Reviews & features: Comedy, Brian Donaldson

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John Conway - The New Conway Dimension

20 Aug 20123 stars

Small and daft is the order of the day in Conway's semi-anarchic routines

If you find yourself tiring of the slick, professional, often identikit comedians in town, you should cop a load of Australia’s John Conway. With laptop-wielding sidekick Michael Burke trying his utmost to keep proceedings reasonably on track, Conway…

Pappy's: Last Show Ever!

19 Aug 20125 stars

An hour of undiluted joy

First rule of comedy reviewing: never sit in the front row with a big notepad on your knee, scribbling away without a care in the world. Sometimes it’s not easy to get a spot where you can remain in the shadows and utterly anonymous but in a venue as…

Sammy J & Randy - The Inheritance

19 Aug 20123 stars

Triumph of style over substance

Yes, it’s funny that a purple puppet might swear and drink and smoke. And it’s probably amusing that he would hang out with a socially inadequate skinny nerd. But once you get used to those facts, and have nodded in admiration at the production values…

Taylor Glenn - Reverse Psycomedy

19 Aug 20123 stars

Playing mind games with her crowd

There can’t be too many Fringe comedy shows (ie zero) that casually drop in phrases such as ‘cognitive behaviour’, ‘Gestalt theory’ or ‘psychodynamic therapy’. But then, not many Fringe comedians will have worked for eight years as a professional…

Gareth Morinan

19 Aug 20123 stars

Slim pickings amid a frenzy of facts

Quite a busy boy is Gareth Morinan given that he has seven different shows at the Fringe including political debates, a bit of improv and spoken word events in which he speaks out about his opinions on David Cameron and Ricky Gervais (he’s not a fan of…

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The Not Quite Quartet

19 Aug 20123 stars

High fives and top tunes

If you have yet to make your way through The Wire or somehow haven’t yet seen Fight Club or The Sixth Sense or Citizen Kane, best take some earplugs with you to The Not Quite Quartet. ‘The Spoiler Song’ does exactly what it says in the title but it…

FNT Live presents … The Jingling Lane Family Singers

15 Aug 20122 stars

Funny bits few and far between in ill-executed sketch comedy

At the start of this doomed sketch affair, there are more people on stage than in the crowd. Given that FNT Live features ten members, that’s not as cringeworthy as it might sound. The opening features an American family of fundamentalist Christian…

Tania Edwards - Killer Instinct

15 Aug 20122 stars

Funny Women finalist in career regression

Straight off the bat, the eminently likeable Tania Edwards insists that this is going to be her year. It’s ‘break or breakdown’ time. Unfortunately, several things could be conspiring against her as she moves ahead with her grand plans (which may have…

Trevor Noah: The Racist

13 Aug 20124 stars

Identity crisis makes for hilarious comedy

It takes a particular kind of individual to get up on stage and open their soul to a room of strangers in order to achieve ratification for their existence. Part of that drive might come from the oft-cited routes about having learned to use humour to…

Through the Looking Screen

13 Aug 20123 stars

A black tale of loneliness and log-ins

The experience of turning The Office into an operatic extravaganza for Comic Relief in 2009 clearly gave Anne Chmelewsky a taste for the comedic possibilities of a musical form normally associated with grim tragedy. But the ‘high heels and high Cs…

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Nish Kumar - Who Is Nish Kumar?

13 Aug 20124 stars

An astute and positive debut from a comic with an infectious love of words

Nish Kumar has been kicking around the Fringe for a few years on various projects (most notably alongside Tom Neenan in Gentlemen of Leisure), but this superb hour marks an astute solo debut. Biding time before launching himself as an Edinburgh stand-up…

Casual Violence: A Kick in the Teeth

11 Aug 20123 stars

Dark sketch material with an absurdist, surreal tone

It’s rare that a comedy show is very nearly spoiled by an audience member being too nice. But here, at every single moment of vague pathos, mild jeopardy and thwarted ambition, a very audible ‘aaaw’ erupted across the auditorium as though what we were…

