Category Archives: comedy

Catching up with Flight of the Conchords

Flight of the ConchordsYeah, you’re probably thinking I’m oh-so-behind-the-pack by only now blogging about New Zealand-in-New York musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords. Fair enough. The first season of their sitcom premiered on American TV in 2006, and they were even nominated for the Perrier Award at the festival of my hometown, Edinburgh, in 2003.

So it’s inexcusable that I’m only now joining their no doubt uber-cool fanbase. But anyway, I got the Season One DVD boxset for my Christmas, watched the first six episodes, and I confirm that it is very, very funny. It does take a while to ‘get it’, and there’s more than a little suspicion that they’ve seen the Mighty Boosh a few too many times, but it still feels quite original, and how can you not like a sitcom about two clueless indie blokes set in New York, who burst into spontaneous, insincere love songs at the drop of a hat?

Season Two starts on January 18  on HBO and the online premiere is available on Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die website – for Americans only unfortunately. But what do I care? I’ve still got the rest of Season One to enjoy. In the meantime, are you ‘into it’…?

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Fringe comedy reviews: Nina Conti | 1000 Years of German Humour | Neil Delamere | Fiona O’Loughlin

[Reviews written for The List]

Nina Conti – EvolutionNina Conti and monkey

4/5

Charles Darwin is enjoying a bit of posthumous publicity on the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, from Richard Dawkins’ worthy TV celebration to Conti with her hand up a puppet monkey’s rear. She’s been bringing her postmodern ventriloquism to the Fringe for a few years, and it’s certainly a well-honed act. Although such an outdated conceit is a risky strategy, Conti reclaims it brilliantly.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 25 Aug (not 18), 8.25pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8–£9).

1000 Years of German HumourOtto Kuhnle and Henning Wehn

3/5

Of all the shows you don’t want (or expect) to run late, surely 1000 Years of German Humour is that show. After a five-minute delay, likeable comic Henning Wehn assures us that it’s not going to be 1000 years in real time before beginning a ramshackle guide to the unique traits of a phenomenon us Brits presumed non-existent: German humour. Ushering us through the centuries are the laconic Wehn (a familiar figure on the UK circuit) and Otto Kuhnle, a walking, talking, yodelling Teutonic stereotype, from the lederhosen up. He provides the musical slapstick, while Wehn riffs on all things Deutsche, from the Grimm fairy tales to footballing success. And he does mention the war. A lot.

While an hour in the company of these jesters is a surreal pleasure, some of the physical skits are rather juvenile and passé. It’s Wehn’s observations that make it all worthwhile and prove that German humour does exist, and it’s very, very dry.

Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug, 6.40pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).

Neil DelamereNeil Delamere

3/5

This year the big-at-home, not-so-here Irish stand-up Delamere has based his show on a farcical, boozy holiday in Stockholm. This is no travelogue but merely an anchor to tie down his breathless, amiable wit. Delamere may be your standard, meat-and-two-veg kind of comic, but with an evident mastery of his trade and effortless front-row ribbing, he is a very safe bet.

Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 8.45pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).

Fiona O’LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin

3/5

The great thing about the manic O’Loughlin is her authenticity. Whether she’s confessing to failing as a mother-of-five or raging at the ‘ostentatious humility’ of Nicole Kidman, the Alice Springs resident is utterly convincing. It takes real personality to pull off this kind of self-scrutiny, and O’Loughlin is a natural.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 668 1633, until 25 Aug, 9.15pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9).

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Fringe comedy review: Ginger & Black

Ginger & Black

Rating: 3/5

Ginger & Black aren’t just deadpan. They’re the pan that’s been buried, left to rot, dug up and smacked about just to make sure. They would grimace at this metaphor, and thereby prove my point. In fact, they would grimace if you composed the most eloquent literary distillation of their comedic style possible. They grimace a lot, because they’re deadpan.

