Friday, 28 October 2011

Am I Really About to Blog About the N Word???

The title will give you some clues as to the subject matter.... I'll just get straight in to it shall I?

I have a mate called Nik Coppin. He is a stand up comedian. He also happens to be mixed race (Mum from England, Dad from Barbados). I first saw him on stage at the pub my brother worked in a few years ago. He was actually one of the first reviews I did on this blog, before I knew him.

The following year my brother rented Nik a room in our flat and Nik and I became festival drinking buddies.

On one of our nights out, we were involved in what could be described as a bit of an incident in said pub that my brother worked in. The incident was quite interesting and since then, Nik has told the story on stage a few times. I have seen him tell the story on stage more than once. Unfortunately, people have taken offence to him telling the story, due to the subject matter.

So, firstly, here is my version of what happened on the night in question:

Nik and I were having a beer along with 1-2 other comics who had been performing in venues nearby. A girl walked in, crying, lost, with no shoes, and make up all smudged down her face. Nik recognised her as a girl he'd worked with in London, and got her to sit down with us. He gave her a hug, the barmaid brought over a pint of water and I grabbed her a few hankies. We then started trying to figure out where she was staying, where her mates were and where her phone was etc etc....

She was still very upset when a man started trying to get her attention, stroking her arm, speaking to her and touching her legs (she was wearing a miniskirt with no tights so her legs were totally bare). The chap had an African appearance and accent to match. She told him to go away several times, but he just got more and more determined.... until we all told him he was out of order and he had to leave her alone.

Nik, being the closest and the one who knew the girl involved was the most assertive, but he didn't even swear and went out of his way to be reasonable to someone who certainly didn't deserve it.

At that point the guy got up and said "I don't have to listen to you, you are just a half-cast, she doesn't want you, she wants to come home with a real man".

Nik gave him the opportunity to take what he said back, but the guy kept on at him, ranting and raving about how he was a worthless half-cast bastard.

At that point, Nik got a little upset and he said something along the lines of "We're the only two black people in the pub and you're coming out with that racist bullshit, well, F*** You N*****!"

The chap got more and more wound up, (more because the girl was still showing him no interest rather than because he'd been called names), I tried to get his cousin who was with him to calm him down, he was kicked out, the police were called, we all jumped in a cab and the last I heard the staff at the pub saw our friend being chucked into the back of a police van because he wouldn't calm down when they spoke to him.


A year goes by and Nik appears back in Edinburgh again. I go and see his show and it turns out that the story has made it in to his act.

Apparently in England, us Scots have a bit of a reputation for being racist so Nik turns it round and tries to make it funny with the punchline at the end being "There we're 100 Scots sitting in the bar, watching the drama unfold thinking "F***ing hell... and we thought we were racist".

But if you want to get anywhere in comedy, you need to be more than just funny, you also need to be interesting and thought provoking.

As a mixed race kid growing up in London in the late 70's and early eighties, Nik obviously knows what it's like to be called the N word. Having watched him re-tell the story of what happened to us that night it was fairly obvious to me that he was trying to point to that event, including his own behaviour and show everyone how absurdly stupid it is to be racist. Only an idiot could listen to the story and think that racism was anything other than stupid.

In his effort to be thought provoking, he raises some interesting questions about language. He is by no means the first comic to talk about black people taking back the word, and if you look around twitter and the blogosphere you can see similar arguments raging from Ricky Gervais trying and failing to take back the word "mong" to gay comedians calling their friends F*****s and saying "well if the blacks are claiming their word back, then we're sure as hell having that one for ourselves..."

As language evolves so will the debates surrounding words. Nik subsequently regretted his choice of words on the night. He said his Dad would be ashamed of him, but on the other hand, he didn't think it was unjustified, and the guy deserved it.

So, to contribute to the discussion on language and to try and be thought provoking himself he told the story and directly asked the audience the question. "Was I justified to use the word? Does the fact that I am mixed race and have been called that word entitle me to use it?" (He doesn't ask it rhetorically, he actually waits for an answer - and the answers are not always the same).

It's an interesting question. It's like saying if someone hits you can you hit them back?

I'm not going to offer my own opinion on the subject but instead, I am going to offer my opinions on the people who have chosen to go on to his Chortle profile and anonymously brand him a racist.

Anyone who listens to the story as I have heard it, hears Nik ask the question and concludes that Nik's show is racist is quite clearly an idiot. You are not capable of thinking beyond one word that has triggered your inner PC voice to tell you to act like a moron.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if you don't think he's funny then that's fine, but to go on to chortle, an important resource for stand up's trying to make a living and brand him a racist without even leaving your own name is pretty cowardly.

Some people would prefer to sit and watch banal Live at the Apollo wannabes making hack jokes about their sat nav's, moaning about their wives or trying to outdo Frankie Boyle on the offensive front. I'd prefer to hear a comic address some of the big issues and whether you personally find him funny or not, Nik at least has a bash at it and tries to make people question their preconceptions about race, racism and language.

If people like him are discouraged from trying to be a little more thought provoking because people without any forethought or intelligence are ringing his bookers to complain or bashing him on the internet, then the traditional stand up comedy club will become a much less interesting place to be.

Summing Up

So.. My fringe blog dried up around half way through as usual... It tends to do that.

I always take a week off work at the start of the fringe to see as much as possible, but having to work a full time job catches up with you and inevitably I have less opportunities to get out and see stuff as the festival draws to a close. My inability to budget doesn't help either!!!

One thing I do want to add is that I was delighted to see Adam Riches get his Comedy Award. As is evidenced below, I've been following his career for a couple of years now and tipping him for bigger things!

I'll still send out the odd tweet so follow @fringeguide for my comments throughout the year!

I have however returned to the blog to have my say on an issue that happened during the fringe....

Monday, 15 August 2011

More People to See

So, I've seem a few more acts, mainly at Shaggers (which I won't be reviewing because I have already done so twice and also because it's my mate who runs it) and I've also remembered a few more people that I didn't mention in my list.

Ashley Frieze closed Shaggers last night and he really is getting better and better every time I see him. He was joined on stage by Kate Lucas who more than held her own with some cracking smutty songs. But my favourite act of the night was Christophe Davidson who managed to keep the drunken late night crowd thoroughly entertained with stories about drunken sex and near misses!

Bob Slayer was not the best I've ever seen him as his crowd was a little sparse (and he needs a crown for his show to really work) but have seen him do much better so I can still confidently recommend him (perhaps make sure you go on the weekend).

I've heard great things about Hitler The Musical and also about Casual Violence: Choose Death although I've not had the chance to see them yet.

Another young Scottish act worth seeing is Sarah May-Philo who is doing a compilation show with Julia Sutherland.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Amateur Transplants: Adam Kay's Smutty Songs 2 1/2*

Whilst I am a whore for free tickets and a big fan of the Free Festival, I'm also not against splashing out for a decent show to see a top comic if I think it will be worth it.

It was with this in mind, and with my girlfriend and I finally agreeing on a show we'd both liked to see that I booked tickets for Adam Kay.

If you don't recognise the name there is still a good chance you will have heard one of his songs, with The London Underground song having had well over 6 millions hits on youtube. It was this song that brought him to my attention and I also looked at a few of his other tunes, which were all funny and close enough to the bone to satisfy my sense of humour.

When you get into a particular comedy niche you are going to be compared to other comics doing the same sort of thing as you and one of the top comedians in the UK at the moment, Tim Minchin also sings funny songs at the piano and has lots of his songs on youtube.

There are however quite a few key differences, between Tim Minchin and Adam Kay, firstly Tim Minchin writes his own music whereas Adam Kay borrows popular tunes. That doesn't necessarily make you a bad comedian.

The key thing I didn't like about Adam Kay's style, was that many of his songs were not full songs, there were just a verse here a chorus there and while one or two were very funny and didn't need elaborated on, many of them could have been taken much further. Instead he simply stopped after the first laugh and moved on somewhere else.

The next talking point which can't go unmentioned is his capacity for drinking wine. After quaffing 1/2 a glass and a full bottle of white wine in the first 40 minutes, he managed to get half way through a bottle of red before he dropped his glass, smashing it on the stage and then simply moving on to the the next song because he didn't have anything else to say.

This was after he'd made his 4th or 5th reference to his parents not loving him, (because he's gay/not a practising doctor any more) which was funny the first time when he was sober but got more and more awkward as he got more and more drunk and it really did make the audience feel uncomfortable.

As far as I can tell from other reviews, the drinking thing is something he does during every show and whilst I think it's admirable that he can still play piano in the state he's in it really doesn't add to the performance and you end up feeling sorry for him by the end of the show.

Whilst he still has enough good material to fill an hour long show (and you can't criticise him for finishing off with the song that made him famous and effectively filled the room for him) , it seems that his old material is mainly full songs and his new stuff is mainly shorter and less complete stuff. When you add this to the fact that he can't even stay sober long enough to hold a glass until the end of the show, and then add in the fact that he has next to no straight stand up material between songs, you do end up walking away feeling a little disappointed.

He has the advantage of his crowd being friendly and forgiving because having seen his stuff on line they have an idea of what is coming and are prepared to wait for it. Sadly it doesn't come.

It was nice to hear the London Underground song live and there were plenty of laughs in the show, but I can't get over the fact that he's been performing live for six years and has been doing it professionally for a while now, yet his strongest material is the stuff he wrote whilst still a full time doctor or in the very early stages of his professional career, since then he gives the impression that he's been getting pissed, disappointing his parents and living off the fact that his one big hit can draw enough of a crowd to presumably give him a decent living. He promises so much more and still has the capacity to deliver, but seemingly not the will.

Show details:

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The List

So, a week or so into the Fringe, I'm posting a list of shows that I think you should see. Some I have seen and reviewed, some I have seen in previous years, some I have seen people involved in the show but not seen the whole show....

Big Names:

Reg Hunter is always worth a look. As are Richard Herring and Stewart Lee.

Becoming Big Names:

Adam Riches (see my review) has a growing reputation. His two sidekicks are also part of other shows "Late Night Gimp Fight" and "Idiots of Ants"respectively, shows I would very much like to see.

Doug Segal is now sold out so you probably won't get to see him but if you can go then do. A similar act who is almost as good is Chris Cox. He's doing a full run I believe.

I've seen Jessica Ransom twice as part of a double act and supporting Adam Riches and she was excellent.

I saw Cabaret Whore in 2009 and 2010, brilliant both times.

I'm off to see Adam Kay of Amateur Transplants on Saturday. (Check out the London Underground Song on youtube if you haven't heard of him).

Smaller names destined for bigger things:

Diane Spencer is getting some great reviews. Some great filthy sex stories and included in her show by the sounds of things! I've seen her at Shaggers and she stole she show.

Marcel Lucont is another Shaggers regular. He's doing a chat show this year which is definitely worth a look.

Max and Ivan were my first 5* show this year and are sure to be an even bigger success next year.

Now two shows with some great young up and coming Scottish comedians, most of whom I've seen at local comedy competitions. "Gangsters of Laugh" features Rik Caranza, Gareth Waugh and Paulie Cronin all of whom did well. One of my favourite up and coming Scottish lads is Richard Gadd who stars with James Kirk and Matt Winning in "Gadd Kirk and Winning: Well This is Awkward".

Compilation Shows:

My favourite show at the Fringe bar none is Shaggers. 4-6 comedians late at night talking about sex, with my buddy Nik Coppin as compere, who is also very good in his solo show "Award Winning Comedian".

Also I mentioned this in my last post, but Laughing Horse Free Festival run three "Pick of the Fringe" Shows at Espionage every day. Aside from the shape of the room, there is no difference between that and show and any of the compilation 3 comics and a compere type shows that you have to pay for.

That should keep you busy for a day or two at least!

Bratchy: Beer and Loathing and Lost Wages ***

When your show is free then getting the crowd in can be only half the battle, entertaining them in non-prefect conditions can be a whole different matter. Often at the Free Festival you'll see a show every bit as good as a paid show. The Free Festival "Pick of the Fringe" shows are every bit as good as "Best of Scottish/Irish Comedy" or The Big Value Comedy show.

The downside however is that some of the rooms can be too uncomfortable, too hot, music can seep in from other venues and sometimes people wander in to shows not knowing what to expect and end up seeing something that is not to their taste.

Bratchy didn't have al the above challenges but it was a very bright room, not designed for comedy and there was a fair bit of music seeping in. I've never seen anyone do a 4-5 star review in these conditions so he has to be highly commended for putting on a 3* show under the circumstances.

Although somewhat disjointed in places, Bratchy is a very capable stand up. His style (delivery and material) is perhaps more suited to late night compering so it could ave been a challenge for him to hold the room but he managed fine (even when he went off at tangents that lead to not that strong material).

In the final part of the show the comedy went hardcore with the addition of a second comedian (disguised as a ventriloquists dummy) who managed to get away with some seriously offensive stuff because he was dressed as a dummy.

This is not a show to see if you are easily offended, but for a free show it is certainly ticks a lot of the boxes and I reckon that you'll be far more likely than not to pop a few pounds in the bucket at the end of the show!

Show details:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Doug Segal - I know What You're Thinking *****

I have two things to say about Doug Segal.

Number one is that he has an incredible show. Number two, he is the perfect example of how good marketing can bring you success at the Fringe.

I first encountered Doug when he started following me on Twitter not long after I'd joined, when I only had around 20 followers and hadn't said much. Presumably lured by my official looking username, he read my blog, saw what I was about and messaged me inviting me to come along and see the show. I was by no means the only one. @FringeGuru, @EdinburghSpotlight, @PublicReviews and many others had also been charmed into reviewing his show (or manipulated by the power of his mind depending on which way you look at it) and the reviews were all resoundingly positive.

I got the chance to meet him in person at the Free Festival Launch Party and I was pleased to find out that he was as nice in person as he appeared on Twitter. We chatted about his marketing strategy and he told me that once he had prepared a good show, he knew his work was still less than half done as he still had to get a crowd in to watch it, and he saw his job as show promoter every bit as much as a performer.

As someone who works in marketing who has watched so many better than average comedians get nowhere because they were to hungover to flyer or because they don't even have a facebook page, I can't tell you how refreshing this attitude is to see. Any aspiring comics or theatre acts need to look back at his Twitter timeline over the last three months, read his masterclass in self promotion and follow his lead.

Anyway, enough of my appreciation of him as a marketing guru and on to the show.....

Doug describes himself as a mentalist "like Derren Brown" but funnier. When you compare yourself to someone as successful as that you need to have the skills to match and thankfully Doug's show doesn't disappoint. I have read Derren Brown's book as well as others by the likes of James Randi, so I have a fair idea of how acts like Doug's work (I regularly annoy my girlfriend by beating Penn and Teller to the punch when they dissect the performance of another contestant on "Fool Us").

I tried doing the same at Doug's show, but by trick number four I was really struggling and although I got back on track mid-show, the last 4-5 tricks , leading up to the grand finale had me not even knowing where to start.

From the beginning he is charming and friendly, his show requires audience participation which (unlike Adam Riches) is done very sensitively without embarrassment and with the volunteers constantly at ease with their role.

