Comedy Reviews

All Change - Kerry Leigh

Kerry Leigh

Kerry Lee is a talented, witty, brave, female stand up comic whose sometimes dark humour is balanced with compassion. Her own life seen through a wry eye is her subject matter. As a mother of a two and a half year old with a second child on the way, Kerry had quite a lot to say about breast feeding in public, sex, and the contrast between the public mother and the private mummy. She also covered cosmetic surgery, teeth, baby names, and the joy of the final spin on the washing machine. Everyone in the audience laughed out loud and left Kerry's short set smiling and nodding in recognition of themselves in her stories.

If you have children, or would like to have children All Change will give you a new light view of the whole parenting game. Highly recommended for parents, parents to be, grand parents, and anyone who was once a child.

Jean Ball

Barrel of Laughs - Underground Events

Barrel Of Laughs

Having being roped into doing this at the last minute, I found myself standing on my own at the bar, clutching my Malibu and Coke and texting an imaginary friend in a desperate attempt to look busy. Whilst doing this, two things ran through my mind: what on Earth was I doing here, and would anyone figure out that there wasn't any signal underground? Once the actual event started however, my fears were quickly forgotten...

Barrel of Laughs was an entertaining, cheap night out (made even cheaper by my complementary ticket) with a nice variety of acts. Being situated in the 'atmospheric vaults' of The Old Hall Hotel gave the evening an intimate, relaxed feel, and like the previous two years, it appeared to have been completely sold out. None of the acts ran on for too long, and whilst the extended interval was rather tedious (made even more tedious by the choice of music), it was apparently necessary given that the final act was elsewhere occupied (in the loo).

The title of the first act, From Here to Absurdity by Life Isn't Everything, gives you a good idea of its content. The most uncontroversial of the three, this consisted of role-play, used to spoof everything from Disney and McDonalds to sports commentators and history to good effect, with some funny accents and cringe worthy puns added for good measure (one noteworthy example; King Harold played 'a blinder.' The audience groans). The last part of the act was the most surreal and therefore the most subjective, using food as a metaphor for sex (a standout joke for me was the discussion of the possibility of catching an STI from Burger King). The act was popular with the audience and didn't outstay its welcome at about ten minutes.

Ruth Cockburn, the second act, was in my opinion the best of the night, with no subject (be it the mentally disabled, violence, sex, incest or paedophilia) taboo. This freedom of speech, combined with her liberal use of 'bad language' and references to pop culture may have turned off some of the older members of the audience, but connected well with the younger generation. She does something the best comedians do; finds material that the audience recognises from their own lives, for example her stalking of ex boyfriends on Facebook, and simultaneously makes them realise how foolish they are whilst being comforted that they aren't the only ones who do it. In addition to telling jokes, she splits up her act with songs which, besides being as hilarious as the rest of the routine, were also both catchy and well played/sung. This act too was very short, and I could have happily carried on watching this watchable performer.

The main act of the night was Danny McCloughlin, who reminded me of a young Ricky Gervais in terms of both humour and his voice. Again, his routine could be greater appreciated by the younger people in the audience due to its pop culture references and by the less conservative due to the language and content (this time ranging from religion to starving Third World children to the man who was found dead in Michael Barrymore's pool). He cleverly breaks up his act with subheadings (such as Famine, Trifle, Michael Flatley's C@#k and Death) and audience participation, although this only served to instil me with a mild sense of dread, lest he spot me and my notebook. The act covered such diverse topics as Neil Buchanan the chef, Pinocchio and Um Bongo, and he also tailored his routine nicely to fit the location. My one complaint, however, is that when the night ended with him reading a (very short) poem and then running off, the audience was left questioning, much like they will be with this review; 'is it over?'

