There are only a few days left to experience the best of what’s happening at the Edinburgh Fringe. Many of the shows recommended by mainstream media can end up disappointing, as it’s easy for pushy PR people to bully amoral, exhausted and apathetic journalists into publishing obsequious and inaccurate write-ups in quid pro quo arrangements tracing all the way back to public school. (“You scratch my back. And no one sees those pics of you playing – and losing! – the biscuit game.”)

As a result, some of the best shows at the festival end up ignored by critics. Which is a crying shame and it’s the public that is the poorer as a result. To try and redress that injustice a little, here’s my ten recommendations (in random order) for shows that are hidden gems worth seeking out while you still have the chance.

Kev's Komedy KitchenKev’s Komedy Kitchen

A proper underground hit at this year’s Fringe. You know a show is worth watching if lots of comedians and critics – yes, we do break bread together sometimes – sit around raving about how great it is. One review even went so far as to call it the best show at the Fringe. It’s basically a parody of those weekend morning chat-and-cookery programmes, hosted by a celebrity chef and featuring D-list guests, which slowly descends into farce. Comedian and actor Kevin Dewsbury convincingly plays the insincere host, with fellow comic Will Hutchby the increasingly put-upon and frustrated behind-the-scenes producer. It’s well-written, polished and perfectly performed. Click the link below. Buy tickets. Go see it. Thank me later.

The Mash House. 3.40pm. 4-28 August (not 15). £7 …Continue Reading »

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Jim Bayes - Tom Hardy lookalikeThere are plenty of big names gracing the Edinburgh Fringe right now, and there’ll be celebrity acts, to suit every taste, showing off their latest productions all over the city. However, every superstar started at the bottom of the ladder and had to work their way to success, demonstrating their superiority amongst their ternderfoot peers.

As well as the top of the food chain, there’s also a thriving creative community much further down the showbiz pecking order. Not all of them are dreadful, and there’s plenty of potential comedy nobility making its mark at the festival. Here, in order of decreasing handsomeness, are ten(-ish) brilliant new acts you should go and see at Edinburgh Fringe this month. …Continue Reading »

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With Edinburgh Scotland’s most popular tourist destination, the locals are used to being outnumbered by sassenachs. Things get much worse at Fringe time, and it’s easy to forget there are plenty of homegrown comedians to enjoy too. Here’s my recommendations for ten brilliant acts who are all as Scottish as a highland terrier chewing shortbread on Loch Lomond, while a junkie shoots up, signs on, and stabs a guy in a kilt eating haggis, drinking Irn Bru and shouting “Och aye the nooooo.”

(Hat tip to Monty Burns for helping with this. In my opinion, he’s easily as good as anyone below. But he’s taking a break from Edinburgh this year; otherwise he’d be the first name on this list.)

Daisy Earl - Scottish Comedian of the YearDaisy Earl: Scottish Comedian Of The Year

One of the fastest-rising stars in Scottish comedy, with a bulging trophy cabinet. While the show title seems like a supercilious choice, I’m reasonably confident it wasn’t her decision, but rather something imposed upon her by the company who organise the awards. She’s the first female act to grab that particular prize, but if you’ve seen her live, you’ll know she’s no beneficiary of tokenism. This, her debut show, is a candid retelling of her life so far, from online dating and political misunderstandings to her eccentric family and rickety mental health. It’s strikingly honest and hilarious. …Continue Reading »

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Comedy on TV and in the clubs is safe and inoffensive. Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe is no different, because most of the shows don’t exist for your benefit. They’re being staged in the hopes of grabbing the attention of industry bigwigs and broadcasters. So, it makes sense to be as bland and agreeable as possible, because that’s what the real target audience – i.e. people who can help your showbiz career – seem to be looking for.

However, not everyone at the Fringe is pandering. Not everyone is desperate to be liked and accepted. And provocative performers haven’t gone extinct just yet. If you want politically incorrect jokes, to be taken out of your comfort zone, or to hear someone challenge social orthodoxies, then here’s ten acts I’d recommend you go and see at Edinburgh Fringe 2016. If you’re a bit of a pussy, though, then best avoid all of these.

Will Franken - Little JoeWill Franken: Little Joe

My problem is that everyone else spent their time trying to ‘make it’, and I spent all my time trying to be good.

Will Franken’s endured many insults, but “coward” certainly isn’t one them. It’s a bit of an understatement to describe him as an “alternative” act, as there really isn’t anyone like him on the circuit. He mixes observational comedy with satirical sketches, impressions, character comedy and throws in some blasphemy for good measure. He spent almost a year living as a transgender woman, and briefly became doyenne of the regressive left… until he started challenging their politically correct paradigms. …Continue Reading »

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Milo Mccabe as Troy HawkeAt this time of year, hundreds of middle-class drama students descend upon Edinburgh to showcase their “talent” in poorly crafted one-act plays and under-rehearsed sketch shows.

And, if you’re visiting the world’s biggest arts festival, there’s always a danger you’ll be bamboozled by fat marketing budgets and slick sales patter into gracing these artistic abortions with your presence. To help you avoid that pain, here’s my recommendations for ten character acts you should go and see instead. …Continue Reading »

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"Ivan Brackenbury"

“Ivan Brackenbury”

In less than a fortnight, I head to the Edinburgh Fringe with my first solo show. Actually, it’s my second attempt at a solo show. I was due to make my proper debut at the festival in 2014. But was brutally denied the opportunity when the sponsors at my venue got wind of potential controversy, panicked, and banned my show. A heart breaking, financially bruising and personally humiliating experience. So I’m treading more carefully this time around, and will only be doing a two-week run in 2016.

While up in the Scottish capital, I’m hoping to see at least two comedy shows a day. It is, after all, the world’s biggest arts festival, featuring the best of British and international talent – many of them free entry. So here’s ten shows I’m recommending (in alphabetical order) if you’re visiting Edinburgh this month. …Continue Reading »

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