His tricks all worked perfectly and he finished with a standing ovation (albeit prompted) and the buzz continued all the was down the stairs as people were leaving, desperate to discuss how he could have possibly pulled it all off.

He is now on course to sell out every show (many had to be turned away on the night I was there - and that was a Monday) so book your ticket while you still can.

Bigger and better things now await! He'll be doing a full run next year and the 5 star reviews keep rolling in.

I'm delighted to add mine to the list!

Show information:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bring me the Head of Adam Riches *****

I've seen Adam Riches before. If you've read my previous blog about him you'll know what's coming.

Thankfully I knew what was coming and I chose a seat right at the back in the corner. I don't mind being dragged on stage, in truth I'm a bit of a show off (as the audience at the Free Festival Launch Party found out), but on my own, during the day, sober is a bit much and last time I twice ended up like this poor chap, taking part in Adam's show (and no, I didn't lick his face) so I figured it was someone else's turn!

To carry off a sketch show, especially when you're doing most of the work yourself you have to be full of energy and Adam Riches is... well imagine Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, in a pro plus eating contest!

From the first moment to the last he gets the audience on side by being charming and at the same time off-the-wall funny! I've mentioned before that I'm easy to please and I often judge comedy shows by giving you a rough idea of their laughs per minute. With Adam Riches you have to judge him in laughs per second.

Again, I don't want to give too much away about this show itself, but you will not be disappointed.

He's moved up from the cellar to the attic and although his show is suited to a cosy room, I do think it's time for him to move on to bigger things and I hope to see him at a bigger venue next year.

With their being so much competition, including from sketch shows Max and Ivan and Colin Hoult who are equally funny, talented and enjoyable to watch, the odds are against Adam Riches winning a big award this year, but I will say that if he does win, I won't be surprised.

Show information:

Cul-de-sac **

Billed as a brilliant spin of the Stepford Wives, Cul-de-sac is an exploration of what happens when neighbours get too close. The new arrival in one of the houses is greeted by his neighbour who tells him what's what and welcomes him into the cul-de-sac. As the play evolves, you find out more about the characters in the play and also the peripheral characters who are not represented with actors but form part of the story line.

Whilst the acting of the play was generally good and there were some funny moments, it was also a little weird and I have to confess I didn't really get it. I'm not ashamed to say that because I don't think many other people in the audience got it either, judging by the puzzled looks and the general shrugging of shoulders that started as soon as the actors left the stage.

There were constant references to the scary people who live outside the cul-de-sac, the hoodies and "the Muslims" who were a threat to the residents, and whilst it's quite obvious that the intention was to paint the residents as paranoid Daily Mail reading types, bigoted characters tend to be shown up at the end of the play and this didn't really happen.

All in all, the failure of this play to shine is down to the poorly written script, which did not give the actors the scope to really show off the comic prowess they claim to have on the flyer.

Show information:

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Free Festival Launch & Chortle Fast Fringe

As well as the four shows I have already review from day one, I also went along to Chortle's Fast Fringe and then the Free Festival Launch Party. All in all I saw over 20 acts do 4-6 minutes each, and I can't remember all the names so I'll just post the highlights!

Tim Fitzhigham and Tiff Stevenson were the two most memorable stand up acts. Tiff has presumably used up all her TV friendly stuff on Show Me The Funny and only has abortion gags left, but they worked well! Tim did what some of the other comedians should have done and squeezed as much as possible into 4 minutes and made me interested in his show.

A little tip to some of the other stand up's: If you've only got 4 minutes, don't walk on stage and say"Fucking hell, 4 minutes, it's not a lot is it, I'm trying to think what I can do in only 4 minutes". It doesn't make you look like a super duper comedian with lots of in depth material, who needs time to express himself, it makes you look like an unprepared amateur, sets up your slot to fail and virtually ensures that no-one will buy a ticket to see your full hour which is the whole point of you being there in the first place. More than one of them did it, I can't remember all of their names so I'm going to be kind and not mention any of them, but seriously, what a bunch of absolute wallopers.

Out with the stand up's there was a great performance by a chap who managed to spin five hula hoops simultaneously. Unfortunately I can't remember his name. Please comment if you know who I am talking about and I'll edit the post to give him credit.

After Chortle it was off to the Free Festival Launch at the Counting house where I met up with a few friends and met lots of great new people.

Stand out acts were Compere Mike Belgrave, Doug Segal and Bob Slayer.

Mike is a cheeky happy performer who looks a little like a tramp. I'd really like to see him doing a 20 minute set as he was only really introducing acts.

Doug Segal is a mind control expert, similar to Derren Brown but much more light hearted. I was also lucky enough to meet him off stage and he's a terrific bloke. I'll definitely get down to see his show. He only has a short run (until 13th I think).

Bob Slayer is just a grade a fucking nutcase! He dragged me on stage and forced me to perform We Will Rock You, complete with a Freddie Mercury moustache, then went crowd surfing.... Thankfully I was drunk enough by that point and I'm not shy sober anyway! He doesn't do jokes, he just downs pints on stage and goes crazy, doing whatever takes his fancy, which is incredibly entertaining.

I'll be going to see lots more Free Festival shows during the remainder of the Fringe.

