For years punning comedians have been a mainstay of the Fringe landscape. Milton Jones and Tim Vine are usually found here – all the pun of the pair – but this year it is slim ticklings when it comes to those in the punny business. Fighting the good fight are master wordsmiths Stewart Francis with his show Pun Gent [★★★☆☆] and young pun-k Darren Walsh looking to take his throne with Punderbolt [★★★☆☆].
Francis is the older hand and is most recognizable from his work on the likes of Mock The Week – the journeyman performer shows no signs of slowing down as he rattles through punchline after punchline like a young prizefighter. His Mock the Week history tells as he takes easy pot shots at the likes of Kim and Kanye, Renee Zellweger and Bill Cosby. Some material is quite dated too, with references to Jeremy Beadle particularly perplexing, as well as some gay jokes that wouldn’t be out of place in an Eddie Murphy show from the 80s. The speed with which Francis moves along makes you forget such indiscretions and he is able to hit more winner than losers.
The problem with most one-line merchants is that it can get a little tiring; hearing one groan-inducing bon mot after another can be a little much. To combat this, Walsh uses all manner of multimedia to disguise what is essentially a flurry of jokes and quips. He is constantly interrupted by God, shows short films he’s made, hands out props and throws in some celebrity impersonations for good measure (blending Bowie, Arnie and Morrissey is particularly inspired). The show zips along without time to process some jokes, and some longer form pay-offs aren’t as grand as you’d hope for given how long they’ve taken to build up, but Walsh is so damn likeable you won’t really care.
Stewart Francis: Pun Gent, The Assembly Rooms, until 30 Aug (not 17), 8:10pm, £15
Darren Walsh: Punderbolt, Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug (not 17), 8:30pm, £6-9