With his genuine warmth and charm, Paul McCaffrey just about succeeds in elevating his poorly-structured, often generic material into an agreeable hour of comedy. His cheeky manner, whilst hardly unique, ensures he has a natural rapport with his audience, despite some poorly received jokes.
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From the outset it becomes apparent that Jimmy Mcghie’s ideas of his own candour are anything but delusional. With a range of topics in his sights, McGhie rarely takes prisoners, with a particular disdain towards the multitude of nausea-inducing cooking shows on our screens and the numerous irrelevant products that these ‘celebrities’ spawn.
There are two parts to a Milton Jones joke; the first when you get the punchline, the second when you’re hit with a visual image of the punchline. This leads to a full spectrum of laughter after each one-liner, from smug, self-satisfied guffaws to tittering girlish giggles.
Returning for their fifth year at the Fringe, The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek have an upcoming BBC2 show to their name. Their set includes sketches from both the series, as well as some Fringe favourites.
As a big fan of Adam Buxton since the old Adam and Joe days on Channel 4, I was heavily anticipating the show. On a par with the intelligent comedy of Daniel Kitson, this bearded comedian favours the clever comedy over the easy gags.
I'll admit that Jason Byrne's face didn't immediately spring into my mind before I arrived to join the huge queue, snaking around the impressive and somewhat unlikely Fringe venue, McEwan Hall. Why hadn't I seen him doing the rounds on TV before this?
It soon became clear however, as Byrne arrived onstage astride a space hopper - before proceeding to call space hopper-shaped men from the crowd to join him - why I didn't recognise the face of this big-time comic. Where other popular comedians make their names cracking gags on any show on TV with an available time slot, Byrne's integrally interactive comedic style is achieved through playing to live audiences.
Apart from a few lacklustre props which wouldn't have looked out of place on a Blue Peter set in 1975, 'Special Eye' relies heavily on guaranteed laughs: Scottish v English rivalries; ancient, farting relatives; mischievous children and testicular orchestras. Although many of the Scots-related jokes felt a bit too obvious, Byrne thankfully avoided mentioning the favourite topic of the Fringe's laziest (or most desperate) of comedians - the trams.
The audience rocked with laughter at Byrne's familial, silly humour and especially enjoyed his lengthy portrayal of unhappy marriages, in which the woman reigns supreme as her husband negotiates the slippery slope into old age without a smidgen of dignity. It's also refreshing to watch a comedy performance totally void of politically incorrect humour. Byrne proves a cock joke will more than suffice.
If you're hoping to watch a comedian with political humour or completely unexpected content, then look elsewhere (Lord knows there's enough to choose from). But if you're in need of a huge, uproarious belly laugh from a man who makes his name entertaining live around the world, then 'Special Eye' should be your first choice.
Jason Byrne: Special Eye, Underbelly Bristo, 9pm
Catriona Knox might not be a household name, but her credentials precede her. A solo performer at the Fringe for several years, she is also one-third of the all-women sketch group, The Boom Jennies. Known for their energetic and upbeat shows, it’s with this buzzing confidence that Knox greets her audience.
This pop-up comic bursts with confidence from the outset, as Zoe Lyons takes on pigeons, dogs in prams, the cult of celebrity and Alan Titchmarsh, in a show that never loses its pace. In the small, but beautiful, Studio One in the Assembly Rooms, her personality fills the space. The audience is filled with people familiar with her work, charmed by her inclusivity.
"Where Is My Mind?" is concentrated around Robins looking back on his life, having hit that milestone age of thirty. He reminisces on his favourite point in time and how his life has changed since, whilst revealing the highs and lows with great comedic effect.
As Chris Fitchew enters from the same entrance as the audience has only moments earlier, you could be forgiven for mistaking this curiously-dressed man as merely an extroverted latecomer, keen for a seat. It soon becomes apparent, however, that this is the first of many of Fitchew's larger than life - and somewhat exaggerated - caricatures.
An incredibly warm and personable comic, Suzy Bennett's style - while no doubt structured - feels like you're having a catch-up with a mate, with jokes popping in here and there.
