Friday, 29 August 2008

And Now... The End Is Near....

So that's it.

Unless I manage a trip to the Speigeltent before it packs up and leaves my experiences of the Edinburgh Festival are over for this year!

As well as all the shows I have reviewed I also saw quite a few acts at the Fettes Jazz Festival whilst working there. Despite my lack of interest in Jazz I enjoyed most of the shows - the musicians are undoubtedly the most talented I've seen live (with the exception of the Rolling Stones and the Stereophonics). But given my involvement I would still be competely baised, so I've decided not to review any of them.

I will say that Nikki King was great and I'll be making sure I get my Mum along to see her next year, because it's exactly the sort of thing she'd like. The venue is also awesome. Check out and click in Jazz Festival.

Away from that, there were two big talking points at the start of the Fringe.

The first was all about the "Big Four" venues clubbing together to do a bit of marketing and they managed to rub a few people up the wrong way by calling themselves the "Edinburgh Comedy Festival".

The second was the ticketing chaos.

I didn't have too many problems with ticketing when I was buying tickets, mainly due to the fact that I prefer to go and see random stuff and only decide 10 minutes before the show is due to start.

But from what I heard from performers and promoters, the Fringe Office was a shambles and they really need to get their act together for next year.

I see the head honcho of the Fringe has resigned in order to "Spent more time working more closely with the artists". Don't get too close mate. You might get a pair of size 12 Doc Martins in the spuds if you come across someone who's show you bankrupted!

In a way I think it also vindicated the "Big Four's" decision to club together. They're still millions of miles away from a monopoly and I didn't notice much of a change this year in the atmosphere at the Fringe.

I always tend to hang out at the Pleasance and will continue to do so, because quite simply it's the best place to be during the Festival. I really don't care how they advertise and who they club together with.

Well, this'll be my last blog for a while. I don't have the discipline to keep a blog going all year round, which is why a Fringe blog is perfect for me.

I have no idea how many people read it because we don't have view counters, but I hope it's been a help and I look forward to doing it all over again next year!



Thursday, 28 August 2008

Shaggers (The Return) *****

They say it's never as good as your first time.

And it wasn't. But it wasn't far off.

The excellent Nik Coppen was compere for the evening at the last Shaggers of 2008, he was followed by Dan Willis whom I'd also seen earlier on in the evening but they didn't repeat much of what they had said earlier on, and I'd had a few more beers down me by this point so I continued to enjoy their wonderful sense of humour.

Unfortunately, like a lothario in a taxi home, I can't remember the name of the other two acts. They were both decent and got enough laughs, but Dan and Nik were the real stars of the show.

I really can't speak highly enough of the format of the show, which they are now going to take on to other comedy festivals throughout the world.

Three comedians in a room talking about sex, in a crowded bar late at night is a guaranteed winner and I hope someone eventually makes a bit of money out of it!

Shaggers will hopefully be back next year!


Wha'choo Talkin' 'Bout Willis *****

Rumour had it that Dan Willis was the best comedian on show at the Meadow Bar this year and he didn't disappoint.

He apparently took part in four shows per day at this year's Fringe, so if he ever makes it big you can't say he didn't earn it!

Unfortunately he didn't get a single review in the papers in 2008 so I hope my little tip of the hat to him in one of my last blogs of the year will help make it up in some small way.

Like the act before him, he was relying on material that wasn't all that new (the fresh stuff was on display at his other show) - with subjects including Religion, Kavos, Spiders, The Police Advertising and Hecklers etc... picked at random from a big board by audience members.

The fact that he wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel and was happy to just crack some very decent and polished gags ensured a reliable smooth performance throughout the full hour.

Audience interation was very well handled throughout and he had some great stories about the people who had been in and heckled him throughout his 3 1/2 week run.

Looking forward to seeing him again next year!


Nik Coppin: Stuff ****

After a week or two hard at work, I ventured back out for one final night of festivalling.

I decided to hang out at the Meadow Bar and check out the two prime time comedians to see what they were all about.

The bar is one of six venues hosting the "Laughing Horse Free Festival" which meant that entry to this show cost nothing!

After a slightly slow start, the show got going as Nik eased in to some comfortable material. Nothing groundbreaking. Stories about sharks and some decent gags about his obsession with comic books. He's such a fast paced comedian that it worked well and he had enough decent anecdotes to fill the hour or so that he was on.

He came across as a very likeable chap and was good enough to earn a few quid from me in the bucket that they pass round at the end.

