The Stand

Yianni: Why Did the Chicken Cross the Line?

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30/08/15

The Stand 2, Edinburgh

This is a show about the nature of comedy: what makes it work and why it can sometimes seem offensive. Yianni Agisilaou is a likeable performer, who approaches the difficult subject of ‘how far is too far – and why?’ with an affability sometimes at odds with the ideas he is exploring. He’s effortlessly charming, and there is a real warmth in the room, as he establishes a clear rapport with the audience. He’s funny too: there are plenty of laughs in this hour-long consideration of what constitutes offensiveness.

If there’s a problem here, it comes from a good place. I enjoy being in this room with this cheery, intelligent comedian, but I think the work would have more impact if it were all a bit less nice. If Yianni were able to bring himself to truly offend – to make the audience gasp in real shock, perhaps – then his deconstruction of human hypocrisy and self-delusion would be far more powerful.

But still, this is a solid set from an experienced performer, who knows how to please a crowd. There are far worse ways we could have spent our last day here at 2015’s fringe.

3.6 stars

Susan Singfield

Whose Lunch is it Anyway? Stu and Garry’s Free Improv Show

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The Stand, Edinburgh

03/05/15

Stu Murphy and Garry Dobson’s residency at The Stand is an inspired way for the comedy club to draw in the punters during that entertainment dearth otherwise known as ‘Sunday lunchtime.’ We’ve seen the pair before (a twenty-minute slot during a night of stand-up), but this is the first time we’ve managed to catch their full-length act, and it really didn’t disappoint.

For starters, it’s free. I suppose it would need to be; this improbable time slot depends on people taking a punt, and thinking, ‘Well, why not?’ The place was bursting (although, as the eponymous duo pointed out, it was raining, and it was a bank holiday weekend). Perhaps the numbers aren’t always so good. We didn’t eat, but plenty around us did. This seems to be a popular gig for the hungry and hungover.

As for the act, it’s just a series of well-trodden improvisation games, but they’re played so well and with such joy and mischief, that it’s a real delight to be there. The comedians are inventive, clever, witty and warm. I can’t think of a better way to round off a weekend.

Oh – and Philip even got to go onstage, after volunteering to be the ‘puppeteer,’ controlling Stu’s every move during one (hilarious) scene. Now there’s funny for you.

4 stars

Susan Singfield

Thursday Night at The Stand

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16/04/15

A Thursday night at The Stand and another five comedians vie for our attention on what must be Edinburgh’s most intimate stage. Tonight our MC is Jonathan Mayor, a gay black comedian from Moss Side, Manchester, with an endearingly camp and bitchy line of patter which soon wins over the audience. This includes 21 year old Jamie, who sitting in the front row, has to endure the brunt of Mayor’s scorn. Occasionally, the put downs and sexual overtures go a little too far for comfort, but Jamie takes it all in his stride and Mayor is consistently funny, even when one of his routines goes spectacularly wrong and he corpses right in the middle of it.

First up is Jay Lafferty, a thirty year old Scottish comic, who is quick to point out that she’s an unusual act here as she’s female. She’s right up to a point (although some of the best acts we saw at last year’s Fringe were women – and we’ve seen more women doing stand-up at The Stand than any of the other comedy clubs we frequent) but I can’t help feeling that building a key joke around reading 50 Shades of Grey on holiday is not doing the cause of feminism any great favours. Her set is intermittently funny but she’d certainly benefit from stronger material.

Rob Kane is another Scottish comic, afforded a short slot here. Once again, he’s occasionally amusing and his account of his holiday in Thailand raises some genuine belly laughs. But it’s all a bit hit and miss and he perhaps needs to establish more confidence if he’s to take a step up to the next level.

Ro Campbell on the other hand, has confidence to spare. He’s an Australian, living in Edinburgh and addicted to chewing gum. He tells us that he’s shortly returned from a tour of Singapore, where unfortunately gum is a banned substance and his subsequent tale of smuggling packets of Wrigley’s through customs, hidden where the sun don’t shine, is absolutely hilarious. He’s good too on audience interaction, managing to put down a potential heckler with one scornful rebuke.