If nothing else, “Gyles Brandreth: Looking For Happiness” is a show that tickles the imagination and edifies the mind, without ever really breaking out into the laugh-out-loud anecdotal piece it could have been.
After numerous on-stage costume changes and some witty asides, he embarks on an overly tangential routine discussing what he believes to be the 7 secrets to happiness. However, this mostly consists of comical anecdotes from his past, followed by tacked on morals about how we must search for satisfaction in our lives. When finally revealed, the 7 secrets turn out to be nothing more than what one could find in a shallow motivational guide that comes free with the horoscopes.
In his storytelling, he also segues strangely from sombre memories of deceased friends, to lurching about the stage with wide eyes and giggling at the double-entendre to be found when a French person pronounces the word “happiness”. However, despite being reserved in the number of killer punch-lines he goes for, he does have impressive consistency in the laughs he draws, with not a single quip falling flat.
He also carries a sprightly energy that belies his age, especially given the relative youth of most of his fellow Fringe performers. His delivery is strong and the material is executed very professionally, although occasionally the way in which he projects his voice becomes more interesting than the actual content.
It’s a consistently amusing show, with a surprisingly broad appeal given the amount of time devoted to the works of Freud and Jung, yet it never fully moves up a gear into the uproarious heights we might expect.
Gyles Brandreth: Looking for Happiness, Pleasance Courtyard, 4.20pm
Katie Mulgrew walked onto the stage to the sound of William Shatner’s unique rendition of Pulp’s Common People blaring over the PA, which means she already has one of the best openings of the Fringe so far. Shatner makes a few more cameo appearances during this well-structured and charming show, along with other showbiz luminaries such as David Hasselhoff and Michael Burke. Mulgrew’s act is augmented with a deftly-deployed powerpoint presentation, which, during this first performance, is hijacked by a BT internet popup, but she rallied well. “I’ve never been heckled by wifi before!” This is Mulgrew’s first full Fringe show, and at times it’s easy to tell, but technical difficulties aside Mulgrew acquits herself nicely with genuinely warm and funny material.
Defining The Pajama Men can be something of an impossibility. Whilst at the start it seems as though you are watching a series of random sketches, their show cleverly builds and twists into a beast of a tale. Expect a 700-year-old King, sinkholes and a semi-talking motorcycle. Each role, no matter how diverse or ridiculous, is played by Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez with such skill, you can tell the character by a simple expression or change of vocal tone.
Whist his show may not gain him major mainstream success, Ben Van der Velde's very likely to gain a cult following amongst those who appreciate his brand of wittily crafted storytelling.Read more...
Dan Nightingale is 32, has no hair to speak of (as he readily admits) and is very unlucky in love. His type, he says, are incredibly high-strung, manic actresses.
As audience members are led to their seats, an enthusiastic and eccentric-looking Diane Spencer's hysterical laughter fills the cosy, packed-out room in the Gilded Balloon. She waves the crowd in to take their seats. It almost feels like you're being welcomed into the warmth of your (albeit maniacal) grandmother's sitting room.
What do you think the 13-year-old you would say to the 40-year-old you? "What happened to your hair?" "How did you get so fat?" "Why haven't you kicked in Darth Vader yet?" If you're Christian O'Connell, that last one would definitely be a bone of contention, because as he approached his 40th birthday, he found a list of future hopes, written by his 13-year-old self in 1986 - and schooling Vader was dream number one.
An incredibly personable comedian, there's little not to like about Mark Dolan's general demeanour. His entrance is friendly with some light audience interaction that warms the room. Although it's not entirely clear where his warm-up ends and the meaty centre of his show actually begins, there are some big laughs to be had between his meandering facts and backstory.
Nish Kumar's show documents his journey through mistaken racial identity and his own experiences of Britishness through the medium of observational comedy. It is also very funny.
Kumar hangs his one hour show on people's inability to recognise the difference between himself (a non-Muslim Indian born and bred in Britain), Islamic fundamentalists and almost any other person from a non-white background.
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