More of a 3 1/2 than a four but I saw him give a 5* performance at Shaggers later that night so he gets the benefit of the doubt.

The run has now finished, so here's his website:


Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Richard Dawkins (Edinburgh Book Festival) *****

Just to warn you, this is going to be a bit like my Tim Minchin review, except it's not for a comedy show.

I went to see Richard Dawkins because I'm a massive fan of his. I have read his latest book and am planning to read a lot more. I have also scoured youtube for interviews and debates that he has taken part in, and I post occasionally on the message board on his website, so I knew pretty much what to expect.

I think that Dawkins is one of the most influential scientists in the world at the moment and I truly believe that along with Steven Hawking, he will be remembered as one of the Greatest scientists of our time, so it was a great privilege to see him speak in person.

Anyway, to the event.....

The hour compromised of two sections. The first being an interview from the chair, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A from the audience.

With a mainly actively atheist audience already knowledgeable about his writings, it was decided that instead of throwing meat to the lions, Richard would delve deeper and speculate more about the origins of life on our planet. The result was fascinating.

All theories were pondered over, including all the ridiculous ones.

The only criticism I could give is that the event was nowhere near long enough. With very detailed questions being asked, it took time to get through them and I imagine only 7-8 people got the chance to ask their question.

But overall, I really enjoyed the experience of the book festival and I would certainly recommend that people go and see their favoutire author appear. It has a fantastic atmosphere, and you always get chatting to people on the queue as they will generally, like you, have read and enjoyed the work of the author you're going to see.

I think I managed to convince a 70 year old lady that youtube wasn't just full of teenagers showing off and that you could actually find some interesting and even intellectually stimulating stuff if you looked hard enough!

Unfortunately most events at the Book Festival are one off events, but that doesn't mean that you can't pick someone else to go and see. It's easy to forget that there are loads of other festivals on at the same time as the Fringe, offering a much more diverse range of events and talks and the book festival is one of the best.


The Edinburgh International Book Festival is held at Charlotte Square and finishes on August 25th.

You can book tickets for other events here:

You can find out more about Richard Dawkins on his website:

The Great Big Comedy Picnic ***

Having seen Ashley Frieze perform at Shaggers the night before, I was keen to see more of his stuff and my 5th trip to the dentist in two weeks meant that I would be walking straight past the Meadow Bar at 5.30pm on Wednesday, more than slightly hungover on the last day of my holidays.

So, in I went.

The audience was somewhat different to the previous evening. Instead of being around 2/3 full I was joined in the audience by an Auzzie bloke and a girl from South Africa who worked together, a family of four from Manchester and towards the end of the show a local couple. That was it. 7 people rising to 9 for the climax of the show!

One thing you need to make a comedy show any good is an audience. Unfortunately the torrential rain scared a lot of people away, and it was still pretty early days in the Fringe.

So when my favourite comedian from the previous evenings late show repeated the material that had gone down so well the night before, he was met with a few blank stares (although I still found it funny the 2nd time round). The afternoon was summed up when Ashley realised that having got all 7 audience members to introduce themselves, that only 2 at the most would have actually heard of the TV show Rainbow....

Unfortunatley I can't recall the name of the 2nd comedian who went on after Ashley. He was pretty average.

I'm giving it three stars because it has the potential to be a good show, even although it didn't work on the day.

Shaggers *****

It's been over a week. Please accept my apologies. If anything makes you want to stop blogging it's the sight of 195 e-mails in your inbox on your return to work!

I went back to work on Thursday, so my last chance to go out and see a show and stay out late and get drunk was last Tuesday. So that is what I did.

I was catching up with a mate and we decided that Shaggers would be a safe bet for a show to go and see before we headed off to a club.

The premise of the show is that three comedians are invited along every night to talk about shagging. Some already talk about sex in their own shows, which is fine, they can use that material. If they don't, well they just have to darn well think of their funniest sex stories and confess them to the audience.

With the acts changing every night (and me being several beers into a session) I didn't try hard enough to remember the names of all the acts that were on... I've managed to find two of them using google - Ashley Frieze who was excellent, and Tony Cowards who showed a remarkable amount of balls by telling the story of where he was when he found out that Princess Diana had died (in a Las Vegas hotel with a hooker) and also what happened when he had phone sex in his office on a Saturday (complete with a picture on his mobile phone of the stain).

The show's start time means you're always going to get the fairly drunk crowd that is neccesary for this type of show, giving it a great atmosphere.

