Sunday, August 23, 2009

Edinburgh festival highlights

Last Sunday (my birthday!) and Wednesday I had trips through to Edinburgh to take in some comedy. Last year I didn't get to see anything in Edinburgh as I was in Germany (my trip through two years ago is detailed here), and March's Glasgow Comedy Festival didn't have much that appealed (I think the only thing saw was Richard Herring's Headmasters Son), so it had been a while since I'd seen any stand-up.

On the Sunday we had one show booked, which was Stewart Lee's If you prefer a milder comedian, please ask for one playing at the Stand. But, we'd gone through earlier in the day to try and find something else to see. After a while of sitting around by the Udderbelly (in Bristo Square) and managing to come to no decision as to what to see, we decided we might have better luck at the Pleasance. As at every venue we were approached by many enthusiastic flierers, but nothing particularly tempted us until a very polite young English man (probably fresh from completing his A-levels) convinced us to go and see Two episodes of Mash (by this point we really just wanted to see anything). It was a decent sketch-based set that has some very funny moments, and in general kept up a good pace - the show, at just under an hour, went by pretty quickly and there weren't any times when it seemed to lag (I'd say the two stars that Chortle gave it in the last link was a tad unfair). After that it was pretty much time to get up to the Stand. The Stand in Edinburgh is a cosy venue (slightly smaller and a quite different layout to the one in Glasgow) a we were sat right up front - pretty much on Stewart Lee's lap. It was a very good show (I'm sure Stewart Lee would rate my ability to craft a review up there with the works of Dan Brown). I was actually a bit surprised at the pace of the jokes - Lee can often spend ages on a sentence or two, but it was a lot faster than I expected (there was still his standard repetition of key themes, but not so long seemed to be taken over them) - this was probably due to the fact that he had a lot to cram in in the one hour set. His stuff about a certain pear cider advert is particularly good, as is his surprising song at the end (the guitar on stage for the whole set was reasonably confusing up until the very end).

On Wednesday we decided to take a day off work and again head over to Edinburgh. We mainly, somewhat unintentionally, were stalking Richard Herring for the day. First off was a trip to the Underbelly (in an extremely hot cave-like venue) to see a live recording of the Collings and Herrin Podcast - they were doing five consecutive days of live podcasts and we went to the first day. They've done three live podcasts previously and I've generally not found them to be as good as the regular podcast, but I really enjoyed this one - maybe being in the audience helped! After that, at the behest of Herring, there was a lunch outing to the Tempting Tattie for one of their tasty, and good value, baked potatoes (there weren't as many of us as at yesterdays gathering).

After that we went down to the half price ticket hut to try and look for a random show before the two pre-booked shows we were seeing in the evening. We settled on going to see Jason Cook with his show Fear. For a mid-afternoon show on a Wednesday it was rather surprisingly sold out, but this could maybe be explained by the good reviews the show has been getting. And it was a nice show by a very likeable comedian. The premise of the show - peoples fears - kind of disappeared about halfway through, but that wasn't really to the detriment of the performance. Cook did leave the audience very intrigued though, by mentioning the three months he spent in a maximum security prison in Libya on charges of piracy (it would have been interesting to hear more, but apparently it would induce a panic attack in Cook if he thought about it too much).

The next show was back seeing Herring again for his show Hitler Moustache. This was again in another roasting venue in the Underbelly. As someone who follows Herring's work via his blog and the podcasts I'd read/heard the inception and growth of the vast majority of the stuff in the show, so there wasn't really anything that came as a surprise. It was still a good show, and well polished, but I think I'd slightly self-spoilered it (I did have the thrill of seeing my name in the program though).

The final show of the night was a midnight performance by Daniel Kitson (who I've seen several times before) at the Stand (which as it happened Andrew Collins and Richard Herring were also at). We were again down the front right by the stage. Kitson has been the comedian against who I gauge all others as he's been unswervingly excellent whenever I've seen him. He was again very good, but my enjoyment was slightly dampened by a couple of things. The heat of the venue (a recurring theme it seems) and the time and length of the gig meant I was rather too tired, and flagged a lot for the last half hour or so of the our hour forty minute performance. I think the show could do with cutting down a bit (that said I've seen Kitson do a three hours set that was really good for the whole thing!), but I may have found it better if it had been at an earlier time, or I'd not had such a long day.

That's probably my fill of stand-up for a bit, but expect I'll see some more come next March's Glasgow Comedy Festival.