1. Colin Hoult: Characthorse
Sit back and strap in as we embark on an exhilarating ride through Snottingham, the almost entirely imaginary town Colin Hoult inhabited as a child. We’re on the hunt for the Characthorse, in the company of countless cast members, all delivered by Hoult (no prizes for guessing he’s from Nottingham) at a pace even a hyperactive child would struggle to keep up with. The characters come thick, fast and insanely funny – from the shuffling old codger down the road to the painfully optimistic posh guy – and the show is bookended by an impressively accurate James Cordon-baiting Sir Patrick Stewart bit. Hoult tweeted that Charcthorse is so far reviewless, which may be down to his cutting (but not mean-spirited) assessment of critics mid-show. Whatever the reason, it’s a real shame because this is the sort of face-achingly funny hour that deserves a lot of praise.
Colin Hoult: Characthorse, until 26th August, 6pm, Pleasance Courtyard.
2. David O’Doherty Will Try to Fix Everything
Truth be told, I’m not a fan of musical comedy. I just don’t find it as funny as regular spoken comedy on the whole. So when I went along to see this keyboard-wielding comic it was with a slight sense of trepidation. Lucky for me, the few songs David O’Doherty did pepper his one-man show with were easily on a par with his excellent comedy chat. The chatter revolved around the Irishman’s attempt to fix all the world’s problems, which he firmly believes were caused by a certain American cycling ubercheat. Too many stand-up shows are described as life-affirming but this came pretty close to it. Why? Because O’Doherty’s superb attitude shines through: he hates all the right things (prime example, ‘people being d**ks’) without being an all-round misanthrope, and he admits that even at 37 he still hasn’t got it all figured out. I felt so jolly at the end of this hour I was starting to reassess my avowed dislike of musical comedy.
David O’Doherty Will Try to Fix Everything, until 26th August, times vary, Pleasance Courtyard
3. Ben Moor: Each of us
When a show comes recommended by Alexis Dubus (AKA faux-French comedy hero Marcel LuCont) and both Stewart Lee AND Richard Herring are in the queue, it sets your expectations pretty stratospherically high. Thankfully, Ben Moor did not disappoint. Technically in the theatre section of the Fringe guide, this was more of a narrative performance, but it was a very funny one at that. In a monologue so dense with lofty alternate reality concepts and clever wordplay that my brain struggled to keep up, Moor tenderly tackled those perennial comedy favourites, love and loss. He’s been compared to Daniel Kitson, which is not unwarranted in terms of style nor quality, since Kitson regularly ditches straight stand-up in favour of a more subtle storytelling routine. Kitson is also renowned as the ‘comedian’s comedian.’ With a growing coterie of comic fans, Moor might be heading for that title too.
Ben Moor: Each of Us, until 26th August, 3.30pm, Pleasance Courtyard.
4. Nathaniel Metcalfe: Enthusiast
The Free Fringe – the strand of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in which all shows are free to attend – can be, to say the least, hit and miss. I have sat through some truly abysmal performances, unable to leave because that would mean depleting the audience by around 50 per cent. So what I’m about to say might seem like a back-handed compliment, but it’s not: Nathaniel Metcalfe’s Enthusiast is by far the best free show I’ve ever seen at the Fringe. This was an adorably geeky, well-crafted hour, full of 1990s TV and film references that elicited smiles and an ahhhs of recognition from the audience all the way through. Remember Art Attack’s Neil Buchanan? Well get ready to be amazed as Metcalfe reveals some rather startling facts about our Neil. Prepare also to come out singing the filthiest Disney soundtrack you’ve never heard of. Truly lovely stuff.
Nathaniel Metcalfe: Enthusiast, until 24th August, 2.35pm, The Cabaret Voltaire.
5. Baby Wants Candy: The Completely Improvised Full Band Musical!
This is the regular show from the guys behind one of my Fringe 2012 highlights, 50 Shades of Grey The Musical. Baby Wants Candy has been a festival favourite for years but apart from that there’s noting regular about it. Why? Because they perform a completely unique, of the cuff musical every night, with the help of a four-piece band. On the night I went, the audience-suggested title ‘When Jesus Came Out’ resulted in a delightfully risqué and insanely funny romantic comedy centred around a love triangle between Jesus Christ, Lord Voldemort and Henry VIII. It’s a thrill to behold these improv masters at work, crafting awesome story lines and hilarious songs as often as they try to set each other up with ridiculously difficult characters and accents to attempt. The whole thing is so raucously good that if I could afford it, I would go every night I’m at the Fringe.
Baby Wants Candy: The Completely Improvised Full Band Musical! Until 26th August, 8.30pm Assembly George Square.