amazing line-up…

Everything Else
Those of course, are only a fraction of the options available. Off the top of my head there’s also Afterhours and The Bad Film Club at the Pleasance, The Stand’s weekend late shows, about 5 different Free Fringe and Free Festival Late shows, a Late Show at the Tron and probably a bunch of others too. But since I’ve never been to them, I can’t really write them up. But should I make it there this year I’ll be sure to write some addendums.

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