Tag Archives: comedy

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016

I’ve been in Edinburgh since Monday, on my annual visit to the Edinburgh Fringe. Usually I’d make a summary post each day, but this time I thought I’d just write it up in one post.

TL;DR my favourite shows this year:

  • Daniel Sloss, So
  • Chris Coltrane, Socialist Fun Times
  • Nicole Henriksen, Makin It Rain

But I didn’t see anything I’d say was bad.

Monday

My first day at the Fringe was a little shorter, and I mostly saw acts I’d seen before in previous years. The first show I saw this year was Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly; this is the third year in a row I’ve been to Tamar’s free show, and she was as good as ever, very funny with good songs.

Next was Rachel Parris, another musical comedy act. I first saw her in a free show a few years back which I enjoyed a lot, but her paid show the next year – which used character comedy – was a little disappointing in comparison. Best Laid Plans, her show this year, was back to something more like that first year, and I enjoyed it.

After that was the last repeat on previous years, Daniel Sloss’s So. Sloss is one of the best stand up acts I’ve seen, and this year was just as good as last year, highly recommended.

My final show on Monday was Russ Peers’ Bad Gay, which started off awkwardly when I was the only person who stepped forward when they called for people with tickets to go in. It was one of the shows that are free to get in but give the option of buying a ticket, which is not clear on the Fringe ticket website; it turned out I had a few tickets like this. As it was 10:30pm on a Monday, it was a pretty small crowd. Peers’ show was a little rough around the edges, but amusing enough.

Tuesday

I fell afoul of my indecision on Tuesday, and didn’t go to either of the first two free shows I’d been considering to start my day. In the end I started with The Punel Show, which is exactly what it sounds like. The show was a bit of a disaster, as one of the two hosts was absent due to an injury and the remaining host was a little lost, but it still managed to be a lot of fun (so long as you like a lot of bad puns).

After that was Laura Lexx, Tyrannosaurus Lexx, which wasn’t the greatest standup show, but was still worth the price (this was another of the”£5 or pay what you want” tickets).

My next show was James Wilson-Taylor’s Ginger is the New Black. Another musical comedian, this show was a bit shoutier and more absurd than most I saw, and got a lot of laughs out of me.

After I grabbed some food (I barely ate on Monday and was trying to do better), I moved on to American standup Ari Shaffir’s Ari-S-P-E-C-T, which I think was my favourite show off the day.

Finally, there was Gillian Cosgriff’s This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, which had my favourite songs out of all the musical comedy acts I saw this year.

I’d planned to see another after that, but it was late, wet, and I had a 25 minute walk to get to my hotel, and I really wasn’t feeling up to more.

Wednesday

Wednesday was my best day of the Fringe. Some of the crowds were small, I got soaking wet, but I had some of my best times at the shows I saw that day.

The day started a little weak with Sooz Kempner’s Queen; the show had strong storytelling elements and Kempner’s cover songs were strong (she has a good voice), but the original songs weren’t great and the humour wasn’t quite there. (I honestly think the show could be fine without being funnier because of that storytelling side, but Kempner kept calling attention to the weak laughs.)

I followed that up with Laurence Owen’s Cinemusical High, a one man high school musical, which was a lot of fun.

The next show was Chris Coltrane’s Socialist Fun Times. I’d tried to see Coltrane before a couple of years ago, but the venue had been packed full; this time was also packed, so much so that people were sitting on the floor. It’s political comedy, very left wing as the title implies, and very very funny. Really glad I caught this one, will probably try to see him again on future trips.

As good as that was, the next show I saw is possibly my favourite out of all five years I’ve been to the Fringe. Nicole Henriksen’s Makin It Rain is a one-woman theatre piece about her work as a stripper to support her comedy career. Henriksen gives a strong performance which is at turns funny, sexy, serious and poignant. As well as an autobiographical piece, it’s also a feminist discussion of the stripping profession, the impact it has on performers, and its position and perception in our sexist society. Strongly recommend seeing this one. (Note: includes nudity.)

After that, I went to a standup show by Danny Deegan, which had the smallest crowd out of all my Fringe shows with only 5 people present. Deegan handled it well, though, and delivered a solid set largely about his relationship with his father. I think we all had a good time despite the turnout.

