Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe: Our pick of the best stand-up
Since its origin in 1947, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has grown into the largest event of its kind. Among a dizzying range of theatre, circus, and cabaret performances numbering more than 2,000 individual shows, the very best from the world of stand-up comedy can be found. From established household names to stars of tomorrow taking their first tentative foray out in front of a festival audience, there are more one-hour stand-up sets than any one human could hope to watch in a month. Our rundown of five-star performances from Ed Fringe 2017 cuts to the chase, charting only the very best of the bunch.
Simon Munnery’s Renegade Plumber
Simon Munnery has been a fringe comedian for as long as such a thing has existed. Though flirtations with mainstream TV at the turn of the millennium threatened breakout success, Munnery has continued to cut a cultish figure across the comedy landscape. His charmingly surreal, bookish style bleeds outward to influence more well-known contemporaries such as Stewart Lee and Dave Gorman, however Munnery has quietly plied his trade from the stage of The Stand for over two decades, consistently providing some of the most delicately-crafted shows around.
2017’s show Renegade Plumber casts our hero in more of a traditional stand-up role than previous incarnations, yet the witticisms and observational insights are still somehow imbued with a theatrical flourish, somehow at once anarchic and academic. Then he brings out his inventions, and leads one to wonder if this brilliant comic mind might one day save the world. Masterful.
Bec Hill’s Out of Order
A sparkling example of that rare breed of international comedian who seem entirely at home at the Fringe from the moment they grace it, Bec Hill hit the stage at full gallop back in 2009, and grabbed a best-of-festival award on her way into the elite fringe firmament.
Hill’s 2017 show, Out of Order, is delivered section-by-section, entirely at random, via a sort of bingo card that casts the audience as directors of the dizzyingly colourful mayhem. With hugely infectious fizzing energy – and trademark playful abandon – sections focus on subjects ranging from Elon Musk’s evil intent, through joyfully silly games and puns, and – perhaps unique to Hill – poignantly artful set-pieces rendered with beautiful papercraft puppetry from a flip-chart.
Hopefully a Fringe-fixture for years to come, the opportunity to spend an hour in Hill’s company is one never to be missed.
Tony Law’s Absurdity for the Common People
Developed into a full festival-hour from a three-minute section in last year’s show which, by the Canadian’s own admission, didn’t really work, Tony Law’s Absurdity for the Common People quickly snowballs into a bouldering behemoth of absurdist energy. Featuring yet more tales of the early-70s amateur trampolining circuit, a punchline delivered using an unusually powerful torch, and a pair of shorts that boldly traverse the between fashion and obscenity, this is a show from a stand-up in his energetic prime.
For all the cartoonish maelstrom of motion bounding forth from the stage, it’s not just within surrealist landscapes that Law’s law of comedy applies. When turned to topical matters, his probing comic curiosity also has a sharp and subversive appeal. In the year that will perhaps see the peak number of Trump and Brexit gags, Law lays claim to some of the subtlest, and funniest, on each.
With an hour guaranteed to fly by in madcap abandon, Tony Law should be at the top of everyone’s list of Fringe must-sees.
Pat Cahill’s The Fisherman
Whether a by-product of the many hours he whiles away on peaceful riverbanks, or of a justified confidence in the quality of his material, Pat Cahill’s The Fisherman is as relaxed and assured 60-minute stand-up as you can hope to see on the fringe.
Cahill engages his audience with echoes of the whimsical affability of Bill Bailey and absurdist prop-based material before delivering pin-sharp observations on subjects as universal as loneliness and fear (best evoked by our hero, in character, as The Little Black Dog of Instant Gratification). A keen ear for the less-conspicuous hooks in a selection of pop hits provides a riotous musical break, while a recurring line also offers many useful ground bait suggestions to aspiring course fishermen.
Staking a claim to being your new favourite stand-up, Pat Cahill is one to watch. Right now.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival runs until 28th August 2017. For further information or to book visit the Ed Fringe website here.
Watch Simon Munnery explain the secret of comedy here: