There's more to comedy Tories than Jim Davidson and Chubby Brown, as Marissa Burgess finds out
Right-wing stand-ups are as rare a sight at the Fringe as those green triangles in a tin of Quality Street three days after Christmas. But those with a political stance that doesn't neatly sit left of centre are prominent this year: Leo Kearse claims I Can Make You Tory, Geoff Norcott follows on from his Conswervative show from last year, and antagonistic centrist Fin Taylor gleefully pokes a stick at liberals.
At the time of interviewing this trio, Theresa May was still PM and in cahoots with the DUP while Brexit talks were imminent. Their reactions to the general election result ranged from disbelief of the Tories on Kearse's part ('it was like an egg and spoon race, where they threw the egg over their shoulder and stamped on it') to Norcott jokily claiming some regret: 'I was one of those idiots saying that young people should go out and vote. I thought they wouldn't do it and everything would carry on like it did before.' And Taylor's amused response to the disruption was, 'it was a good shock result, wasn't it?'
In his 2016 show, Norcott explained how a working-class boy from a council estate ended up being a Conservative supporter. With the alarming shift to an extreme right in some quarters over the last year, he felt a response was needed. 'Being right-wing has been associated with quite a lot of unpleasant things. Last year in Edinburgh I overheard someone recommend my show, saying "oh, don't worry, he's right leaning but he's well meaning". Isn't it interesting that you have to add that caveat?' So Norcott decided it was time for an honest re-evaluation of his opinions. 'I'm looking at my views on things like gender and race to evaluate whether at the end I can still claim to be a decent human being,' he laughs.
Meanwhile, Kearse has also been reflecting on his upbringing and his turn towards conservatism. 'I used to be quite left-wing; I grew up in Scotland and had very liberal parents.' But all that changed when he entered the job market. 'I started working as an analyst and was finding that a lot of the liberal stuff I had taken as gospel is just nonsense: resistance to nuclear power, opposition to the West and to capitalism … '
Though a Remainer who favours a pro-business Labour government, Taylor simply enjoys taking issue for laughs as he proved with last Fringe's Whitey McWhiteface. 'I like a gig where I'm not pandering to the audience. It's fun to play with the preconceptions. This year I'm defending the Iraq War just because it'll fuck people off.'
But the main focus of Taylor's ire is 'this kind of infallibility people on the left have about their own moral purpose. They say Tories are evil. They're not, they genuinely think that smaller government is more ethical. Until you can actually meet them at that point, you're never going to be able to take anyone with you, which is how you improve stuff.'
Differences in opinion are like that tin of Quality Street: it's the source of a great family bunfight. August should be contrariant fun.
Fin Taylor: Lefty Tighty Righty Loosey, Just the Tonic at The Tron, 3–27 Aug (not 14), 10.20pm, £6.50 or Pay What You Want at the venue.
Geoff Norcott: Right Leaning But Well Meaning, Underbelly, George Square, 03333 444167, 5–27 Aug (not 14), 6.40pm, £10.50–£11.50 (£9.50–£10.50). Previews 2–4 Aug, £6.50.
Leo Kearse: I Can Make You Tory, Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters, 0131 622 6801, 3–28 Aug (not 15), 7.30pm, free.