After killing some time watching a street musician (or more honestly, taking shelter under a tree from the rain, which happened to be next to a performer), and getting well and truly soaked walking across town to the venue, my final show of the Fringe was Rahul Kohli’s Newcastle Brown Male. Kohli’s set about racism was a decent end to a very good day, I enjoyed it a lot.

That’s it for my 2016 trip to Edinburgh. Right now I’m on a train from Edinburgh to London, where I’ll be attending Nine Worlds Geekfest; more on that later this weekend. It’s been a good trip this year; here’s looking forward to next year.

Edinburgh 2015 – Day 2

Little late writing this one up. I’m back home now from my very short visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which was pretty good. The only real problem I had is that I turned out to be really awful at successfully attending free shows – nearly every one I went to was full when I got there. I guess in future I need to allow more time, because not only would I miss the show I’d wanted to see, but I’d also not be able to find an alternative because I’d only really given myself exactly that hour before I had to head for a paid show.

That started straight away on Saturday, when I tried to start the day with David Callaghan’s “No Momentum”. When that fell through, I decided I should work out where one of the other venues was while I had the time. My last show of the day was a long walk out of the centre, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to get there – and it’s a good thing I did a trial run, because I got lost. I eventually did find the place, then walked all the way back for a quick lunch.

My actual first show of the day, then, was Austentatious, who perform a different improvised Jane Austen novel every day. The title that came out of the hat this time was “Magic Mike at Pemberley”, and the group seemed to have a lot of fun with that.

Next up I was supposed to go see “Worst Show on the Fringe”, which is some short sets by comedians who have received one star reviews in the past. Unfortunately I got a bit lost and never made it to the venue. I headed into the nearby Free Sisters instead to see a show that was about to start, and that one turned out to be full. Not a great beginning to the day, really. I was determined not to miss the next one on the list, so for the next half hour or so I headed along the Royal Mile. Not the best idea, as it turned out, because it was packed so full you could barely move. I did however get to see a man juggling flaming torches while riding a unicycle balanced on a rope, so that was something.

The next free show on my schedule was Tamar Broadbent’s “Brave New Girl”, and I made sure I set off a lot earlier for this one. Turns out that was a good idea, because the venue was not making things easy to find. I had no idea which room it was in in Cowgatehead, there were no directions, and when I finally found the schedule which showed the room I was looking for, it was posted on the back of a closed door.

I saw Tamar Broadbent perform last year, and enjoyed it a lot, so I was glad to get to catch her again. She’s a really funny musical comedian, and I recommend anyone who’s at the Fringe try to catch her show (note: not for kids).

From that I rushed straight over to Pleasance Dome for more musical comedy in Yve Blake’s “Lie Collector”. Blake collects true stories of lies people have told and turns them into songs. It’s kind of a delightfully weird show, with a sometimes over-the-top and shouty performance from Blake, lots of ridiculous costumes and plenty of mugging. The show gets into some fairly serious material toward the end, and there was at least one of the true confessions used in the show that I’m not entirely sure how to feel about it being used in this way. Still, I overall enjoyed the show, it was an interesting mix of silly and serious.

Another quick rush down to the next venue followed. The next show up was Sarah Kendall’s “A Day in October”. This was a really strong show – funny and touching, and just a really excellent work of storytelling. I think this was probably the most well-crafted standup performance I saw on the fringe this year.

I had yet another free show in mind to follow, and bearing in mind that I’d missed three shows in two days so far because I didn’t get there early enough, I was making extra sure now. After a quick burger for dinner, I arrived very early at the venue for Sarah Bennetto’s free show… which wasn’t happening. If I’d looked into things further when I was planning I might have known this in advance: Sarah Bennetto wasn’t available this weekend, and instead her show was being covered by Amy Howerska, who was doing extra free performances of her usually-paid show, “Sasspot”. I didn’t find this out until the performance was starting, so that was a surprise. It turned out to be a pretty fun show, about growing up in a family of professional skydivers, and how funerals are much better than weddings. Funny thing: Howerska’s show was one of the ones I’d considered when working out what to see this weekend, and I’d come close to buying a ticket to her show instead of one of the others.

