Underbelly, George Square
The Udderbelly is packed with eager comedy fans who’ve all turned out to support a very worthy cause. MC Suzi Ruffell tells us we’ve already raised over four grand for Shelter just by buying tickets, so we can feel good about ourselves as we laugh. In addition, showcase events like these are a great way of sampling a varied selection of comedians. Because of their brief time allocation, we’re usually left wanting more – but luckily, that’s easily fixed as most of them have their own shows at the Fringe. Ruffell is a lively MC, who communicates well with the audience and handles the inevitable late arrivals with aplomb – then, without further ado she introduces the first act.
We’ve actually seen Richard Herring’s excellent Edinburgh show, Oh Frig, I’m 50!, twice already (we took my parents to his first preview, then went again for reviewing purposes a few nights later), so we’re expecting to find this short set a little over-familiar. Luckily for us, he delivers different material here, and he’s as hilarious, irreverent and charming as ever. A great way to start the show.
We’ve heard Desiree Burch on the fabulous Guilty Feminist podcast, and it’s lovely to finally see her live. As the title of her Fringe show, Unfuckable, suggests, she’s not an act for the prudish: she’s rude and funny, with charisma-aplenty. Good stuff.
Sara Pascoe is of course, another Fringe stalwart. Here she talks mostly about Marks and Spencer knickers and the time when she had the misfortune to be wearing the same ones as her ex’s mother. Her quirky, intelligent take on the world is as evident here as always, and she’s as marvellous as you’d expect.
We’re delighted to see our friend Daliso Chaponda doing so well since his BGT appearance earlier this year – he’s finally getting the attention he deserves. He absolutely smashes this gig, drawing actual applause from the crowd for gag after gag. He’s pretty hard-hitting, and doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter (here he focuses on recent news stories about public figures using ‘the N word’ and how context changes everything) but he’s so charming and affable that it’s hard to imagine he could ever offend. It’s a shame he’s been given such a short slot, as the audience is clearly up for a lot more. He’s embarking on a tour early next year, and it’s definitely going to be worth checking him out.
Dan Antopolski treats us to some excerpts from a 50 Shades of Grey type novel that he’s working on. As you might expect, this is salacious stuff, made ridiculous by its over-attention to detail. It’s slyly funny and makes us giggle.
James Acaster ambles out, and makes amiable chit-chat for a few minutes. The conceit here is that he hasn’t bothered preparing, and he keeps looking at his watch, giving us a running countdown until his time is up. It’s a nice idea, and works well for him, perfectly suiting his comedic persona. Even the silences and sighs are funny; he has us all on side.
It’s left to Ed Byrne to close out the show in his own inimitable style. He tells us he only found out about this gig ten minutes before he was due on stage and has run all the way here, but since he has a little longer to stretch out than the earlier acts, he connects really successfully with the audience and his stories about the trials of fatherhood and his planned vasectomy have us all laughing our socks off. It’s a satisfying end to proceedings, though inevitably it’s overrun and we have to leg it to our next gig.
It is a real treat to see so many great comedians on one bill – and Shelter really is an important cause. Recent news stories about increasing levels of homelessness in Britain (it’s set to double by 2041 according to some reports) show that this is actually no laughing matter. You can donate here: https://england.shelter.org.uk/donate
Susan Singfield & Philip Caveney