The Free Festival launch Night was a one off. Details of Chortle's Fast Fringe are here:

2401 Objects 3 1/2*

This show is a play about the world's most renowned amnesiac Henry Molaison who was operated on in 1953 by a doctor who was trying to cure him of severe epilepsy, but ended up wiping away the last two years of his memory and leaving him unable to form new memories.

The dialogue switches back and forward, showing the after effects of the surgery and his life at home before the surgery (stuck at home and having to rely on his parents) and the reasons for them reaching the decision to allow Henry to have the operation.

The subject matter was very interesting and the production was slick. I think the play would still have worked just as well without the large projector screen that they used, I think the actors would have been good enough to help you picture the scene without it being there in front of you, but I don't think it did too much harm either.

I can't go as far as to say the show was dazzling but it was intensely interesting and I admire the company for taking on the subject matter. They have certainly done their research too, taking the time to talk to the actual neurologists who studied Henry in real life which certainly paid off in the final production.

Show details:

Max and Ivan are Holmes and Watson *****

Now this is how comedy should be done!

Max and Ivan play Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as well as many other characters in this hour long sketch style play.

The storyline is based around their final adventure, where they take a trip to Chicago to sort out Al Capone and all the criminals ruining the city.

The two actors have an unbelievable amount of energy and facial expressions that were made for comedy. They often played up to six characters between the two of them in certain scenes, but the ease they showed when switching between characters, using nothing other than acting skills, meant that you were never confused and could keep up.

The show is incredibly fast paced with a gags-per-minute count that is off the scale.

These guys are definitely destined for bigger things.

Show details:

Chat Masala with Hardeep Singh Kohli **

After my previous blog on the increase in the number of Chat Shows at this year's Fringe I took my first foray into that genre yesterday with Chat Masala

I was offered a free ticket to see this show and accepted because I heard Andrew Maxwell was a guest and he is always worth seeing.

The format is very similar to a typical daytime TV show. You do a bit of cooking and bring on the guests then let them try the food at the end of the show. I have to say my girlfriend is a fan of these types of shows, I tend to get distracted by facebook, twitter or anything else on my phone after about 5 minutes because I find them mind numbing. I only watch them if there is someone interesting on.

Andrew Maxwell turned up, despite being ill, so fair play to him! The chat between him and Hardeep focused for quite a long time on sectarianism in Scotland, which to be honest I hear far too much about being a football fan. When I'm at the Fringe I'm hoping to get away from all that boring nonsense, and more to the point, it's not funny.

They did point out a couple of times that it was a chat show and not a comedy show and they basically said that they didn't apologise for straying into serious matters - that's all well and good, but when you have a comedian talking to a comedian, you want to at least raise a chuckle.

The second guest was actor Art Malik who came along with his daughter Keira (who is producing his show) and later in the play his wife and other daughter came on stage too.

I'm not too familiar with his work, although it does sound like he's a very accomplished actor. His chat was interesting in places, but often it deviated to his family saying things like how nice a view they had of Arthur's Seat from their flat... Not exactly riveting.

Finally, the highlight for me was the last guest Joe Stilgoe, a comedy jazz pianist who did a medley of songs suggested by the audience. He was endearing, funny and a great musician.

The show will have different guests every day so you will get a wide variation and there will certainly be better shows than this one in the run. I have to be honest though and say that out of all the shows I saw yesterday, this was the one I would not have regretted missing, which is why it only gets two stars.

Show Details:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Phillips and Will Are Now in a Relationship 3 1/2*

My Fringe 2011 started with an understated yet entertaining play, in which a boyfriend and girlfriend read out their Facebook wall to wall. The play is only half an hour long... About right for the type of play it was.

I have seen plays like this where the actors were actually reading. This was not the case here. The actors' performances were endearing and believable and well timed (and they knew their lines).

If you've got a couple of friends who play out their relationship on Facebook, you'll definitely find the play entertaining.

I can't help thinking though, that the two actors and the writers will wish they had challenged themselves a little more. The idea is a little simplistic, and the format means there are limits to how much the actors can show off their skills.

Personally I don't understand why you would want to come to Edinburgh to act in a chair from behind a laptop. Being able to call yourself "The Facebook Play" will certainly get the attention of punters, but I think the actors should have been allowed a bit more freedom.

The theatre group does have another show at the Fringe and Seeing this play certainly wouldn't put me off seeing the other one. (I'm not sure if the two actors in this play are in the other one too. I hope so. It look quite good).

Show details:

The other play:

It's Time

So, it's finally here and pleasingly it's a nice sunny day!

Today I'll be heading to The Pleasance to see what's on offer, before heading to the Free Festival Launch Night at the Counting House.

I'll try and post a review of every show I see, but this year I'll also be posting on Twitter straight after the show so make sure you follow me @FringeGuide.

Two quick links for you I head off...

Firstly here is a spreadsheet which lists every free show at the Fringe.

Secondly, I've mentioned them before, but the Theatre Ninjas website is now live with free tickets for shows, many of which would otherwise not be free.

Happy Fringing everyone!

Friday, 15 July 2011

More Shows to See

So, as promised, it's time for me to point you in the direction of more shows that take my fancy... after scouring the Fringe Programme, Youtube and Twitter. (Most of these have already been mentioned on Twitter for those who follow me @FringeGuide).