Finally, I walked a mile in 15 minutes to get to my final show of the day, Daniel Sloss’ “Dark”. This was yet another great show, and it got the biggest laughs out of anything I saw all weekend. It’s also the first time I’ve seen someone perform a Fringe show with live signing on stage for deaf audience members, which is a great idea. (It was also nice to be in a comfortable, air-conditioned theatre after a day of tiny boiling hot rooms.)

All in all, despite missing a couple of planned shows I had a really great day yesterday. My feet are killing me from all the walking (huge blisters), but I had a good time and that’s what matters.

Wish I’d not been so dumb as to go “well, I’ll maybe just do two nights this year” when I finally decided to book my trip. A weekend at the Fringe is definitely an annual thing for me now, and I’ll probably stick to three nights like last year. It’s impossible to fit everything in, and two days (one of which starts after 3pm because of travel) is hardly anything. Looking forward to next time.

Edinburgh 2015 – Day 1

I’m back in Edinburgh this weekend for my annual visit to the Edinburgh fringe festival. Only staying two nights this year, and yesterday was my first day. As usual, I planned my whole trip out in advance, and as usual the plans didn’t last long.

I arrived in the afternoon just late enough to not be able to go to the first free show I’d intended to after checking in to the hotel, so instead I took a look at what was starting soon and went to see a free show by Hari Sriskantha. It was a decent enough standup set, though maybe a bit unpolished; worth it if you’re just looking to kill some time like I was.

My first paid show was a little bit later, this was Rhys James: Remains. James does standup mixed with some poetry, and the show was smart and well done – I enjoyed it a lot. Recommended. Afterwards, I was meant to go to another free show, which was at a venue quite a long way out from everywhere else. Me being me, I managed to talk myself out of seeing it by the time I got there. Instead, I walked all the way back where I’d came and went for a proper meal, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d gone to the show.

I figured I’d fit in another free show after dinner, since I had a lot of time left over, and decided to go and see Ahir Shah’s show. I saw Shah in the same place last year, and it was one of my favourite shows, so it seemed like a good bet. Unfortunately, when I got there the room was full, so I had to miss out. On top of that, it was now only a bit more than an hour until my next show, and I couldn’t see anything else I could get to that would be over in time. I went back to my hotel and spent an hour catching up with newly revealed Hearthstone cards instead.

The third show of the day was Luisa Omielan’s “Am I Right Ladies?!”. This one was a lot of fun, my favourite of the day. The show’s filled with a lot of positive messages about sex and body image and dealing with depression, all wrapped up in Omielan’s ridiculous clowning – it’s a very funny show, and well worth seeing. Unfortunately,  she’s only performing three nights this year.

I ended the night with Loren O’Brien’s “aLOne”. I was surprised by how tiny the audience for this one was for a paid show; only about a dozen people, and I think this maybe spoilt the atmosphere of the show a bit. Honestly this one was a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure exactly why; the jokes were there, and O’Brien seemed like a talented perfomer, but there weren’t really any big laughs from the show and a lot of it seemed to fall flat. I had seen one segment of the show online before going, and O’Brien did it much better there than she did last night, so maybe she just wasn’t quite on form (performing for a mostly empty room can’t help). There’s something very close to a good show there, but she didn’t quite pull it off.

And that was it for my first day at the Fringe. Full day today, so I should see more than yesterday. Here’s hoping they’re all good ones.

Listening to the Discworld

For the last few months, I’ve been listening to Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels on audiobook. I’d read a lot of the books when I was in school, and always meant to get back to it sometime. I guess Pratchett’s death finally prompted me to do it.

I started where I had left off almost 15 years ago, downloading Men at Arms, the 15th Discworld novel. I can hardly remember what happened in the earlier books now, but it was easy enough to pick it up here. Men at Arms was excellent; almost 10 books further down, it’s still one of the best I’ve listened to. The City Watch books seem to stand uniformly above the others – there’s something about coming back to these characters, the city of Ankh-Morpork, and the kind of stories Pratchett tells through them that appeals to me more than do the Witches, Rincewind, or Susan Sto Helit.

