Last week I spent three days in Scotland with Katy Spry for my first ever trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012. After friends had raved about it for years I was expecting something pretty spectacular and that’s what I got – three days crammed full of comedy that ranged from epically hilarious to disastrously bad (hundreds of comics perform for free so there’s always a diverse range in quality terms). So, ignoring the dross, here they are, in ascending order, my top five comedy shows from Edinburgh 2012. The Fringe is on until Monday so you might still have time to catch them if you’re already in town.
5. The Edinburgh Revue Sketch Show at the Banshee Labyrinth (free)
We knew we enjoyed this show at the time, but it was only later, after enduring hours of tedious material from comics who are old enough to know better, that the precocious talents of Edinburgh University’s comedy society became clear. Five baby-faced students (including a girl who could easily forge a career as a Zooey Deschanel impressionist) blasted through an hour of fast-paced sketches in a free show that outranked even some of the paid gigs we saw. Delightfully kooky and rough around the edges, I’ll be looking out for these kids in future Fringe shows.
4. Kieran and Joe – Friends of Steel at the Pleasance Courtyard
‘We are Extreme Friendship Trainers and we’re going to help you become better friends’ claimed tracksuit-clad Kieran and Joe in this self-help seminar with a difference. Featuring an intervention for an audience member with an unusual addiction, lessons in the six golden rules of friendship via a series of instructional skits (I was plucked from the audience to go on a ‘romantic date’ with Joe – it was terrifying), and finishing up with a hands-in-the-end-air swaying ballad singalong, you’ll most likely leave doubting that Kieran and Joe are in fact friends of steel as the cracks in their friendship become apparent. But you’ll have some serious fun along the way. We also saw Kieran’s solo show the next day, which was a tour de force of regional accents.
3. Bane 1, 2 and 3 at the Pleasance Dome
Officially the best show of the Fringe, according to aggregated reviews. That was what we were told about Bane – and we could totally see why. Joe Bone plays Bane, and every single other cast member, in this one man film noir parody trilogy (there’s one installment per show). With just a live guitarist for accompaniment, Bone acted out every character, accent, sound effect and action astonishingly well and often at breakneck speed. In fact, he worked so hard that he appeared to be sweating out of his knees. It was extraordinary to watch (if it times slightly hard to follow) and the plot was as gripping as it was funny. No wonder it’s won about a million awards.
2. 50 Shades! The Musical at the Assembly Hall
Now please don’t be under the impression that by endorsing this show that I actually like the book 50 Shades of Grey. I don’t. I think it’s easily the worst book I’ve ever read. Clearly, Baby Wants Candy, the Chicago improv group behind 50 Shades! The Musical did too, because this was a wonderous hour-long send up of the atrociously-written S&M novel that’s sold about a gazillion copies worldwide. Everything about it was a scream. Anastasia Steele was portrayed as dumb and dumpy, Katherine Kavanagh was a drunk. Christian Grey was played by a short, fat Asian guy in a red wrestling unitard. The songs were hilarious, as was the dialogue, which superbly highlighted the absurdities of the book – ‘I’ve never felt so liberated,’ Ana gasped as Christian placed an electronic tag around her ankle. This was a one-off performance but I think it will be a crime if they don’t show it elsewhere. The world NEEDS to hear such beautiful ditties as show closer ‘My Butthole Is In Control.’ I’m thinking of starting a petition.
1. The Boy With Tape On His Face – More Tape at the Pleasance Courtyard
If I said The Boy With Tape On His Face is like a comedy magician I realise that sounds a bit rubbish. But he sort of is. Using only audience members, music and some decidedly homemade props (mopheads, balloons, ), Sam Wills sets up these brilliant comedy tricks, all while with his mouth firmly taped shut with black duct tape. The build up to each skit is half the fun. Katy and I found ourselves dancing to the 80′s tunes and you could feel the entire crowd utterly captivated by Wills’s every move, waiting for the (always awesome) punchline. This was one of those totally joyous shows that has to be experienced live – not least because the epic finale piece involved every single member of the 1000 strong audience. I’m not going to give anything away, just urge you to go and see Tape Face Boy if you can. Actually, sod it, here’s a video: