The Best of Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Comedy
After reviewing around 200 shows and seeing many more off-schedule, The Skinny's comedy team pick their favourite Fringe moments...
"Those of us lucky enough to get a ticket to see Nish Kumar were not disappointed: he brings really incisive and eye-opening analysis to all the satire he creates, leaving his crowds angry, informed and very nicely tickled. He was also one of many Fringe acts who, post-Brexit, had to re-write and re-imagine his show weeks before taking it to the stage, and did so with great class.
"On the complete other end of the comedy spectrum, Foxdog Studios absolutely blew me away this year with a high-tech, interactive show the likes of which I have never seen anywhere before. I came out of The Cellar Monkey's basement bouncing around and desperately wanting to see it again. They picked up two Malcolm Hardee Award nominations, so clearly other people felt the same. Critical success has also come Rose Matafeo’s way, and deservedly so. This was her debut show and she managed to cram in physical and musical humour, surrealism, sneak-feminism and a good spoonful of death. She's also a couple of years younger than me, which I am completely OK with." [Jenni Ajderian]
[The "rip-roaringly funny" Mat Ewins]
"Another year, another Edinburgh Fringe, and another show from Mat Ewins that made me laugh so much it hurt. Mat Ewins Will Make You A Star was a rip-roaringly funny odyssey of multimedia madness. I'd never seen Suzi Ruffell and her show, Common, was full of heart and excellent gags. It put a spring in my step and I’ll be following her career with interest from here.
"Finally, a word for Richard Gadd. He followed up the high-concept, ensemble show Waiting For Gaddot, with something comparatively stripped back, but no less imaginative. Monkey See Monkey Do has been the talk of the Fringe; the word ‘important’ gets thrown around a lot but Gadd’s new show was a vital, courageous effort." [Craig Angus]
"Fingering A Minor On The Piano was always going to be special from the title alone, but I had no idea Adam Kay's musical salute to medicine would quite be so thrilling in its intent: warm and inclusive at first then angry and emotionally fraught as the story turned from Kay's rise as a junior doctor to his ultimate fall.
"Emma Sidi's Mexican soap queen Vanessa (or Banessa) was a truly unpredictable, leftfield creation, she escaped the confines of the TV and ran amok in Sidi's live-wire tour-de-force Telenovela. Also surprisingly three-dimensional was the purple puppet who holds court in Randy Writes A Novel. This Fringe favourite returned with a juicily intelligent show about the anxiety behind art and the questionable morality of making stuff up for a living." [Stu Black]
"Lolly 2 has some intelligent and well-aimed critic bashing from one of the best new comedians around, Lolly Adefope. Is race something any comedian, let alone a black female comedian, needs to discuss? No. Do critics think it is the be-all and end-all? Apparently. Spiky, guilt-inducing and important. When it comes to Norris and Parker, I have that strange feeling of pride – I loved them before they were popular! I'm getting used to the idea a lot more people know who they are now. See You At The Gallows was a long deserved breakthrough hour of songs, characters and sketches.
"Kiri Pritchard-Mclean's Hysterical Woman was a storming debut from someone who wants to be appreciated regardless of gender. A show that really resonated with me, personally, and one which will stick in my memory for a very long time. Finally, Spencer Jones is The Herbert in Eggy Bagel. A genuine delight to behold. Joyous and wonderful and all types of lovely, good-natured fun. It’s silly and hilarious. Okay, I cheated. Picking three was really hard." [Polly Glynn]
[Randy Writes A Novel]
"I discovered the fruity charm that character chameleon Susie Youssef brought to the Fringe with Check Youssef Before You Wreck Youssef was just my cup of tea. The show was a subtle brew that blended flippant sketches with tragicomic tales of her personal anxiety issues. Heath McIvor offered a stiffer drink with Randy Writes a Novel, his wonderfully singular, witty puppet-based show that left me with an (intellectual) hangover and more information than I will ever need about the life and times of Ernest Hemingway.