It’s interesting to hear the way Pratchett builds upon the Discworld, on its places and characters, book by book. Each one take up something new, expands upon ideas introduced in earlier books, and works to create this rich, living world with strong continuity which nevertheless manages to stay accessible at each step. Pratchett’s is an oeuvre of strong stand-alone novels that you could pick up individually at any point, but are all the more rewarding when you’ve read those that come before.

I hadn’t listened to audiobooks before, but it seemed the most convenient way to fit them into my schedule. Listening to the audio production of a book has been quite a different experience from reading them; it took me some time to get used to the narrator, Nigel Planer, because his voice was so far from what I would have given the books in my own mind. But I soon grew accustomed to him, and to the distinct and recognisable voices he gave to each of the many characters, to the point that when the narrator changed – on The Fifth Elephant, the book I’m currently listening to, which is read by Stephen Briggs – it all felt very wrong (I’ve spent the early chapters repeatedly thinking “that’s not what he/she’s supposed to sound like!”). Still, whoever’s reading them, it’s Terry Pratchett’s words, his wit, and most of all his characters that shine through.

If you’ve never visited the Discworld before, I can highly recommend it. Pratchett’s work is funny, finely crafted, and full of heart. (Many readers would recommend starting with the completely standalone Small Gods.) I only feel sorry that at the pace I’m getting through them, I’ll run out of his books all too soon.

Edinburgh – In Summary

Welp, I’m home now, and I’ve had a day and a half relaxing and also getting ready for my next trip, down to London for LonCon3 (my train leaves in 12 hours!). I wanted to put up a brief post of what I saw in Edinburgh, and which were my favourites.

Here’s everything I saw:

Saturday:
– Sahar Mirhadi & Dan O’Gorman, “My Mother Made Me Do It”
– Dane Baptiste, “Citizen Dane”
– Holly Walsh, “Never Had It”
– Lauren Beukes & C A Davids (Edinburgh Book Festival event)

Sunday:
– Beowulf: The Blockbuster
– Gary Colman, “Chunt”
– Rachel Parris, “Live in Vegas”
– Angela Barnes, “You Can’t Take It With You”
– Carl Donnelly, “Now That’s What I Carl Donnelly Vol. 6”
– Adam Riches, “Adam of the Riches”

Monday:
– Tamar Broadbent, “All By My Selfie”
– Ria Lina, “School of Riason”
– Ahir Shah, “Texture”
– James Acaster, “Recognise”

Honestly, I enjoyed all of it. There were a couple of weaker comedy shows, but none were bad. It’s hard to compare the book festival event to all the comedy, so I’ll just say it was interesting and I wound up buying C A Davids’ book because of it.

If I’m picking out favourites for the comedy, Holly Walsh, Angela Barnes, Carl Donnelly, Tamar Broadbent, Ahir Shah, and James Acaster were all great and highly recommended. Adam Riches is somewhere up there, but it’s hard to compare his hour embarrassing and humiliating members of his audience in his ridiculous sketches with the more ordinary standup I saw.

It seems to be hard to actually go wrong with comedy in the Edinburgh Fringe. You might get a free show that’s a little weak, but I find they’re all at least entertaining. And you can’t really prejudge anything you’re going to see, because even among relatively unknown comedians doing free shows you can find something really great.

I had a really great time this year, and I’ll almost certainly be back again next August (fingers crossed for my employment status).

Edinburgh – Day Three

I wound up actually doing less today than planned, rather than finding things to fill in my time. It was still not a bad day.

I woke up early and wound up out of the hotel at 9am. Turns out absolutely nothing is happening at 9am, not even people handing out fliers. So I did a lot of pretty aimless walking around Edinburgh. I’d spotted one half-price show on the Fringe app that I decided I’d see if I found nothing else to fill my morning, but at 10am the Half-Price Hut, the only place you can get the half-price tickets, was out of commission from some technical fault. Long story short, I was on my feet walking around from 9am to 1pm.

My first show today was Tamar Broadbent’s free show. It’s musical comedy and really very good, I enjoyed it a lot. After that came a paid show, Ria Lina’s “School of Riason”, standup about education and homeschooling, which was pretty funny.

