Fringe Comedy Reviews: Veterans and Newbies

Tom Stade, Steve Bugeja, Peter Brush and Michael Legge: old hands and polished newcomers at the Fringe

Feature by John Stansfield | 17 Aug 2015

Whether you’re a grizzled veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe or a first-timer just trying to find some space in the pecking order, the month of August can be a terrifying time. One man who doesn’t seem scared of this time of year, or of anything else is Tom Stade. The Canadian is back again this year with You’re Welcome [★★★☆☆], an hour of his trademark frustrated powder keg style, in which he tackles being called an immigrant, British daytime TV and raising children. Stade takes an outsider’s view to life in the U,K but since he’s been living here for the last six years his material seems to be on the wane a little. The good news is that he is still as acerbic and hilarious as ever. Naturally funny, he keeps the audience in fits throughout but it would be nice to see him test himself a little more than aiming for the common denominator. As he ends the show with the expression, ‘I don’t try to change the world, I just try to live in it,' it is difficult to see him changing tack anytime soon.

Another act quite assured of his character, but not quite as well known as Mr Stade, is Steve Bugeja. A wonderful writer and past winner of BBC Radio’s New Comedy Award, Bugeja is presenting his debut hour Day Release [★★★★☆]. Telling the true life tale of the time he had to pick up a friend’s dad from prison so that he could attend the wedding of his daughter, the show plays out like a breezy rom com with Bugeja the unlikely, dorky hero of the piece. You can picture Jay Baruchel playing the role in the Hollywood remake, so well written is the script and awkward the ‘character’ of Steve. There’s a little sag around toward the end as Bugeja begins the journey from the prison onward, but he brings us back with a feelgood ending, if not the happy ending the movie version might aim for.

In that same BBC New Comedy final was Yorkshire-based comic Peter Brush. Reminiscent of a young Woody Allen in his measured way of building towards great punchlines, Brush offers up his first Edinburgh show Older Than The Oldest Dog That Ever Lived [★★★☆☆] with a shrug. You get the feeling Brush doesn’t particularly want to be performing as he weaves his way through the Oedipal complex, Monopoly and the ability to freeze time. The slow gait with which he meanders along could see Brush being accused of losing momentum, especially in a closing sketch in which he meets a ghost of his future self. Dissecting his own comedy and the audience reaction as he goes, he will only come back stronger. Which is a very exciting prospect indeed.

A master of audience and material dissection himself, Michael Legge returns to the Fringe once more with his new show Tell It Like It Is Steve [★★★★☆], and he's "determined" to win the coveted main award. He’s got the right room (Tony Law was here when he was nominated in 2012), the right time (Bridget Christie won while performing a similar lunchtime show in 2013 at The Stand), now all he needs is the right show. After opening with a barnstorming song called Feels Good to be Alive that suddenly verges into more dodgy territory, Legge spends the first half of the show explaining the writing holiday he took to Kavos with Club 18-30, and how this affected the writing process but then subsequently made up a good chunk of his material for this hour. He then moves on to hero worship and his various run ins with those demigods we should never meet in real life. Especially since he keeps offending them or massively embarrassing himself. Smart, funny and almost too self-aware, Legge is above awards and just makes you feel good to be alive.

Tom Stade: You're Welcome, The Assembly Rooms, until 30 Aug (not 17th), 9:40pm, £15

Steve Bugeja: Day Release, The Mash House, until 30 Aug (not 18th), 8pm, £5

Peter Brush: Older than the Oldest Dog that Ever Lived, The Community Project, until 30 Aug (not 18th), 6:55pm, £3-6

Michael Legge: Tell it Like it is, Steve, The Stand Comedy Club, 12:10pm, until 30 Aug (not 17th), £7-8