Fringe Comedy Reviews: Barflies

Feature by John Stansfield | 18 Aug 2015

Taking the Free Fringe model as an excuse to crowdsource new ideas for what people would want in their local watering hole, James Dowdeswell is on a mission to discover the Perfect Pub [★★★☆☆]. After inheriting his father’s pub, the Bristol stand-up is contemplating a change in career and so goes around the room asking what people would include in the ideal public house, working each suggestion into a short piece of stand-up. It’s an interesting idea and one that requires a heap of crowd work, which Dowdeswell handles with aplomb. Though his energy is admirable, on this occasion he isn't able to whip the crowd up into enough of a participatory frenzy to come up with the ideas that strike comedy gold. Perhaps this show would be better with a start time closer to last orders when an audience is in a more convivial mood.

One of Dowdeswell's best customers, or perhaps his greatest members of staff would be Chris Betts, as the Canadian comic waxes lyrical about the lure of the bar in Social Animal [★★★☆☆]. Betts has spent the bulk of his adult life in the pub, be it as a patron or a worker, and has made it his business to document the various pockets of society that circulate around the bar scene. Betts has a cool demeanour about him, nonchalantly moving from one topic to the next with the polished ease of an old pro. His observations are clever but never too original, leading to a lack of punch in his punchlines. His wordplay is dynamic but it lacks the cutting edge that might mark him out. Brief forays into more R-rated material jar a little with his calm act, and he fails to get any huge laughs, but his material is consistent enough to keep the crowd hooked.

James Dowdeswell's Perfect Pub, The Free Sisters, until 30 Aug, 5.15pm, free

Chris Betts: Social Animal, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 9.45pm, £6.50-9.50