Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: Politicos

Three potent political shows: one left-wing, one right-wing and one that crosses the Atlantic

Feature by Craig Angus | 17 Aug 2016
  • Chris Coltrane

As Chris Coltrane points out, you’ll know from the title of Socialist Fun Times [★★★★] whether it’s for you or not. It’s a crammed Banshee Labyrinth ("In the event of a fire, we’re all dead") that witnesses his light-hearted romp through recent political events, and for the most part, he’s true to his word. This is a comic cavalcade, delivered with passion by another of the stand-ups who tore up their scripts after 23 June.

Particularly joyous is Coltrane’s exasperated dissection of the post-Brexit media circus, or peak news. Video footage showing Sky anchor Kay Burley’s powers of interrogation goes down a storm, while Donald Trump too is analysed in forensic detail, and there are roars of laughter for a routine about the cost of political correctness (we just can’t afford it anymore, folks). There’s a bit of playing to the gallery involved, and getting a partisan audience to chant “fuck the tories” is low-hanging fruit, but it’s the only real misstep in his set. He claims to have made a new year resolution to be a better comedian – on this evidence it’s a job well done.

Geoff Norcott, photo: Steve Ullathorne

Allegedly, somebody walked out of Geoff Norcott’s show, Conswervative [★★★] earlier this week, shortly after the 39-year-old reveals he voted for Brexit. You’ve seen the poster, which carries the old Conservative torch logo (not the tree, which is gradually being airbrushed into history). This is a well crafted show though, and hats off to Norcott for standing out. His material about his past life as an English teacher, and his frustration with the “excessively liberal” mollycoddling of pupils is enlightening, and there’s probably some truth in it.

He talks about his own working class family’s complicity in benefit fraud, the futility of e-petitions and the left’s obsession with performing “virtue signalling acts that don’t mean anything.” The latter two points strike a chord – you have to laugh at yourself. We lose him a bit during his material about CBT, which he rather reductively and witheringly describes as “common sense”, but Norcott's presence at Edinburgh is a refreshing one.

Erich McElroy, photo: Steve Ullathorne

UK resident and US-born comedian Erich McElroy has history with political shows at Edinburgh, devoting his 2014 show to the then upcoming Scottish Independence referendum, and his decision to come down on the Better Together side. He repeatedly refers to that show as a mistake, but evidently it’s not put him off too much as he’s back with Electile Dysfunction [★★★] which looks at the presidential election in the States. 

He’s on safer, less divisive, terrain this year. The absolute madness of a certain Republican candidate’s rise means he alone could fill a show himself. Hilary Clinton’s had her own scandals and is viewed with suspicion. There are a lot of pantomime villains, and the danger is that McElroy’s show loses a bit of edge in going for easy targets.

What keeps the show fresh is that McElroy doesn’t focus solely on the present day, looking at his own varied voting history, and examining both his formative years in smalltown America and his Lutheran upbringing. It’s an intriguing trip through a world we don’t see or hear about too often amongst the sensational headlines and extravagant rallies. He returns to the current political storm one more time to skewer Clinton and Trump’s slogans (“I’m with her” isn’t all that inspiring), before signing off with a show of support for the woman who could be America’s first female president.

Chris Coltrane: Socialist Fun-Times, Banshee Labyrinth (Cinema), 6-28 Aug, 3.30pm, PBH Free Fringe
Geoff Norcott: Conswervative, Underbelly Med Quad (Daisy), 3-28 Aug (not 15), 7.10pm, £6-11
Erich McElroy's (US) Electile Dysfunction, Laughing Horse @ Bar 50 (The Alcove), 4-28 Aug, 1.20pm, Free