Once again, everyone has gathered in Edinburgh for the Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, bringing together some of the world’s greatest comedians. There are thousands of shows on, and I’m not going to pretend that I’ve seen them all, as that would be physically impossible. Many of the shows on offer are bad, but I’m not going to waste words wittily degrading the vaudevillian try-hards and morph-suit-wearing teenagers that litter the Royal Mile. Here a few of my favourite comedy acts from this year’s Fringe.
Matt Forde – (Dis)honourable Member
If I had to choose from a list of topics that I don’t find entertaining, politics and sport would sit quite high up the list. But with blue eyes and a gradually reddening face, Forde spins incredibly funny yarns from his own experience of working for TalkSport and the Labour party, revealing his ill-fated meeting with John Motson, his strangely successful years as an Alan Partridge impersonator and Mandelson’s unpredictably sexual charisma, all building to a satisfying crescendo. I only wish he had been doing stand-up four years ago, so that we might have benefited from his insight at the time.
These Footlights alumni have returned with a three-man sketch show, embracing silliness whilst lampooning some of the stranger follies of the modern world by means of an insecure rapper, a dubious correspondence course diploma and footballers advertising raisin mash. Apart from a derivative satellite-delay sketch, they are original and surprising, toying with silences to marvellous effect in sketches such as their creepy game show, What’s In My Pocket?
The Pajama Men: In the Middle of No One
These two men (pictured above) are partially insane, or very good at pretending to be. Their show tells a number of intertwined stories, but frankly I didn’t care what the story was, because their performance was just so eminently watchable. Hailing from America (hence the odd spelling of pyjama), they switch between multiple characters with an astonishing vocal and physical dexterity and an unimpeachable sense of timing. In fact, they’re such good performers that you could almost lose sight of how good their script is, throwing up dozens of perfect gags (my favourite being, ‘Dear diary: I miss you’). This is comedy at its very best.
Holly Walsh – The Hollycopter
It is illegal to jump off Worthing Pier, but it is not illegal to fly off it. And that’s just what Holly Walsh did, or attempted to do, a year ago, in the Bognor Birdman competition. Armed with a powerpoint presentation containing photos, footage and Venn diagrams, Walsh tells the story of how she found herself falling 40 foot in a homemade helicopter. Generous about others and deprecating about herself, Walsh has bags of charm. Her list of Things To Do Before I Die had me in stitches, and her storytelling was so natural that I left feeling almost as if she was a friend I had known for years.
This sketch duo comprises Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton, creators of the YouTube series High Renaissance Man. They are at their best exploring social awkwardness, as when they introduce the show as jaunty club reps, but they are equally at home taking apart the conventions of Shakespearian theatre. One particularly dark sketch involves a dead-eyed striptease act, accompanied by the callow jeering of a compere. These two know the value of a guilty laugh, and they tear it out of you whether you like it or not.