Firstly, a show I enjoyed last year but didn't get to blog about was Hamlet: The Musical. Their run has finished but I am reliably informed via twitter that Ed Jaspers, one of the co-writers is showing Grisly Tales From Tumble Water at The Pleasance. Well worth a look as I'm sure it'll be of a similar standard to Hamlet TM which I thought was great.

Staying on the musical theme, Fresher The Musical looks right up my street. A nice light-hearted subject wrapped up with musical comedy... I don't know much about it but it has a lot of potential and I will try and get along and see it.

Next, I couldn't let the blog go by without mentioning Doug Segal, mentalist and funny man. Any act looking to promote themselves on Twitter should follow this guy's lead, he's the master of flattery and he's had lots of great reviews in the build up to the fringe including from Fringe Guru and Fringe Review. His show revolves around subliminal messages and mind control, yes like that dude on Channel 4 that I'm sure he's fed up of being compared to. He's well worth following on Twitter and I'm sure he will also be worth seeing live. The bad news is he's only on for the first 10 days of the Fringe, finishing up on the 13th August so get in quick! Also, did I mention he's free!

I saw Desiree Burch at Shaggers last year and she stole the show. Her show 52 Man Pick Up will I'm sure, be filthy and fabulous. Definately a great "Girls Night Out" Fringe show.

Another great up and coming female act is Diane Spencer. Simply a great stand up who is relatively new to the scene and seems to be picking up lots of hype. I've only seen her do a short set but would love to see more!

For kids, two shows, Potted Potter has been recommended to me by a friend with two young boys. They've been to see them several years running and love it. I also saw Little Howard a few years ago when he had a show that was more suited to adults (although kid friendly). He's on CBBC now, (which I don't watch) but live both Big and Little Howard were excellent and I'm sure they still will be!

Finally, I made a bold prediction on Twitter.... If the Edinburgh Comedy Awards don't stick to a straight stand up "soon to be seen on Live at the Apollo" type act then Colin Hoult will be in with a great shout of winning an award. I've seen lots of hype about his show and after seeing him last year I know why. He's a masterful comedy performer with more crazy surprises than Glenn Mulcaire's notebook and an incredible knack for performing infectious songs and getting the audience involved. Go and see his show!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Funny's Funny Final

Just a quick note to say good luck to all the Women at the Funny's Funny final. I was lucky enough to be a judge at the Edinburgh heat and the standard was very high.

The competition was set up in response to the Funny Women competition after they introduced a fee for comedians to enter... (a big no no in the comedy world).

Anyone in London should go and support the show... £12.50 is very reasonable for a final of a nationwide competition.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Beginner's Guide to Stealing Jokes

Chortle and Twitter have been rife with allegations over the last couple of weeks with some big name comedians becoming embroiled. One case in American is being resolved by lawsuit.

It started with an unknown Australian Comic Jordan Paris who managed to get through the auditions of Australia's Got Talent with some jokes stolen from comedians Geoff Keith and Lee Mack. Paris was as guilty as sin, stealing the jokes word for word, exactly as previously performed by the aforementioned comics on TV. As thefts go it's not exactly the great train robbery in terms of cunning or in terms of what was stolen, but for the two comedians who had their material taken from them and regurgitated by a less talented imposter, it was serious business. (The main joke in question was centred around rock singers getting the crowd to sing and comparing this to what would happen if a comic did the same).

Both comedians came out saying how angry they were and called for him to be disqualified from the competition and not booked by promoters in the future. Instead, the judges chose to let him continue on the condition that he didn't steal any more jokes and as a result, he predictably died on his arse with his own material. A fair outcome all round in the end.

Micky Flanagan didn't do himself any favours by then using the same joke as his own on Mock the Week a few days later! (A joke which he says he used years ago and only used recently because it was relevant to the subject being discussed).

Since then there have been quite a few more comics claiming that they too have had their jokes stolen....

Now, whilst comedians and writers have every right to protect their material, I do think there is a bit of self promotion going on at the same time. They say imitation is the best form of flattery and no-one is going to copy a crap comedian so it follows logically that if your material has been nicked it must be good! Therefore, if you are seen to have comedy material stolen from you, you must be a good comic, so it is in your interest to be seen to have been imitated.

Jim Tavare went one stage further recently and claimed that Sid Bowfin, formerly of the trio "Pluck" stole his whole act. "It's like you've stolen my soul" he proclaimed on Chortle, Twitter and Punchline Magazine. His evidence was a couple of videos showing that they both dressed in a similar manner, they were both bald, they both used musical instruments, they both had a routine around a broken microphone and their websites looked similar.

I had never heard of Jim Tavare, before this episode, I did however recognise Sid Bowfin (real name Adrian Garratt) from watching Pluck back in 2008. Review here. As I said in my review I thought they were great. His range of facial expressions, outstanding musical ability and participation in a very well thought out and planned show means he's got great comic ability regardless. The fact that many of his shows are improvised also tells you he isn't just a script memoriser.