With different acts every night, I'll definately be back before the end of the Fringe!


Shaggers is on every night at the Meadow Bar at 23.50 and it's FREE!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day Off

After three days of non-stop show watching, my stamina finally gave out on me - mainly due to the 7 pints of Kronnenberg Blanc I consumed at the Meadow Bar.

I was originally going to see the late show called Shaggers, but ended up staying in the bar with a few people I knew. I'll definately catch it before the end of the Fringe though!

I was also out last night and I'm going out again tonight, (to a night club rather than a show) but I'll force myself to head out of the house tomorrow and take a wander up to the Royal Mile now that we're in the full swing of things.

The previews have finished now and the money I had set aside for the festival has long since disappeared, and I also have to go back to work on Thursday, so the reviews and blogs will start to become slightly less frequent that the 6 times a day I managed last week!

I still plan to see lots more shows, but they'll be a bit more spread out and they'll mostly be of the free variety.....

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Jim Jeffries - Hammered *****

Hammered is the name of the show, and Jim appeared to be hammered on stage (unless he's always like that).

Some people are funnier when they're drunk and that seems to apply to Jim Jeffries. In fact, he should write down what he had to drink before last night's show and drink EXACTLY that before every show he does. If you've got a winning formula then why deviate from it?

Jim covers all the subjects you would expect a comedian known as "The most offensive comedian at the Fringe" to cover. Religion gets a few big mentions, so do fat people, gays, optimists, Americans and pretty much everyone else really.

But he manages to get away with it. His clever approach to any controversial topic "Isn't it funny that it's OK to laugh at dwarves in films, but if you did this instead...." means that he's making the point that it's not OK to discriminate against them, but still manages to get the laugh out of the situation.

I reckon the most difficult thing for comedians to do is take on these subjects but still keep the audience on side. I think that's Jim's best attribute. He does it effortlessly and I think that's why he's become so popular at the Fringe and has managed to get himself such a decent venue.

There's nothing earth shattering or groundbreaking in the show. It's just an hour of blokey offensive go-and-see-it-with-all-your-mates-and-have-a-few-beers comedy, which is really what most people are after.

Some shows just make you smile and laugh gently. This is proper "gasp and then laugh until your belly aches" humour.

Definately the safest bet on the Fringe.

Jim Jeffries is on at the E4 Udderbelly (that's the big purple upside-down cow in Bristo Square) at 9pm nightly.


Ginger and Black **

I have mentioned in my last review that the key to success is to be enthusiastic and to have fun.

Deadpan comedy can work, but it's much more difficult to pull off, especially when you're doing comedy songs.

Unfirtunately, the performers lack of smiling throughout the show was mirrored by me for most of the time.

The songs were really slow, Mr Black didn't sing, he just spoke (with an annoying lisp). Ginger at least could hold a note when she chose to sing, which wasn't very often.

Some of the songs could have been funny if they'd been at a faster pace but they were all the same and with no variety, it was just a constant drone.

The whole show seemed lazy to me.

Ginger and Black are on at the Pleasance Dome at 19.30


Tommy and the Weeks - Powershow *****

My faith in sketch shows has now been fully restored.

These guys are great.

The bloke who gave me the free ticket (score!) said that they were in the same mould as the Mighty Boosh or Flight of the Conchords. I agree.

I really can't say too much about this show, because if I describe what went on, then: 1. It will spoil the show for you and 2. It won't sound funny written down.

A man falls in love with a calculator. See. Not funny. But Tommy and The Weeks make it funny. Now that's talent!

Good shows are all bout enthusiasm. These guys are really enthusiastic with bundles of energy and unlike most sketch shows, there are no moments when you sit back and think "these guys must feel so stupid doing that". I get the feeling they are actually that mental all the time.

Great value at £8.50/£9.50

Tommy and the Weeks - Powershow is on in the Pleasance Attic at 17.45


Pluck: The Titanic Show ****

To become critically acclaimed at the Fringe, you either have to be funnier than everyone else, or you have to be doing something different. You have to be unique.

After seeing Pluck, I really admire them, because they are talented musicians in their own right and could easily settle for a a slot in an arty farty venue and sit and play Vivaldi for an hour and make money. But they are much more ambitious and above all they seem like they want to have fun.

The result of their sense of mischief and adventure is an excellent show which I think will go on to do very well.

The show is a musical about the Titanic, told through the eyes of the musicians who were on board. It's very touching but also very funny and I really like the fact that it will bring a small dose of cultured classical music to people who wouldn't normally listen to it.