And if you’re thinking this doesn’t sound very funny, you’re wrong, and they’d be the first to let you know. The duo of Eri Jackson (the ginger one) and Daniel Taylor (the black one) summon shrieks of laughter with their withering put-downs, riotously un-PC songs and subtle facial spasms of disgust. OK, so the studied sarcasm can stray into uneasy theatricality, but on the whole this is finely tuned comedy, from Taylor’s job application letter to a TV producer that segues into a stalkerish version of Eminem’s ‘Stan’, sending up the eager desperation of media wannabes, to Jackson’s lightning transitions from heartfelt folkie balladeer to money-grabbing bitch-from-hell. A veritable pan graveyard.

Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 25 Aug (not 13), 7.30pm, £8.50-£9.50 (£7-£8).

Comedy review for The List

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Fringe review – Russell Howard

Russell Howard – Adventures

PLEASANCE COURTYARD (VENUE 33)

RUSSELL Howard’s brief outbursts on the BBC show Mock the Week don’t do justice to his considerable comic talent. Next to Frankie Boyle’s perfectly timed, gloriously un-PC interjections, Howard is often left to look like an eager rookie playing for the easy laughs.

But with an hour of our undivided attention, the self-confessed H-from-Steps-lookalike proves himself as a natural, and likeable, stand-up.

Tellingly, Howard, in one of many self-reflexive asides, says: “I can’t do deadpan.” He really can’t. In fact, he can’t even stand still. If the show was to overrun by five minutes, the hyperactive, hyper-tongued Howard would probably collapse.

But this childlike enthusiasm belies a sharp – if rather bog-standardly liberal – social outlook. And while Howard can extract whatever humour remains in over-mined gems such as the tabloid press or terrorism, it’s when he’s in biographical mode that his manic style works best.

These anecdotes range from infantile experimentation to drunken indiscretion, but they are usually united in theme by graphic, often bum-related, embarrassment for their teller.

One criticism is that Howard tends to go for the collective, mainstream jugular when he might do better to embrace his evident eccentricity. Despite this, he’s certainly a comedian who must be enjoyed live, rather than via a tightly edited, suspiciously smooth TV gameshow.

• Until 27 August. Today 9.20pm

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Fringe review – Rhod Gilbert

Rhod Gilbert – What’s Eaten Gilbert’s Grape?

**** 

PLEASANCE COURTYARD (VENUE 33)

YOU can’t trust anything Rhod Gilbert says. He’s as bad as a prime minister confronted with an oil-rich despot who may or may not have weapons of mass destruction.

But with Gilbert you don’t mind, because he’s just as good at fabricating a funny anecdote as he is at recounting a true one – if indeed any of his tales are true.

Movie buffs will have guessed that the show takes its name from the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? – an oddball 1993 drama with Johnny Depp set in a dull town called Endora. Rhod Gilbert intends to draw parallels between the film and his own uneventful life in the equally fictional Llanbobl, so he begins by asking the audience in his gruff Welsh accent who has seen the film. About a dozen people raise their hands.

But cinematic ignorance won’t hamper enjoyment, because Gilbert narrates the film’s premise, using it as a prompt to lunge off on surreal tangents about his parents’ secret divorce; the pet dog that became a marital rival to his father, or his catastrophic attempt to learn Welsh.

At one point in this suspiciously unlikely routine, he recalls how The Scotsman called his Fringe show “slightly too inventive” two years ago, which he complains about for a few minutes before admitting that he just invented that review. By this point my brain was ready to burst like a post-modern bubble-within-a-bubble.

Thankfully it didn’t, and I was able to enjoy the rest of a show that is clearly scripted but performed with such enthusiasm that it retains its spontaneity. Gilbert is a great observational comedian, depicting the mundane yet preposterous minutiae of life and twisting them in his skewed, pained vision. He has a joke about the disaster that ensued when he mixed up his “invigorating” and “relaxing” shower gels which I cannot do justice to here.