However, my respect for him has jumped to a whole new level with his detailed and passionate defence of himself and his act, where he refutes all the allegations against himself. In the rebuttal, which reads like an essay on the history of the type of comedy he performs, complete with video references, he explains that comedians can sometimes come up with similar ideas, can dress the same, can both be bald and can also both use the same computer software for building websites.

As a result, Jim Tavare, not to put it to lightly, now appears to have make a complete and utter c*** of himself and is very lucky that he is not being sued, especially since he encouraged other comedians to retweet his claims. To his credit though, he does now appear to have apologised.

In my experience, comedians do come up with the same material a lot. I have been lucky enough to have been invited to judge quite a few new act competitions and if I had to count the number of times I've heard the same jokes about sat nav and 9/11 happening on November 9th etc I would need all my fingers and toes! As a result, I don;t think Micky Flanagan is guilty of copying anything. At worst, all you can call him is a little bit hack!

So if you are a comic and you hear a joke similar to your own, my advice would be to stop and think about it, realise the world is a finite place and have a think about whether it COULD be a co-incidence. If you're sure it can't be, approach said comedian and tell him to stop performing your material or you will post videos of you performing the material before said plagiarist. If he/she still does not recant, post your material and let people judge for themselves. If it's that obvious, you will be backed up by others. If they still don't stop then talk to your lawyer.

Allegations can get out very quickly and mushroom in the age of Twitter so make sure they are 100% correct before you put it out there.

Alternatively, you could just take some advice from joke thief victim Milton Jones who simply said "A punch in the face in a comedy club green room is generally more effective than court".

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Chat Show Phenomenon

They've been around for a while, but I've noticed that the chat show format seems more abundant that ever this year.

Quite a few of the acts I've seen before and many that I have recommended are going down that route this year. I'm a fan of Tim Vine... I've not gone to see him live because he's on telly so much, but he seems to have switched to the chat show format. Jack Whitehall and Arthur Smith are other reasonably big names who have done the same.

I've sung the praises of Marcel Lucont on the blog before and also recommended Bob Slayer, a real mayhem specialist... Whilst I'm a huge fan of both I have different opinions on both of them doing it. I expect Bob Slayer will not change that much, his shows will still be anarchy and he'll still run around like a lunatic, but Marcel Lucont is a much more polished comedian. I've really enjoyed his shows and would be happy to just see more new material.. I don't know how well his stuff will come across in a two way dialogue... but at least he is trying something new and I sincerely hope he nails it!

The locals are getting in on the act too, with Scott Agnew and Hardeep Singh Kohli joining in (I've always thought that Hardeep is more suited to a presenter style/TV type gigs than straight stand up anyway).

Long-standing chat show enthusiasts Neil and Christine Hamilton are doing their regular lunch time show and other names using this format include Olivia Lee, Stephen K Amos (on the Radio), and that's before you add in other TV and radio shows like Fred MacAulay who usually comes livefrom Edinburgh every day during the Fringe...

The question I really want to ask though... Is it taking the easy option? I'd like to see comments on this as I'm still undecided....

Many comics tirelessly try to reinvent themselves, develop and refine their material in order to try and come up with an hour of magic that finally sees them propelled to stardom!

To just invite your mates on and have a bit of material prepared to slip in along with the regular banter, doesn't seem as dedicated to me.

Having another comedian on stage would, I imagine, make performing much easier. If you hit a weak point and you aren't getting the laughs you can keep quiet and let the other comic do their bit.... It would certainly be a lot less lonely than being on stage for an hour!

On the other hand, many comedians come into their own when they ask ballsy questions and manage to stay just inside the line. Mrs Merton and Ali G are two character comedians who deservedly found fame by shamelessly taking advantage of the people they were interviewing.

Maybe people just want to see chat shows. Is it a simple case of supply and demand? Do punters drift towards these types of shows just like they drift towards your standard "three acts and a compere" because it's a safer bet? You can't blame comedians for following buyer trends. After all, comedy is still a business and anyone who doesn't treat it as such, especially in Edinburgh, is certain to lose out!

What do people think?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Free Festival Programme Launched

In the current economic climate people will be playing closer attention to anything that can get them a good deal at the Fringe. A large part of my blog will have hopefully helped readers find the best deal and made it easier to pick up freebies, especially for shows that you normally have to pay for! (The Theatre Ninjas app has now been downloaded and I'm looking forward to using it. See my last blog).

The Five Pound Fringe were a great company keeping the cost of tickets down but sadly they have disappeared this year.

But you still don't need to look very hard to get a freebie with two major promoters offering free shows for the entirety of the Festival!

Peter Buckley-Hill has been around longer with "PBH Free Fringe" but in recent years he has been overtaken by the Laughing Horse Free Festival, who this year have 6725 performances of 339 shows in 17 venues (approximately twice the size of PBH)! Laughing Horse managed to secure the first Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination (Best Newcomer) for a free show last year with Imran Yusuf who this year moves to The Pleasance for £11 a pop; which goes to show that there are lots of great up and coming comics who aren't neccesarily charging a fortune!

I've already recommended a few shows from the Free Festival in a previous blog so I won't repeat those, but another safe bet is to try out one of their many 3-4 comedians for the price of one. They have shows at Espionage at 6pm, 8.30pm and 11pm and similar shows at other venues which are well worth a look such as Jock's and Geordies at the Meadow Bar.