The show has missed out on 5 stars for me because I think they could have taken some of the jokes further. There was only one or two small references to the film and they had a couple of perfect opportunities to poke fun out of it but chose not to. (I was waiting for a hand to appear on the projector screen like it did in the car in the movie - it would have been hilarious but it didn't happen unfortunately).

But be assured that this is an excellent show. The comic acting is brilliant. The music is fantastic, and it's a very well thought out play.

Pluck is on in the Pleasance One at 16.40


Rich Hall: Fifty Cent Words ***

On the way in I experienced my first wee bit of Fringe ticket chaos.

I headed along to Assembly to see what I could see and realised as soon as I sat down with my drink, that Rich Hall was starting in 15 minutes.

Excellent I thought! I had previously tried to buy tickets for his other show (the one where he plays his comic charachter "Otis Lee Crenshaw") but that was sold out.

So I headed along to the box office thinking that 15 minutes was plenty of time.

It wasn't.

To be fair to the management, they were out there in numbers keeping everyone informed, but employing 16 year old's who have never worked with a till before is not going do do anything positive to the speed of the transactions.

About a minute before the show was due to start, they saw sense and let everyone who was going to see Rich Hall go to the front of teh queue, but I still ended up being late.

Anyway, on to the show....

Rich Hall is a very charming and captivating entertainer. In this show he was sharing some of the stories he had written, one long one about his childhood, one about a trip to Aberdeen and one about his teenaged daughter's uncanny ability to get into trouble.

One of the stories was a bit long, but other than that it was an entertaining hour.

I do sometimes feel a little bit cheated when I turn up from a show and someone is just reading from a bit of paper. I didn't really research the show, so I guess I could have found out beforehand that he was just reading stories and made a more informed decision about whether or not to pay £12, but I didn't so I can't complain if that's what the show is advertised as.

If you're a big fan of Rich Hall this is a must see, but if you're not, you'll won't be hard pushed to get better value for your £12 elsewhere.

Rich Hall is on at Assembly at 13.05 daily.

His other show (which I reckon will be better) is on at the Pleasance at 21.20


Friday, 1 August 2008

Tim Minchin - Ready For This? *****

Tim Minchin is freakin' awesome!

I kind of knew he would be.

He was recommended to me back in June when the Fringe guide first came out and a friend passed on a youtube link to one of his songs.

I immediatley fell in love with his songs and watched everything that was on the net and lapped it up. I also went straight to the fringe website and bought a ticket for his show, so I went in with high expectations and I wasn't disappointed at all.

Going in, I was kind of worried that I might have spoilt it for myself. Having watched stuff that was only uploaded a could of months ago from performances in Australia, I could easliy have paid money to watch songs that I'd already seen over and over again on youtube.

Luckily for me, Tim has a whole bunch of new material and it is just as great as all the old stuff I've seen on the net.

He started with a typically self indulgent Rock 'N' Roll intro followed by a bit of stand up before he eventually sat down at the piano and did his stuff.

Every song was superb. I particularly liked the one about his wife... and the five minute stand up routine which followed - explaining that his wife doesn't mind him writing funny songs about her because her sense of humour is even more twisted.... I've said too much already, but it's hilarious! He also alludes to a certain journalist who gave him a one star review during his first year at the fringe. The song is called "Forgiveness".

If you want to know more, you'll have to buy a ticket. (Or look him up on youtube - I recommed "Inflatable You" as a good starting point).

I really hope he sells out his shows and gets an award this year. He deserves to be massive.

If you don't mind blasphemy - Tim Minchin is on at the Pleasance Grand at 21.45 daily.

A resounding: 5/5

Nina Conti - Evolution *****

I first saw Nina Conti when she appeared with Monkey (that's her sidekick) on some new comedy talent show on BBC 3 when BBC 3 had only just started and nobody watched it (apart from me).

Needless to say she won the talent show and I encountered her again at Late and Live whe she was one of the four acts on display (at that time she hadn't really changed the act that much from what was on TV).

So having not seen her for 3/4 years I was looking forward to seeing some new material from by far the funniest ventriloquist I've seen to date.

Watching the show, I think Nina was very aware of the fact that she needed to get some new stuff out there and "Evolution" was a very ambitious attempt to do a full hour of material that hadn't been done before.

There were costume changes, a projector screen, and a duet between her and the monkey, as well as a bit of hypnosis and even an appearance form her famous Dad.

