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’…?

1 Comment

Filed under comedy, thoughts, etc, video

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


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 Although such an outdated conceit is a risky strategy, Conti reclaims it brilliantly.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


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


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


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).


Filed under comedy, reviews

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

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy, reviews

Fringe review – Russell Howard

Russell Howard – Adventures


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

1 Comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe review – Rhod Gilbert

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



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.

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe review – Phil Nichol

Phil Nichol – Hiro Worship



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

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe review – Jason Byrne

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



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

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe review – Wil Hodgson

Wil Hodgson – Straight Outta Chippenham



IN THIS festival of like-minded, liberal, art-loving people, Wil Hodgson is the ambassador for a very different demographic: the BNP-sympathising, homophobic, casually-violent degenerates of middle England.

Well no, “ambassador” is the wrong word. Hodgson was born, raised and evidently still lives in the small Wiltshire town that bears the show’s name, but as a chubby, mascara-wearing, pink-mohawked punk, he’d be better described as an outsider on the inside of this community.

Visually and verbally, Hodgson is something to behold. The one-time wrestler strides on to the spot-lit stage, grabs the microphone and enters into a ten-minute skit on the finer points of My Little Pony collecting, with all the zeal of a daytime-TV antiques expert. Soon bursts of laughter escape from the darkness before most of the audience are left grinning with incredulity at Hodgson’s obsessive outer monologue.

Using all the descriptive detail of a performance poet, Hodgson then transports us to Chippenham, with its cast of bitter middle-aged men, polo-shirted louts and intimidating hen parties. We accompany Hodgson on one of his solitary pub crawls amid these suburban tribes, during which he meets a heavily tattooed ex-con in one particularly unsavoury den.

Strangely enough, as Hodgson recounts, the unlikely pair get on at first, sharing a penchant for true crime novels and a bawdy appreciation of Fern Britton. (After all, Hodgson prefers “real women”, as he tells us in a savagely funny rant about the skinny orange creatures of Nuts magazine.) But the camaraderie can’t last, and when this drinking mate reverts to small-minded swipes at paedophiles and speed cameras, Hodgson makes good his escape.

Wil Hodgson sets his sights firmly at the stale core of the middle English mindset, taking on the stifling ignorance of the tabloid agenda from an utterly original angle. He is unlike any other stand-up today, a self-enforced social outcast who has chosen to remain in his own hellishly-portrayed hometown as some sort of comedic anthropologist. His humour is eccentric, yet authentic and no-one could deny that Hodgson is a brilliantly captivating performer.

Until 27 August. Today at 10.40pm

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe Review – Andy Zaltzman

Andy Zaltzman, 32, Administers his Emergency Dose of Afternoon Utopia, Steps Back and Waits to See What Happens



ANDY Zaltzman could be facing an uphill struggle this August. An afternoon slot isn’t especially conducive to intellectually demanding political satire, especially if it’s a dreich Sunday and most of the audience are probably nursing Festival hangovers.

For, while everyone in The Stand appreciated the curly headed Zaltzman’s clever subversions of our political leaders’ spin-soaked declarations, the atmosphere throughout was as damp as the weather outside.

The premise involves Zaltzman asking the audience what they would have in their utopia. This provides some light banter, such as when one joker cited North Korea as his ideal nation. But Zaltzman’s real mission is to warp our socially accepted beliefs to such an extreme that we see them for the absurd, controlling falsities they are. The perfect target for this is the environment, where Zaltzman proposes his own radical – and very funny – strategies to cut carbon.

Unfortunately, the majority of his show covers a staple diet of Blair, Bush, Iraq, and the War on Terror, which accumulatively is rather like Rory Bremner without the funny voices.

Zaltzman is obviously a fine satirist, but he’s no natural performer and, though you may admire the sharp originality of the material, you’re unlikely to fall off your chair in fits of laughter.

Until 27 August. Today 3.10pm

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy

Fringe Review – Stephen K Amos

Stephen K Amos – More of Me **** 


LAST year, Stephen K Amos’s Fringe show – entitled All of Me – certainly lived up to the billing: at the end of the performance, Amos came out publicly. The journey to that point was a tortuous one, but it continues to provide the comedian with ample stand-up material, as the title of this year’s show suggests.

But before any Oprah-style soul-baring there is good ol’ raucous humour in the form of Amos’s latest alter ego, a jive-talking, wig-wearing badass priest named the Reverend Jesse “Aloisha” Jones. The audience can hardly catch its breath before the reverend tears into the “sinners” in the front rows and compares himself to Jesus: “He was persecuted. I’ve been… prosecuted. He was stoned. I’ve been…”

When the real Amos emerges after ten minutes with Rev Jones, the audience interaction continues. A “finance director” in the second row has a torrid time, but sympathy must go out to a 16-year-old called Bob for being a bit posh and for being there with his mum and dad. Cue jokes about class, sex and masturbation that would make any adolescent shrivel in their seat, whether accompanied by the folks or not. One can only imagine the put-down potential had Amos only spotted the ubiquitous Neil and Christine Hamilton, who had wisely seated themselves near the back of the venue.

There isn’t any specific concept behind Amos’s show, he simply talks and jokes about the subjects close to the heart of a black gay second-generation immigrant. So racism, sexuality and religion are obvious targets, but Amos also mocks America, Australia and even (brave man that he is) Scotland.

The confessional stuff comes later, but even then Amos never neglects his responsibility to make us laugh. There is a nervous silence when he first breaches the topic of his homosexuality, but his honesty and self-deprecating humour make him a hugely likeable character, even inducing a few mothering “awww”s from certain females in attendance.

With such a turbulent personal history Amos has many sacred cows to slaughter, but his fuel-injected comedic brain ensures that the show is both redemptive and achingly funny.

Until 27 August. Today 9.40pm

Leave a comment

Filed under comedy