Andy Howell

Bill Woolland Half Century Tour - Bill Woolland

Bill Woolland

I have to say right up - I've never paid yet to see Bill Woolland as I always jump in first to see if I can get to review his enjoyable act (sorry Bill). Each year we meet he remembers my name and the family but that's not all - he remembers many names and details of a surprising amount of the audience who have seen him before. The reason being is that Bill is genuinely interested in other people and their lives. This is where Bill draws his inspiration from. In his 50th year with six children, Bill has seen it all. Married, divorced, remarried It's clear that he has laughed and cried in equal measure and his show carries the weight of this considerable experience -Jokes? Yes there are one or two little gems but don't expect to be rolling in the aisles, do expect to have a big grin on your face all evening.

Bill fills the evening with chat, banter and (wait for it) one or two conjuring tricks. Yes you read right he's become a veritable Ali Bongo and several people were asked to come up on stage to assist. His spike and paper cup trick was surprisingly good for a new convert to the art of smoke and mirrors.

Not high comedy - not high drama but you will enjoy this show and the smile will last for the rest of the day.

Mark Flett

Clever Peter - Whitebone Productions

Ready for action: Clever Peter

There are two Blyton parodies on the Fringe - this one isn't the family show. Enid has clearly had some mind-bending, disinhibiting experience which has let her id run riot.

We run the gamut from a psychopathic predatory father-in-law, to a dentist with an unusual line in patient torture, to a plumber with an extraordinary way of using his plunger (hint: that's a euphemism). And gorillas. I won't spoil the fun by telling you what they get up to, but if I were a man I think I'd watch my back and leave the bananas at home. (But maybe I just don't understand...)

Maybe, shock of shock, Enid was really a bloke because it has to be said these strike me as male fantasies. Not surprising I guess, when it was co-written by four men: Dominic Stone who acts as techie, and William Hartley, Richard Bond and Edward Eales-White who comprise the cast.

The pace of this show is breathtaking. And it's very funny. The audience has no time to recover from one hilarious sketch before it's headlong into another. If you like your comedy fast and furious, and somewhat on the raunchy side, this is the show to see.

Barbara Wilson

GSOH in the Barrel Room - GSOH Comedy & Underground Events

Andrew O'Neill (credit-Claes Gaellerbrink)

GSOH continues the Fringe comedy tradition and last night's turn was Mark Allan. We were treated to Mark's Pet Project, literally his project about pets. He introduced us to and guided us through the world of Furries - animals trapped inside human bodies. This he did via his cat and his girlfriend Tamsin, the real heroine of the piece.

Furries, it seems, are the new breed in town and Mark Allen set off to investigate this strange new sub-culture using that fount of all knowledge, the interweb. He was in touch with fellow Furries within minutes it seems. His anthropological quest took him as far afield as Stockport, where he found his Dalmatian suit. Then it was back to London for his first social gathering and Furry Olympics (musical chairs actually). He was accompanied by the long-suffering Tamsin, to whom he owes a great deal it must be said.

So, what can we make of the show? Well, it was a little like being trapped in a lift with Eddie Izzard and Mark Thomas; at times thoughtful and thought provoking and at others surreal (imagine stroking your pen-pals' dad's foot and thinking it was a dog?). Our guide worked hard to keep us with him on this trip, and I'm sure others will also enjoy this meander through human, sorry animal nature!

Ian Heath

HaHa!Oink - HaHa!Oink

The Girls of HaHaOink!

Sketch comedy is a tricky beast. You've got to come up with different characters, different situations, all of which somehow have to hit the comedy spot. Inevitably some do this better than others.

Ha Ha! Oink! is a sketch show devised by and starring Victoria Cook, Zoe Iqbal and Lou Conran, three unquestionably funny comedians. They throw themselves into a variety of roles, many of which certainly made me laugh. I was particularly taken by Steve and Donna their faux chavs, earning a fortune on the reality show circuit, and Whacky Wendy the children's entertainer.

Inevitably not all the sketches hit their targets - I felt that the business meeting that degenerates into playground name calling was a poor relation to Baddiel and Newman's History Today sketches, but that's the nature of sketch comedy - you win some, you lose some.

Unfortunately, there was only a small audience on the first night at the barrel room, making it that much harder for the girls to ride a groundswell of laughter. There is no doubt that the audience enjoyed the show, there were many smiles and chuckles and all three performers never let their game drop, but no doubt more people in the audience would have kicked the show into a new level.