Some shows - particularly stand up acts, don't really need previews, because all they are doing standing and talking to a microphone. But when you have so much going on, the previews will highlight areas of the show that still need to be perfected and/or rewritten slightly and Nina certainly noticed quite a few, (and monkey wasn't shy about pointing them out to her).

But as I've mentioned in previous reviews, it's not how often you make mistakes, it's how you deal with them that makes or breaks the show and Nina Conti is the master of recovery.

She makes everything look effortless and has plenty of arse jokes to fall back on if things aren't going her way. The monkey can swing the audience with a moment of cuteness or a moment of utter filth. Either way she always has them eating out of her hand.

Most of her stuff did work and the stuff that didn't, you could see how it could be funny... and she didn't dwell on them log enough for the show to go off track.

She's reasonably priced at £9.50/£10.50, but I would wait a week or two before going to see her, because I think the show will "evolve" over the three weeks and get better.

She is clearly a top class comedian and a very safe bet for the fringe. (A good show to go to if you're going on a date as well).

Nina and Monk are at the Pleasance Two at 8.25pm daily


Day 2 in Review

I've still to post two reviews from today.

I saw Nini Conti and Tim Minchin, both of whom were absoltuely awesome and will be getting five stars each in due course.

Today got better as it went on, proving that the best shows have the best time slots because they are the best shows....

I started with the worst show I had ever seen at the fringe (and I've probably seen well over 100 shows so that's quite an achievement) and finished with what was probably the best I have ever seen with Tim Minchin. Go and see him. You will not be disappointed.

I might take a wander down to the Assembly Rooms tomorrow to see what they have to offer, but if it's not that good I'll head back to my usual haunt at the Pleasance.

The first four shows I saw were all free, but I decided to stop being a cheapskate and buy tickets when I realised that the last two shows I wanted to see were only minutes apart, leaving no time to sit around eating ice cream on the scrounge!

AAA Stand Up ****

I don't really have a lot to say about this show.

It was a very typical run of the mill, three-comedians-for-the-price-of-one-show.

The good news is they have got three very competent comedians! The bad news is, it's in the Cellar at the Pleasance which is really hot and stuffy and not a pleasant or comfortable place to sit.

I was last in due to me receiving a phone call as the show was being called and as my punishment I was forced to sit in the front row. On my own.

Thankfully I managed to get away without getting a complete roasting, (I don't know if that was because they were scared of me - one said I resembled a bouncer - or if I'm just so good looking I dont attract the attention of comedians. I like to think it's the latter, but I could be wrong).

AAA Stand Up will give you exactly what it says on the tin. Three very good quality comedians. Nothing special, but still plenty of laughs and nothing to complain about.

It would maybe beneft from being on a bit later as it would suit bigger more drunken groups, but I guess there isn't much they can do about that now.

It's a small venue so I'm sure they'll be more than capable of filling it most evenings.

AAA Stand Up is on at 7.15pm In the Pleasance Cellar


The Six Wives Of Timothy Leary ***

Being an amateur reviewer, I sometimes feel unqualified to give a fair review of the show, particularly in situations where I know little about the subject matter on which the show is based. I often think it would be a good idea for the audience to be given little info sheets - especially when the show is based on something that happened 30-40 years ago and much of the audience will be too young to remember.

All I know about Timothy Leary is that The Who referred to him in the lyrics of one of their songs. Other than that, I hadn't heard of him and unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to google him before the start of the show.

Throughout the show, there were a series of monologues from each of his six wives, along with a bit of them mixing together as they met and had drinks when he died. It told the story of his life with each of his partners as he progressed and became more experimental with illegal substances.

I'm not a big fan of monologues, especially when the person is talking and answering questions from an imaginary person... I sometimes find it tiring and unneccesary.

Having said that, they 6 actors were all very beleivable and performed well (especially considering the number of morons who were allowed in late and chose to thump their way up the stairs instead of sitting at the seats at the front near the door and in particular the two who chose to leave half way through right in the middle of one of the said monologues instead of waiting for a break - of which there were plenty. I have a feeling that the actors will be demanding that latecomers be told to go f*** themselves in future and quite right too! There. That's that off my chest).

So yeah, If you haven't heard of Timothy Leary. Make sure you google him before the show. If you have, I think you'll enjoy the show. I can't say anything bad about the six actresses (who were all lovely). I guess the show just wasn't really relevant to me.

The Six Wives Of Timothy Leary is on at The Pleasance Dome at 5pm