A weekend fuelled by comedy and cake
Amber Baxter's festival blog
This article is from 2009.
For a bit of a laugh, I put on my boots this weekend and promptly stomped the streets of Edinburgh - filling them with comedy. On Friday night I took in an early evening performance at the Underbelly by Australian, award-winning comic Sammy J. He’s a bit of a hero on the joke-scene, particularly in his home town of Melbourne, and I had heard only good things about him and his comic skills. Sammy J has two shows at the Fringe this year. A joint production with puppeteer Heath McIvor, Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams and his solo show Sammy J: 1999. I saw the latter. It’s semi-autobiographical, and follows the life of fifteen-year-old Sammy J, an out-of-the-closet geek who serves a large portion of revenge to a bully by taking him prisoner and stealing his girlfriend.
His material leans heavily on nostalgia, poking fun at dial-up internet, Britney Spears and her ‘virginal’ status and the lameness of MSN. I think ‘they’ call it post-modern - I call it lack of original thought.
I usually get big kicks from Australian and New Zealand-written comedy, Summer Heights High, Kath and Kim and in particular Flight of the Conchords and I couldn’t help drawing unfavourable comparisons between Sammy J and Brett and Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords. He sings comic songs, they sing comic songs better. Sammy J plays an uncool, out-of-his-comfort-zone loser. Flight of the Concords do it miles better.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, or even bad, just not to my taste. The majority of the audience seemed to enjoy it, but I just felt he was playing it a bit too safe. I like my eggs hard-boiled and Sammy J: 1999 is definitely soft.
Anyway, after that I took advantage of the lovely weather and Edinburgh’s relaxed public drinking laws by taking a trip to The Meadows for a tipple or twenty in advance of The Best of Scottish Comedy showcase. Singing a comic rap about public toilets we had made up at the park (Yes, a few Sailor Jerry’s makes anyone funny) we took a taxi to The Stand and waited on the first comedian Alan Francis. Now, this guy is funny - University lecturer funny. He reminded me of my friend Helen’s dad, making cracks about politicians experimenting with drugs, relating this to a scientific scenario in a lab and how Islamic fundamentalists stick to all religious rules - apart from killing people. He suggested they eat a cocktail sausage instead. Ha ha, I said. Next up was John Gillick. His jokes were in a more ‘common man’ vein. Using his wife and kids as his ammo he fired funnies like an expert sniper. I liked him and in particular his story about his wife being more interested in the heat he creates when he’s in bed than any sexy antics. Lastly was the Raymond Mearns. I only caught a bit of his set as I had to go meet with a friend who needed me to decide whether she was correct. Was her new flatmate was really, really, really good-looking? He was not, but he did remind me of Zoolander, so was worth a look. What I did see of Ray Mearns I really enjoyed. I remember him telling a joke about Michael Jackson and the night bus. I was a bit pickled by this point and can’t remember the exact content but I definitely remember laughing.
After a long lie, I stepped out, slightly bedraggled, to enjoy the festival atmosphere. I fuelled up at the City Café with two-for-one burgers (get a List Card!) and then wandered for a bit. I had tickets for The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek, but ended up missing it due to my love of cake at the Elephant House and my lack of street knowledge in Edinburgh (I’m from Glasgow). Gutted, but full of sugar, I spend the rest of the day buzzing about trying to decide what to go to see in the evening.
In the end I took on Pete Firman who I had seen the year before. He's a magician/comedian and is an utterly brilliant master of both. He's like a Russel Brand mini-me with tricks. All big hair but less height and just as funny. Get a ticket bagged up now.