In a final surreal touch, the fire alarm at the Old Hall went off mid-way through the show's finale (dust in a linen cupboard apparently) so cast and audience ended the show on the street. There was something quirky and endearing about this that somehow suited the tone of a quirky and endearing show.

Robbie Carnegie

How To Make Tax-Free Cash From Your Kids AND Shop For Free At Waitrose - Matthew Collins

Matthew Collins & Kids

At last a show which can help with the credit crunch! Matthew Collins' offers us, amongst other things, the chance to get our own back on at least one supermarket. That is if the kids don't shame you out of the place first.

Let Matthew Collins take you on a really enjoyable trip from his days as the intrepid traveller on a tv show, through his transformation into concerned househusband and on to his rebirth as enterprise man, unafraid to send the kids out to work and buy him dinner as an education in itself. Wonder at his tales of huntin', shootin' 'n' fishin' and microwaved ladies underwear as the family travel across North America, not once, but twice and with different women!

For all of you out there who can't resist those reduced price stickers in any supermarket this is the show for you! This travelogue cum shopping guide is full of warm, gentle humour whilst at the same time acknowledging that your children are both assets and liabilities. But nice ones. Get out of your armchair and come and see it!

Ian Heath

It is Rocket Science! - Helen Keen

Helen Keen considers the history of space travel

It's not often you leave a stand-up comedy show and hear members of the audience discussing Newton, Kruschev and the distance of the Earth from Alpha Centauri. But in the case of Helen Keen's sparky, intelligent and endearing show, It Is Rocket Science, this is exactly the effect on the delighted audience.

All her life, Helen Keen has been fascinated and enraptured by the stars and the idea of space travel and she uses the stand-up format as a tool to impart her undoubted knowledge on the subject, as well as to go into her own young life. She is aided in this by primitive and amusing diagrams, roll-playing with the audience (I got the chance to be President Kennedy for a night) and witty shadow puppetry. Helen herself has a highly engaging personality and such an obvious enthusiasm that the audience cannot fail to be captivated. Even in the cramped setting of the Barrel Room, with its restricted sight lines, none of the effect of the show was lost.

On BBC2's Comics Britannia the other night, Max Hastings claimed that, far from the days of the 1950s and Dan Dare, people had learned that space is boring. Helen Keen's hilarious and enlightening show, and her enraptured audience proved that space has lost none of its magic. It was a pity the show only appeared in Buxton for one performance, but I'd highly recommend it to anyone who happens to be up in Edinburgh for its Festival-long stint.

Robbie Carnegie

Life isn't Everything - From Here to Absurdity

Life Isn't Everything

60 minutes of sketches performed by a slick duo who work well together and skinny dip into many different pools - fully clothed of course...should you be easily offended!

Rick Kelly & Karen Hannah provide an hours worth of pacy sketches which look at the idiosyncrasies of various nations, professions and every day events. Starting with a spoof Eurovision Song Contest vote whereby the UK is divided up into principalities (The Peoples' Republic of Stoke, Democratic Kingdom of Tyneside, Islamic Republic of Halifax - surely Bradford??) they morph through other subject matter such as a Disney version of Jack the Ripper, Eye Tests, Funeral Directors, Saga Holidays...and a lot more.

The pair are talented, and their regional accents (rants) are especially impressive (despite the noted absence of any Durrrbyshire efforts). The humour is crisp and does on occasion touch a raw nerve, though is predominantly mainstream enough to be reproduced safely before the watershed, though the odd profanity they utter is always welcome in my book.

If listening to R4 sketch shows at 6.30 (or even 11pm!!) are your one of your vices, then this'll be just your cuppa Earl Grey...with lemon...of course! Run time: 55 mins


Love Song - Kaebide Theatre

Debbie Harlow, John Whall, Andrew Horton

Love Song by John Kolvenbach, made its theatrical debut at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2006, and received its London production the following year, starring Cillian Murphy, Neve Campbell, Kristen Johnston and Michael McKean. It's a sweet little comedy drama revolving around Beane, a loner with autistic traits, who's life is transformed by falling for Molly, a burglar who has raided his apartment, as are those of his sister, Joan and her husband. As Beane is brought out of his silence into verbosity, so Joan and Harry are released from buttoned-up repression by this new presence in their lives.