If you are wondering how promoters can put on a free show at the Fringe and not lose a fortune, here's an article that tells you how.

So have a look at the guide and try it out! Not every act will be 5/5 but in terms of value for money there's nothing better on the Fringe. You can take a wander into any of their venues, buy a drink an just jump into the next show that starts! That's certainly what I'll be doing!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Theatre Ninjas

I thought these guys deserved a post all to themselves...

The Theatre Ninjas have created an app that gives away free tickets to people who download it to their smart phone.

The idea is that instead of handing out comps randomly to people hanging out in the Pleasance (like me), they will be able to reach a wider audience of people who want to try something new and see the fringe on a budget.

There is a great interview with them in Three Weeks...

I'll definitely be downloading it and I'll let everyone know how I get on.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Posted Missing

Friends who have picked up the Fringe programme have had a flick through it and said to me "The fringe looks rubbish this year, hardly anyone is coming!"

I couldn't disagree more!

If all you want to do is pay £18 for comics you've already seen on "Live at the Apollo" or on Channel 4, then, you may find yourself somewhat limited for choice....

No, John Bishop, no Kevin Bridges, no Rhod Gilbert, no Jason Manford, no Tim Minchin, no Sean Locke, no Michael McIntyre, no Alan Carr, no Dara O'Briain, no Lee Evans, no Micky Flanagan, no Adam Hills no Frank Skinner.... I could keep going for a while...

But on the other hand there are plenty of big names still appearing....

Jack Whitehall is still coming, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee are both up. Mark Watson will be there. Andi Osho, Rich Hall, Sarah Millican, Shappi Khorsandi and Jon Richardson were all on Channel 4's Comedy Gala but will still slog it out in Edinburgh! Milton Jones is a regular on Mock the Week but he's still coming.

All in all you still have plenty of choice.

But for me, the decision of some of the big names to stay away is a good thing. A lot of people still want to see big names. It just means that this year these people will be spread out a lot more. It also means that people are more likely to take a gamble and/or go and see someone they haven't heard of based on a recommendation from a friend or a good review in the paper.

This can only be good for the Fringe and live comedy. For me the spirit of the fringe has always been to try something new. There are always more losers than winners at the Fringe in terms of ticket sales (and money) but if there is a rough diamond out there not getting the recognition they deserve then they are far more likely to be found in a Fringe without the big hitters stealing the crowds (who will no doubt have less money to spend than in previous years).

So get yourself down to the Royal Mile and grab some flyers or head down to a Free Festival venue. You never know, you might be able to tell all your friends that you saw the next Michael McIntyre playing to 17 people in a dingy basement!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Early Recommendations

So, 2010 for me was more of a "Hanging out at the Free Fringe venues with the people I met last year" kind of year and as a result I saw a few acts again that I reviewed in 2008/9.

Marcel Lucont was great again with a good selection of new material. He's hosting a chat show this year at the Underbelly. Details here.

Secondly, I've seen a young comic called Richard Gadd a few times, at various comedy shows out with the fringe, I also caught his show last year which was rough round the edges due to him experimenting with lots of new stuff, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. This year he's performing as part of a trio with two other up and coming Scottish comedians. More details here.

The one show that I wish I'd blogged about at the time was "No Son of Mine". A great performance by Rufus Jones and Alex Kirk in a comedy about a son in Theatre and a Father who comes to see him (even although he thinks it's "all a bit poofy").

Some classic one liners and two great performances. Unfortunately neither seem to be at the Fringe this year judging by a quick search of the Fringe website. If you see them anywhere then please comment below and I'll give them a shout out! Here's a good review from The British Comedy Guide.

My good friend Nik Coppin has his usual "Shaggers" show on at The Three Sisters late at night. See my old reviews for a run down - it's the best late night fun you can have at the Fringe with your trousers on! His solo show "Award Winning Comedian" also got some great reviews at this year's Adelaide Fringe. On top of that he's got a third show "Huggers" a family friendly alternative to Shaggers, with all the best comedians on the Fringe who don't say F***!

Imran Yusuf performed as part of the Free Festival last year and became the first free act to be nominated for the ECA (the award formerly known as "The Perrier") Best Newcomer. As a result he's got himself a 7pm slot at the Pleasance this year. A bit pricey at £11/12 so get in and see him during the previews or 2for1's.

Sarah-Louise Young is back for a third year as Cabaret Whore. After winning a 5* review in The Scotsman in 2009 (and with me too) she had huge audiences in 2010 and is now performing at the Underbelly in 2011.

More early recommendations to follow once I've had more of a chance to digest the Fringe Guide!

I'm Back

I took a year off last year, primarily due to not being able to get to as many shows.

I also ended up drinking with too many comics after the shows I did attend, due to being introduced to them by my comic mate who was staying with me in 2009 so it made it a little more difficult to be objective... something I think is important if I'm rating shows!

Anyway, with the arrival of twitter, it should be much easier to rate shows and get my opinions out there. You can follow me @fringeguide

I'll try and post reviews via the blog here but also lots of bits and pieces while I'm out and about, including articles I like, shows I'd like to see and people i've spotted.