There was the occasional punchline that fell flat, but he has enough original gags to last two shows. And if the comedy career doesn’t work out, there’s sure to be a place in global politics for a fib-maker of his stature.

• Until 27 August.

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Fringe review – Phil Nichol

Phil Nichol – Hiro Worship

**

THE STAND COMEDY CLUB (VENUE 5)

LIKE the eponymous character in his new show, Phil Nichol should be the Hiro of this year’s Fringe. On top of this gig, last year’s If.Comeddies award winner is also directing the play Breaker Morant, starring in another, Killer Joe, and performing a one-off revival of last year’s triumph, The Naked Racist.

But on the evidence of this energetic yet strained gig, it looks as if the Scots-born Canadian has overstretched himself, and lost his golden touch in the process. The running theme of Hiro Worship is the Rolling Stones, so Nichol arrives on stage wearing one of their tongue symbol T-shirts, backed by a similarly-clad three-piece band.

After a spot of Start Me Up karaoke, Nichol launches straight into a self-reflexive, Ricky Gervais-style confessional on his new-found fame since the award. This could have had comedic potential had he not – ironically enough – displayed all the signs of an egomaniacal big-shot convinced of his own talent.

The remainder of the show consists of the rather pointless true story of Hiro, a Japanese man whom Nichol befriends in London and subsequently can’t get rid of for a month. The Stones theme – which appears to satisfy Nichol’s own rock star aspirations more than anything else – is explained by the fact that Hiro is an obsessive fan determined to meet Jagger et al.

This 45-minute narrative is inherently unfunny, and the climax fizzles out like a damp firework during which Nichol sings a predictable Stones number to paint over the cracks.

But worse than the material is the fact that Nichol seems to equate volume with comedy: apparently the louder he yells the more we’ll laugh. Combined with his repeated, ear-shredding send-up of Japanese, this amounts to nothing more than aural pain.

If you don’t warm to his abrasive style (read, “screaming lunatic”) in the first five minutes, you’re in for a long night.

Until 26 August. Today 8.10pm

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Fringe review – Jason Byrne

Jason Byrne: Shy Pigs, With Wigs, Hidden in the Twigs 

****

ASSEMBLY @ ASSEMBLY HALL (VENUE 35)

THE phrase “infectious humour” is a terrible cliché, but it’s the most accurate way to describe the experience of watching Jason Byrne. The Irish comic, returning for his 11th Fringe, appears to be borderline insane, strutting about the stage like a peacock, effing and blinding in his Dublin accent, messing up his own hair and laughing at himself constantly.

Which is all fine, because everyone else is laughing too. The jokes aren’t all golden nuggets of inspired wit, but Byrne is such a gifted showman that if you don’t join in and laugh you’ll feel like there’s something wrong with you.

Perhaps it’s his booming Irish accent, which sounds like it was tailor-made for the stand-up comedian, but more likely it’s the sight of Byrne dry-humping the floor or bending his back in exasperation at an audience member’s answer to one of his questions.

The show’s title is a nice rhyme, but quite irrelevant, because this is basically Byrne sparking off the audience and filling the gaps with diatribes about his seven-year-old son (who acts like a “mad, drunken tramp” and gets away with it) or the Royal Variety Performance, during which Byrne got drunk at the pub next door and almost soiled himself at the sight of Camilla appearing over Charles’s shoulder.

A word of warning: if you are easily offended, keep well clear of Byrne’s line of vision. He finds the ridiculous, snobby and idiotic qualities in everyone he picks out, and he will refer back to them for the duration of the hour. A rather too-well-spoken youth in the front row invoked Byrne’s ire, but at least he was laughing on the outside while he privately willed the comedian’s violent death.

It has to be said that Byrne isn’t the cleverest stand-up on the circuit. Some of the material is as clichéd as my opening description, but somehow he renders it all tearfully funny. On leaving I heard an old dear saying it was “good but I do wish he didn’t have to swear quite so much”. That alone is reason enough to go and see him.

Until 27 August. Today 8.40pm

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