Monday, 27 June 2011

The Chat Show Phenomenon

They've been around for a while, but I've noticed that the chat show format seems more abundant that ever this year.

Quite a few of the acts I've seen before and many that I have recommended are going down that route this year. I'm a fan of Tim Vine... I've not gone to see him live because he's on telly so much, but he seems to have switched to the chat show format. Jack Whitehall and Arthur Smith are other reasonably big names who have done the same.

I've sung the praises of Marcel Lucont on the blog before and also recommended Bob Slayer, a real mayhem specialist... Whilst I'm a huge fan of both I have different opinions on both of them doing it. I expect Bob Slayer will not change that much, his shows will still be anarchy and he'll still run around like a lunatic, but Marcel Lucont is a much more polished comedian. I've really enjoyed his shows and would be happy to just see more new material.. I don't know how well his stuff will come across in a two way dialogue... but at least he is trying something new and I sincerely hope he nails it!

The locals are getting in on the act too, with Scott Agnew and Hardeep Singh Kohli joining in (I've always thought that Hardeep is more suited to a presenter style/TV type gigs than straight stand up anyway).

Long-standing chat show enthusiasts Neil and Christine Hamilton are doing their regular lunch time show and other names using this format include Olivia Lee, Stephen K Amos (on the Radio), and that's before you add in other TV and radio shows like Fred MacAulay who usually comes livefrom Edinburgh every day during the Fringe...

The question I really want to ask though... Is it taking the easy option? I'd like to see comments on this as I'm still undecided....

Many comics tirelessly try to reinvent themselves, develop and refine their material in order to try and come up with an hour of magic that finally sees them propelled to stardom!

To just invite your mates on and have a bit of material prepared to slip in along with the regular banter, doesn't seem as dedicated to me.

Having another comedian on stage would, I imagine, make performing much easier. If you hit a weak point and you aren't getting the laughs you can keep quiet and let the other comic do their bit.... It would certainly be a lot less lonely than being on stage for an hour!

On the other hand, many comedians come into their own when they ask ballsy questions and manage to stay just inside the line. Mrs Merton and Ali G are two character comedians who deservedly found fame by shamelessly taking advantage of the people they were interviewing.

Maybe people just want to see chat shows. Is it a simple case of supply and demand? Do punters drift towards these types of shows just like they drift towards your standard "three acts and a compere" because it's a safer bet? You can't blame comedians for following buyer trends. After all, comedy is still a business and anyone who doesn't treat it as such, especially in Edinburgh, is certain to lose out!

What do people think?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Free Festival Programme Launched

In the current economic climate people will be playing closer attention to anything that can get them a good deal at the Fringe. A large part of my blog will have hopefully helped readers find the best deal and made it easier to pick up freebies, especially for shows that you normally have to pay for! (The Theatre Ninjas app has now been downloaded and I'm looking forward to using it. See my last blog).

The Five Pound Fringe were a great company keeping the cost of tickets down but sadly they have disappeared this year.

But you still don't need to look very hard to get a freebie with two major promoters offering free shows for the entirety of the Festival!

Peter Buckley-Hill has been around longer with "PBH Free Fringe" but in recent years he has been overtaken by the Laughing Horse Free Festival, who this year have 6725 performances of 339 shows in 17 venues (approximately twice the size of PBH)! Laughing Horse managed to secure the first Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination (Best Newcomer) for a free show last year with Imran Yusuf who this year moves to The Pleasance for £11 a pop; which goes to show that there are lots of great up and coming comics who aren't neccesarily charging a fortune!

I've already recommended a few shows from the Free Festival in a previous blog so I won't repeat those, but another safe bet is to try out one of their many 3-4 comedians for the price of one. They have shows at Espionage at 6pm, 8.30pm and 11pm and similar shows at other venues which are well worth a look such as Jock's and Geordies at the Meadow Bar.

If you are wondering how promoters can put on a free show at the Fringe and not lose a fortune, here's an article that tells you how.

So have a look at the guide and try it out! Not every act will be 5/5 but in terms of value for money there's nothing better on the Fringe. You can take a wander into any of their venues, buy a drink an just jump into the next show that starts! That's certainly what I'll be doing!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Theatre Ninjas

I thought these guys deserved a post all to themselves...

The Theatre Ninjas have created an app that gives away free tickets to people who download it to their smart phone.

The idea is that instead of handing out comps randomly to people hanging out in the Pleasance (like me), they will be able to reach a wider audience of people who want to try something new and see the fringe on a budget.

There is a great interview with them in Three Weeks...

I'll definitely be downloading it and I'll let everyone know how I get on.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Posted Missing

Friends who have picked up the Fringe programme have had a flick through it and said to me "The fringe looks rubbish this year, hardly anyone is coming!"

I couldn't disagree more!

If all you want to do is pay £18 for comics you've already seen on "Live at the Apollo" or on Channel 4, then, you may find yourself somewhat limited for choice....

No, John Bishop, no Kevin Bridges, no Rhod Gilbert, no Jason Manford, no Tim Minchin, no Sean Locke, no Michael McIntyre, no Alan Carr, no Dara O'Briain, no Lee Evans, no Micky Flanagan, no Adam Hills no Frank Skinner.... I could keep going for a while...

But on the other hand there are plenty of big names still appearing....

Jack Whitehall is still coming, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee are both up. Mark Watson will be there. Andi Osho, Rich Hall, Sarah Millican, Shappi Khorsandi and Jon Richardson were all on Channel 4's Comedy Gala but will still slog it out in Edinburgh! Milton Jones is a regular on Mock the Week but he's still coming.

All in all you still have plenty of choice.

But for me, the decision of some of the big names to stay away is a good thing. A lot of people still want to see big names. It just means that this year these people will be spread out a lot more. It also means that people are more likely to take a gamble and/or go and see someone they haven't heard of based on a recommendation from a friend or a good review in the paper.

This can only be good for the Fringe and live comedy. For me the spirit of the fringe has always been to try something new. There are always more losers than winners at the Fringe in terms of ticket sales (and money) but if there is a rough diamond out there not getting the recognition they deserve then they are far more likely to be found in a Fringe without the big hitters stealing the crowds (who will no doubt have less money to spend than in previous years).

So get yourself down to the Royal Mile and grab some flyers or head down to a Free Festival venue. You never know, you might be able to tell all your friends that you saw the next Michael McIntyre playing to 17 people in a dingy basement!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Early Recommendations

So, 2010 for me was more of a "Hanging out at the Free Fringe venues with the people I met last year" kind of year and as a result I saw a few acts again that I reviewed in 2008/9.

Marcel Lucont was great again with a good selection of new material. He's hosting a chat show this year at the Underbelly. Details here.

Secondly, I've seen a young comic called Richard Gadd a few times, at various comedy shows out with the fringe, I also caught his show last year which was rough round the edges due to him experimenting with lots of new stuff, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. This year he's performing as part of a trio with two other up and coming Scottish comedians. More details here.

The one show that I wish I'd blogged about at the time was "No Son of Mine". A great performance by Rufus Jones and Alex Kirk in a comedy about a son in Theatre and a Father who comes to see him (even although he thinks it's "all a bit poofy").

Some classic one liners and two great performances. Unfortunately neither seem to be at the Fringe this year judging by a quick search of the Fringe website. If you see them anywhere then please comment below and I'll give them a shout out! Here's a good review from The British Comedy Guide.

My good friend Nik Coppin has his usual "Shaggers" show on at The Three Sisters late at night. See my old reviews for a run down - it's the best late night fun you can have at the Fringe with your trousers on! His solo show "Award Winning Comedian" also got some great reviews at this year's Adelaide Fringe. On top of that he's got a third show "Huggers" a family friendly alternative to Shaggers, with all the best comedians on the Fringe who don't say F***!

Imran Yusuf performed as part of the Free Festival last year and became the first free act to be nominated for the ECA (the award formerly known as "The Perrier") Best Newcomer. As a result he's got himself a 7pm slot at the Pleasance this year. A bit pricey at £11/12 so get in and see him during the previews or 2for1's.

Sarah-Louise Young is back for a third year as Cabaret Whore. After winning a 5* review in The Scotsman in 2009 (and with me too) she had huge audiences in 2010 and is now performing at the Underbelly in 2011.

More early recommendations to follow once I've had more of a chance to digest the Fringe Guide!

I'm Back

I took a year off last year, primarily due to not being able to get to as many shows.

I also ended up drinking with too many comics after the shows I did attend, due to being introduced to them by my comic mate who was staying with me in 2009 so it made it a little more difficult to be objective... something I think is important if I'm rating shows!

Anyway, with the arrival of twitter, it should be much easier to rate shows and get my opinions out there. You can follow me @fringeguide

I'll try and post reviews via the blog here but also lots of bits and pieces while I'm out and about, including articles I like, shows I'd like to see and people i've spotted.