Fringe on a Theme: Returning Fringe Legends

At the Fringe it is easy to focus on new artists and overlook those who helped shaped stand-up before it became a viable career – here's where to catch those legends in Edinburgh this year

Feature by Ben Venables | 26 Jul 2017

Alexei Sayle

It is 37 years since Alexei Sayle became the first stand-up to play the Fringe. Since then, he's only returned with shows in 1984 and 2012, making this a rare chance to catch a true comedy original. 

Underbelly, Med Quad (Cowbarn), 2-11 Aug, 6.45pm, £11-£15

Jan Ravens: Difficult Woman

Ravens could technically claim to be eligible for the Best Newcomer award, given this is her Fringe debut. But the Dead Ringers star arrives already an Edinburgh god, having directed the inaugral Comedy Award-winning Cambridge Footlights in 1981.

Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Dining Room), 2-27 Aug (not 16), 7pm, £6-£14

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen

Arthur Smith has been coming to Edinburgh for 40 years and revives his classic Leonard Cohen show as a final tribute to the late master.

Pleasance Courtyard (The Grand), 18-20 Aug, 2pm, £11-£12.50

John Hegley: Peace, Love and Potatoes

It is always nice to know you're not the only Luton Town FC fan around. After a few years absent from Edinburgh, Hegley returns with a new book and hour of both pleasingly silly and poignant poems.

Assembly Checkpoint, 13-21 Aug, 2.30pm, £9.50-£13

Attila the Stockbroker: Undaunted!

Like Hegley, Attila first came to Edinburgh in the early-1980s and arrives this year with a new book of poems ranging on subjects from Trump to bladder cancer. 

PBH Free Fringe at Bannermans, 16-25 Aug (not 19), 4.15pm, Free 

Nick Revell vs Lily, Evil Cat Queen of Earth Planet and The Laughing Fridge

Nominated for the Perrier Award in 1987, sardonic and political stand-up Nick Revell's show has an unexpected premise – it is about a genius cat emerging from a 3D printer.

The Stand Comedy Club 4 (28 York Pl), 3-27 Aug (not 14), 3.35pm, £8-£9

Ivor Dembina

Dembina should have a statue in Edinburgh: he started the first Fringe venue exclusive to stand-up comedy in 1985, took one of the early successful comedy showcases – Comic Abuse – to Pleasance Courtyard and, outside of the Fringe, taught Stewart Lee how to use a microphone properly. His popular shows are on the free festival, but tickets can be booked in advance.

Old Jewish Jokes, Laughing Horse at Finnegan's Wake (The Back Room), 3-27 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), 1.30pm, free 

Ivor Dembina Show, Laughing Horse at The Counting House (Lounge), 3-27 Aug (not 8, 15, 22), 7.15pm, free

Steve Gribbin: Shunted Again

Once part of 1980s musical double act Skint Video, satirist Steve Gribbin is promising an 'antidote to Michael Portillo' and firing on all pistons lambasting the state of rail travel.

The Stand Comedy Club 5 (34-38 York Pl), 4-27 Aug (not 14), 3.45pm, £8-£9

Richard Herring: Oh Frig, I'm 50!

30 years since Richard Herring first came to Edinburgh as part of the Oxford Theatre Group, he arrives to perform his 40th show in the year of his 50th birthday. 

Pleasance Courtyard (One), 2-26 Aug, 7.30pm, £10-£14

The Craig Ferguson Show

In 1986, Ferguson was a breakout act as character Bing Hitler in the old Cafe Royale. He's since gone into the stratosphere of American stardom – and this chat show is being broadcast back to the States.

Gilded Balloon, Rose Theatre (Main Theatre) 7-18 Aug (not 12 & 13), 10.45pm, £16

Jerry Sadowitz: Comedian, Magician, Psychopath!

Sadowitz doesn't suffer fools gladly, or anyone at all for that matter. He is both an onstage maniac and genius. 

Assembly Rooms (Ballroom), 14-20 Aug, 9.30pm, £16.50

Mark Steel: Every Little Thing's Gonna Be Alright

Politically minded comedians have lots to talk about at the moment, and Steel has had plenty on his plate in his personal life too. Expect plenty of insight about both the personal and political spheres.

Assembly Hall (Rainy Hall), 2-27 Aug (not 14 or 28), 9.35pm, £10-£14

Simon Munnery: Renegade Plumber

31 years at the Fringe and still avant-garde, Simon Munnery turns his comedic experience to the ravages of capitalism and under-tent heating.

The Stand Comedy Club, 3-28 Aug (not 14), 3.20pm, £10-£12

Doug Anthony All Stars: Near Death Experience

Profane musical comedy icons first dazzled Edinburgh 30 years ago, and are back to see the many new fans they wowed with their storming return last year.

Pleasance Courtyard (Forth), 2-27 Aug (not 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 & 22), 10pm, £10-£15

Michael Redmond: I Wrote a Joke in 1987

One joke can change a life. Deadpan comedian Michael Redmond tells his story, and a few more jokes he's come up with since. 

Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Balcony), 2-28 Aug (not 14), 6.30pm, £6-£10

Phil Kay: Euphoric

Freewheelin' storytelling and high energy stand-up from a comedian who first came to prominence winning the So You Think You’re Funny? competition in 1989, and was shortlisted for the main Comedy Award in 1993.

Heroes at Monkey Barrel (Basement), 10-27 Aug, 9.20pm, £7/PWYW

Sean Hughes's Blank Book

A floppy haired 24-year-old who looked like a musician with the soul of Beckett picked up the Perrier Award in 1990. This year, Sean Hughes and friends attempt to make up a book live on stage – can they make it to the story's end?

Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Nightclub), 14-17, 21-24 Aug, 4pm, £12.50

Sue Perkins: Live! in Spectacles

An afternoon with a now-household name, but before Bake Off, and before Late Lunch, Perkins' was a Fringe favourite as president of Cambridge Footlights and enjoyed her breakout show with Mel Geidroyc in 1993. 

Pleasance Courtyard (The Grand), 23-27 Aug, 1.45pm, £14.50-£15.50

Dominic Holland: Eclipsed

Holland scooped the Best Newcomer in 1993, and since then his son has been to Hollywood and turned into Spiderman. Holland Snr reveals how it feels to be eclipsed. 

PBH Free Fringe at the Voodoo Rooms (Ballroom), 5-27 Aug (not 8 & 9), 4.40pm, free

Whose Line is it Anyway?

Hosted by Clive Anderson, with many original cast members and Fringe legends, the quintessential improv show is back with its own title after the legal wrangles suffered in 2014. Greg Proops, Josie Lawrence, Colin Mochrie, Stephen Frost, Richard Vranch, Mike McShane and Tony Slattery will perform on rotation with other special guests.

Assembly Rooms (Music Hall), 3-27 Aug (not 14), 8.10pm, £10-£17.50

See also: Mark Thomas, whose new piece – A Show That Gambles on the Future – features in Edinburgh Festivals: Our Top Picks