Luckily, just when highbrow threatened to shake the silly out of me, Steen Raskopoulos stepped right in to my Fringe schedule with the zealousness of a fitness instructor on commission, pushing audiences to get more and more involved in You Know The Drill. But it’s your facial muscles and not your hamstrings that are left sore from all the smile-induced stretching by the end of the performance." [Tamara Mathias]
"Paul Currie's FFFFFFFMILK! was the finest hour of physical comedy I saw this year – I feel bad putting his style into any catagory but clowning is the closest description to what Currie actually does on stage. His show never seemed to have a drop off in energy and was pure fun from start to finish. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bridget Christie after learning that she had scrapped what she had planned in in favour of a show about the EU referendum – not because I don’t trust her as a comedian to handle the subject, but because of the short amount of time she gave herself to tackle such a mammoth task. Luckily it paid off and was probably the most therapeutic and articulate show I’ve seen this festival. Anyone who feels angry or confused about Brexit should see the show; the most important thing is that she manages to make the whole sorry affair funny which unfortunately not everyone has been able to do.
"Richard Gadd blew me away. He’s been recommended to me a fair few times and I’ve always heard good things, still I was not expecting this. Monkey See Monkey Do is really a fantastic show; without getting into the meat of it too much it’s about masculinity, mental health and sexuality and it's a true must see – not a term I like to use a lot but definitely the case here." [James McColl]
[Fin Taylor in Whitey McWhiteface]
"Rhys Nicholson's Bona Fide was well-crafted performance, but also weirdest and wonderfulest. For high-impact late night brilliance, Fin Taylor: Whitey McWhiteface at the Counting House wins hands down. Meanwhile, over at The Tron – and also a pay-what-you-want bargain – was Jarlath Regan. He has universal appeal and was consistently funny. Off-schedule, Rahul Kohli's Newcastle Brown Male at The Stand was also excellent." [Jennifer McKiernan]
"If Fringe performers were Olympic athletes, Stu and Garry would be the 41-year-old Uzbeki gymnasts. The Simone Biles-es of the comedy world come and go, but Stu and Garry are still there, launching and landing, time-served alchemists who fashion laughs from thin air and creating ridiculous characters such as a porn shop butcher and wind-assisted men. In a year of long overdue recognition for Scottish comedy, not only for Richard Gadd and Scott Gibson, but also Scott Agnew, Fern Brady and Larry Dean among others, Stu and Garry are like a little seam of Edinburgh gold – two comedians you can see any week of the year, guaranteed to make you laugh." [Cara McNamara]
[Bob Slayer reads from the Chilcot Report]
"It's difficult to argue with the panel for the main awards this year. For me, reading part of the Chilcot report with two complete strangers between 2-3am was an unexpectedly wonderful adventure and seems to have brought together everyone who took part – Iraq Out & Loud captures everything the Panel Prize should represent. Scott Gibson's debut Life After Death appeared to take everyone by surprise. But for anyone who's seen him perform, it was simply the recognition he deserves: like an aneurysm, he only seemed to come out of nowhere.
"Then there's Richard Gadd. Using video, audio and gym equipment he made comedic use of his interior monologue; the lighter moments of Monkey See, Monkey Do were a little like Peep Show, albeit on a treadmill. Yet, at the end of this show I had to walk along Cowgate with tears rolling down my face and feeling the emotional equivalent of being hit by a bus. This is what an artist can do with an Edinburgh hour – a brave and intensely moving work of creative expression, but one that's runners' high funny too.
"Finally, I would like to thank the departing Fred Fletch. His 'one last job' was a review only he could write and Wank Bank Masterclass a show exactly aligned to his core competencies. Fred's been one of the most impossibly unique of all The Skinny's collection of voices and behind-the-scenes I couldn't have wished for a better section captain, colleague and friend." [Ben Venables]
Read all of this year's Fringe reviews and interviews at theskinny.co.uk/festivals/edinburgh-fringe/comedy