Magnus Betnér Live

11 Aug 20124 stars

One of Sweden's finest comic exports prefers to look on the bleak side of life

In one shaven-headed, tattooed man appears to be encapsulated the downbeat, morose nature of the Scandic peoples. Letting us know that everything he says on stage is absolutely true, who couldn’t feel worried about his suicidal thoughts? But it’s ok, he…

Kristine Levine: Fat Whore

11 Aug 20122 stars

Tales of filth don’t quite transfer to stand-up

Kristine Levine has spoken previously of writing a book about her life and given the many tales she has at her disposal, it’s unlikely that writers block would be a problem. Whether she has chosen the correct route in stand-up to reveal the details of a…

Daniel Simonsen: Champions

11 Aug 20123 stars

Warm comedic chat about dentistry and weather

He may claim to have learned English from Ali G, but Daniel Simonsen’s grasp on his new language and its comedic possibilities are solid. The young Norwegian kicks off this warm, serviceable show behind the curtain, building up a low-fi sense of…

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11 Aug 20124 stars

Promising debut from ‘young upstarts’ Rosa Robson and Matilda Wnek

Cambridge just keeps on churning the comedy talent out. Rosa Robson is a Pembroke Player (former participants include messrs Idle, Oddie and Cook) while Matilda Wnek is a Footlights ‘general member’. Together they are Beard, a fuzzy, comforting…

Jack Jerome's Journey of Life

11 Aug 20122 stars

Energetic but ill-fated character

Some comedy creations are just too successful for anyone to even attempt a retread. There will never be another Pub Landlord thanks to Al Murray’s world domination of that character type. In Edinburgh Fringe terms, anyone who comes along with a…

Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro!

10 Aug 20125 stars

An operatic voyage around his father

The very least you would expect from a show about a son arranging for an opera to be performed in his dying father’s living room is to be moved. And in Bravo Figaro!, Mark Thomas achieves that on at least two occasions, but in surprising ways and at…

Diane Spencer: Exquisite Bad Taste

8 Aug 20123 stars

Rude and crude, but is it that good?

Diane Spencer is a very rude comic. We know that because she tells us she’s rude, calls her show Exquisite Bad Taste and backs it all up by launching into the most scatological opening 10 minutes seen on the Fringe since, well, probably her debut last…

Alfie Brown: Soul for Sale

7 Aug 20125 stars

Saving his soul and salvaging comedy in one fell swoop

In one thought-provoking hour, 25-year-old Alfie Brown singlehandedly reminded the Fringe that there’s more to the comedy world than profits piling up on the backs of homogenised Roadshow-rabid joke-automatons. It’s rather kneejerk and easy these days…

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Des Clarke

7 Aug 20123 stars

Solid stories from mercurial comedian

Not for the first time have the words, ‘this is the weirdest gig I’ve ever done’, come out of an exasperated comedian’s mouth. But with the ever-enthusiastic and chirpy Des Clarke, you feel inclined to believe what he says. On reading that his new…

McNeil and Pamphilon

7 Aug 20123 stars

An intriguing sci-fi twist distracts from their true gift

With a show entitled Addicted to Danger!, Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon made a real splash at the 2010 Fringe with a series of dark and inventive sketches, interspersed with some snappy banter. Last year the pair were in consolidation mode but this…

And Now for a Nice Evening With Wallan

7 Aug 20123 stars

How to light up a room with surreal banter

Walking into the venue, one question burns deep: who, what, where and possibly when is Wallan? After 50 minutes in the company of Lou Sanders, you will leave absolutely none the wiser about Wallan, but resting assured that the young comedian is quite…

Billy the Mime

6 Aug 20124 stars

Surprisingly tender silent comedy show from the boundary-pushing Aristocrat

Billy the Mime came to Edinburgh with a reputation for smashing barriers of taste with his clever silent work on the likes of The Aristocrats movie. The reputation he may well leave with is as an accomplished artist fully on the side of the vulnerable…

Hennessy & Friends: A History of Violence

6 Aug 20124 stars

Displeasure turns to dynamic sketch doings

For two whole sketches and a bit, this looked like being one of those long Fringe hours when only your internal battle against the heat of a small room is likely to keep you amused. After the simple displeasures of Hennessy & Friends’ opening passages…