My day today was full of annoying gaps that I couldn’t fit anything else into, so I wound up back in my hotel room for most of the next hour, then went off to see Ahir Shah’s free show. I think Shah was the youngest performer I saw this weekend. His show is (and I’m bad at summing these things up, so) fast-talking, intelligent commentary on modern life and society, and his own experiences, with a bit of (seemingly) genuine emotion and anger in there. I highly recommend it.

I had originally pencilled in another show immediately after that one, but I knew it would be tough to get between the venues in time. When I left Shah’s show later than expected, I’d enjoyed it so much I didn’t mind at all that it was now impossible to make it to the next one. I found myself apathetic to the idea of hopping into the next show at the same venue, so instead I decided to spend a couple of hours resting and getting something to eat.

There was only one show left that I had a ticket for after that. My final Fringe show this year was the very funny James Acaster. Lots of clever jokes that are built through the whole set. It’s worth checking out.

Now, I am done. I’ve had a great time, but I’m tired, sore, and I might just have the first symptoms of a cold (which is horrible, awful timing with Worldcon coming up), so I am going to climb into bed, and in the morning I will be catching a train home, where I’ll immediately start preparing for Loncon3. Tomorrow I will probably also write a quick post summing up all these shows I saw here at the Edinburgh Fringe and which were my favourites.

Until then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Edinburgh – Day Two

If there was one word to describe today, it would be: wet. It hasn’t stopped raining since breakfast. But that hasn’t stopped me getting out and to shows.

The morning was very slow. I still hadn’t managed to book anything before 12pm, the Royal Mile entertainment doesn’t get going until then, and I didn’t run into anything that looked interesting.  So my morning was walking around in the rain, and I wound up going over to the Edinburgh Book Festival and buying a signed copy of the book I was too shy and stupid to get signed in person the night before.

The first show I went to was at 12:50 – “Beowulf: The Blockbuster”. It’s a one man theatre piece about a man trying to tell his son he is going to die, and doing so by telling the story of Beowulf. Might sound bleak, but it’s actually a fairly funny show. Very physical performance from Bryan Burroughs. I wasn’t sure about it in the early parts, to be honest, but once it got into the father telling the story it was very good.

After Beowulf I had a gap in my schedule. I had one free show pencilled in, but I got leafletted when I headed up to the Royal Mile, and wound up going to a different show, Gary Colman’s “Chunt”. He was pretty good, but seemed very scattered. He wouldn’t win a round of Just a Minute (no hesitation, repetition, or digression!).

The rest of the day was paid shows. Rachel Parris is someone whose free show I saw last year – this time it was a paid show, in a much smaller and darker venue. She does musical comedy, and this year’s show is also character comedy. To be honest I didn’t think it was as good as last year, but last year her show was one of the best I saw, so it’s still very good. Angela Barnes was after that, and she did a very funny show, highly enjoyed it.

I’d left a big gap in the evening so I could go get a proper meal, but me being who I am, I decided to get KFC instead. Then I had to carry takeaway box and drink back to my hotel room in the rain, and inevitably, when I had to open my room door, the drink I had balanced on top of the box went over and disappeared into the carpet. Some of it is currently in my socks, after walking over it a few hours later, before writing this.

Anyway, after that disaster it was back to the comedy. Carl Donnelly’s show was hilarious, and got the biggest laughs out of me so far. And then there was Adam Riches. His show started 15 minutes late, so I was glad I didn’t have anywhere else to be. I was even more glad of it when someone else in the room attempted to leave early to catch his next show. You see, Adam Riches’ show is heavy on audience participation. That poor guy got pulled onto the stage, and wound up the focus of the entire next sketch. I think he was probably pretty late for “Titty Bar Ha Ha” (yes, that’s the name of the show he was leaving for).

Riches’ show was completely ridiculous. I was unlucky enough to be in the front row, but lucky enough to only get roped in to one small part, and not get pulled up in front of everyone. Apparently they were filming the show, so maybe I’ll turn up on his next DVD somewhere. If you’re going in to see Adam Riches, and you get put in the front row, don’t be surprised if you wind up being put through something ridiculous.

Aaaand that was it for the second day here. Tomorrow is a lot less planned out, so it’ll either be a lot of free shows, or a lot more walking aimlessly around town. I’ll come back to tell you which (spoiler: about half and half is my guess).