Top of the bill is veteran comic, Kevin Gildea, a softly spoken Irishman who has a relaxed, almost conversational approach to comedy, but it soon becomes clear why he’s top of the bill tonight. He builds the laughs steadily until he has you right in  the palm of his hand. Highlights include his trip to the Cork Butter Museum, a note purportedly written by a free range pig on the inside of a pack of bacon and some observations about his children that go beyond the usual run of the mill parental stuff. I thought he was excellent, despite his taking exception to my rather fabulous T shirt and his suggestion that my daughter is a bit mean with the old Father’s day cards.

Once again, a great value night out (there was a two-for-one offer on tonight’s show) and a varied crop of comedians, all of whom managed to evoke genuine laughs. The Stand continues to be Edinburgh’s quintessential comedy venue, so get down there and give your laughing tackle a thorough workout.

3.6 stars

Philip Caveney

Marcel Lucont – Is

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The Stand, Edinburgh 26/10/14

Marcel Lucont’s reputation has evidently preceded him. He’s managed to sell out the Stand Comedy Club, something that better known comedians have sometimes failed to do. Furthermore, he’s achieved this on a rainy Sunday night, no mean feat. He slinks onto the stage, sneer on his lips, glass of red wine in his hand and proceeds to embody every negative stereotype of a Frenchman: rude, vitriolic and distinctly un-PC in his approach to food, drink and matters of sexuality. It’s a clever characterisation, but that’s exactly what it is.  Lucont is no more French than I am; he is a creation of comedian Alex Dubus.

Not that it matters. His laid back approach mines plenty of laughs and he intersperses the standup with some witty poems, a couple of novelty songs and some (hilarious) extracts from his upcoming autobiography. There’s even a couple of little videos he’s filmed which run on a screen at the side of the stage. The set is divided into two halves and I have to confess the first of them is stronger and more cohesive than the second, which depends more on audience participation. Perhaps the stormy conditions have battered most of us into submission, but he doesn’t get a lot back from the crowd. Furthermore, our late arrival means that we end up viewing the proceedings standing right at the back of the packed venue and Lucont’s act does depend on a degree of intimacy between him and us.

Nevertheless, Alex Dubus’s sneering, leering ‘Frenchman’ is an interesting and highly original creation that’s worthy of further investigation.

3.9 stars

Philip Caveney

Jo Caulfield – Cancel My Subscription

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10/08/14

The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh

In Cancel My Subscription, Jo Caulfield doesn’t confound expectations so much as revel in them. She gives exactly what her audience expects: a caustic, bilious and gloriously profane account of the world as she sees it. The humour is largely narrative, and none the worse for it; Caulfield demonstrates with admirable aplomb how it is possible to push the boundaries of taste and decency without ever descending into “look-mum-no-hands-I-just-want-to-shock” territory. But shock she does: acutely timed references to polar opposites Jill Dando and Josef Fritzl leave the audience gasping, but with delight at her chutzpah more than anything else.

I really enjoyed this show. It didn’t surprise me, but then I didn’t go to be surprised. I went because I am a fan, and because I knew I would laugh myself silly.

And because I was born in the same hospital as her.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield

Gary Little – The Thing Is

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06/08/14

The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh

We chanced on Gary Little by way of the official Edinburgh Festival Fringe app, which has a handy section called ‘nearby now.’ It was five o’clock; we had a couple of hours to kill; what should we see? It had to be something in the less Fringe-dense New Town, so that we could be sure to make our later – planned – appointment with One Man Breaking Bad in St Andrew’s Square (see review). And, on paper, Gary Little’s show seemed to fit the bill. An hour at our favourite comedy club, The Stand, rarely disappoints, and we were keen to see at least one Scottish performance during our sojourn in the capital.

Little is certainly engaging; he commanded the tiny stage and my attention never wandered. There were inspired moments when he made me snort with laughter, such as his suggested method for breaking Thornton’s toffee, but – over all – this show was not for me. I found Little’s routine too reliant on gender stereotypes (men only agree to cuddle because they’re hoping for sex; it’s a real disappointment to discover that women fart and stop shaving their legs when they’re in a long-term relationship), and his general persona rather too aggressive (I couldn’t relate at all to the idea of chasing down a fellow dog-walker in a park because he failed to say, “All right?”).

That said, the latter section of the set was – for me – markedly better; Little’s routine about visiting Auschwitz was a lot less hackneyed, and his final piece about using Abba Gold as an anti-depressant was genuinely heart-warming. If the rest of his show were as original as this, he might have found himself a new fan.

2.6 stars

Susan Singfield