The Edinburgh Fringe is my favourite festival. SXSW, Cannes and our many industry events are all fine ways to get an injection of new thinking, but for a hit of creativity and originality the Fringe leaves them all for dead. Below are six shows I loved this weekend across a wide range of comedy styles in the order I went to see them. Unintentionally, the list ended up as an all-male cast as the women I hoped to see were all way too popular for me to get a ticket on the first weekend. Sara Pascoe and Jan Ravens have now sold out their entire runs and Juliette Burton’s name was the first up in chalk on the Gilded Balloon Sold Out board. There are still tickets available for Juliette’s Butterfly Effect if you book in advance – it’s been getting great reviews and can be booked here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/juliette-burton-butterfly-effect
GOODBEAR. Pleasance Dome. 21.40.
What is it? A deliciously dark sketch show set in the Hotel Apres Vie. Super-sharp staging, great acting, fresh characters and time and again you’re left thinking “I just didn’t see that coming”.
Unmissable moment: The bullet-catch sketch.
JONNY AWSUM. HONEY, I PROMISED THE KID. Just the Tonic at The Caves. 16.05.
What is it? The true story of Jonny’s quest to play the O2 Arena to fulfil a promise to his daughter (and having spoken to Jonny, my brother, through many of the highs and lows I can vouch that every bit of it is true…) Anyhow, don’t just take my word for it, the show’s been selling out and the audience absolutely loved it. Very funny and surprisingly emotional too.
Unmissable moment: The twist at the end of the story.
MICHAEL STRANNEY. WELCOME TO BALLYBEG. Pleasance Courtyard. 18.00.
What is it? Character piece in which Daniel Duffy delivers a tourist board presentation for his beloved home town of Ballybeg in Northern Ireland. This is a superbly constructed show with a story that bubbles up through the hour to deliver a really uplifting ending. The Malloy Projectors straplines will live long in the memory.
Unmissable moment: The cow with ladder on head bit.
ROB KEMP. THE ELVIS DEAD. Heroes at Monkey Barrel. 00.00.
What is it? The cult classic horror movie Evil Dead 2 reinterpreted through the songs of Elvis. I’ve never seen Evil Dead 2 but with the screen showing clips as Rob Kemp sung us through the narrative this mattered not a jot. A crazy sounding idea that works so well you end up wondering why someone hasn’t done it before.
Unmissable moment: “Well, you look like my Linda…”
PHIL ELLIS HAS BEEN ON ICE. Just the Tonic at the Mash House. 19.40.
What is it? Phil’s been cryogenically frozen for the last three years but with the help of select audience members and a highly advanced robot (voiced brilliantly by Pat Cahill) he might be able to re-join society. This is impossible to describe so let’s just say it’s hysterically bonkers from start to finish and leave it at that. I was proud to take to the stage to help Phil pass the ‘team bonding’ task.
Unmissable moment: Phil blaming everyone for his own failures.
PHIL NICHOL. YOUR WRONG. Heroes at Monkey Barrel. 21.00.
What is it? An hour of stand-up gold delivered at break-neck speed by former Edinburgh Prize winner Phil Nichol. Starts with an online argument (the reason the show has a grammatically incorrect title) then accelerates through everything from a family member on life support to appearing on Celebrity Weakest Link with Anne Robinson. Loads of big laughs and just as thought-provoking as it is funny.
Unmissable moment: Black ice.