Kaebide Theatre's production begins with Beane, obsessively changing radio stations and finding a love song on every channel - Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Wet Wet Wet, Take That (a million love songs indeed) - which set the tone for what was to follow. Once the action proper started, the show felt a little tentative at first, but soon found its feet, and proved enjoyable and rewarding. John Whall as Beane wisely eschews the tics that often beset Hollywood depictions of mental illness instead electing for a performance of economy and simplicity. By contrast, Katie Fullard's Molly is all energy, both vocally and physically and the connection between the two characters is palpable. Debbie Harlow and Andrew Dennis have, in some respects, the harder job, playing the straight guys to the two eccentrics, but both bring humanity and humour to their roles.

If I have a slight criticism, it was the decision to play the show 'British' - it is an American play, and I feel that some of the nuances of Kolvenbach's script were lost in its Anglicisation (occasionally Katie Fullard seemed to slip into mid-Atlanticism to accommodate this). That said, I can appreciate that concentrating on accents may have led to some loss of the subtleties of the performance, so the decision is definitely understandable, given how affecting the final result proved in its heartfelt evocation of romance and imagination over humdrum reality.

Robbie Carnegie

Patrick Monahan and Alan Seaman - Patrick Monahan and Alan Seaman


Things didn't quite go to plan for this Edinburgh preview which encountered Big Trouble in Little Buxton. A 25 minute delay meant that by the time the show started at 11.15, the natives were a trifle restless...more so after Alan Seaman's was left to Patrick Monhan to pick up the pieces, which he gallantly did, at the expense of his scheduled material.

There was a sense from the outset that Alan Seaman was skating on thin ice, which was disconcerting given that the usually inclement Buxton had enjoyed temperatures in excess of 20 degrees and 11 hours plus of sunshine earlier this day - as a warm-up act Mr Freeze couldn't have fared worse.

Unfortunately for Alan, his mainstream banter (jokes about his surname, chavs in Leicester, etc) was predictable and painfully unoriginal. Following this with some stale, safely targeted celebrity references (Posh Spice, Amy Winehouse, Jamie Oliver) was his final undoing and eventually led to heckling from which he never recovered - a quip about the latter culinary maestro prompted an audience member to demand newer material - "it's only 3 months old" he replied - more like 3 years was the response - his acknowledgment of this point was his death knell and the few allies he left in the room turned their backs.

Patrick Monhan's unscripted salvage operation lasted 40 mins, during which time he regained the support of the audience through sheer graft and no little skill and charm. It wasn't until the end was in sight that he allowed us to be privy to any of his intended material - he conceded that we had only gained exposure to a small fragment.

I, along with the audience, enjoyed his free wheeling very much but it's impossible to offer valid comment on the few minutes of 'preview' material I did hear as it was almost out of context to what had preceded it.

As a goodwill gesture, Patrick did offer all present complimentary tickets to his shows at The Underbelly, which was a nice's never fun to witness a show when things go awry, but it I applaud him for having an awareness of the audience mood when he came on and dealing with the situation (though his reference to Camden's most notorious pop princess brought a momentary hellish flash back to earlier in the show).

Whilst the show didn't go to plan, half an hour of unscripted Patrick was well worth the earlier traumas. And FWIW Patrick, I think the jacket's just fine.


Something about Nothing - Lab Monkey Productions

Credit: Phil Worthington

Dr Façade, fresh from the accolade of Best Solo Comedy in the 2007 Fringe, returned to Buxton with a brand new comedy show, 'Something about Nothing'.

Prior to the on-stage appearance of the show's magical creator, Matt Pritchard, the audience were asked, through overhead speakers, to imagine nothing.

While envisaging emptiness, their minds were cleared and well set for an hour of interaction, gags and trickery that, while being refreshingly amusing, proved to be wholly thought provoking.

If the audience thought they were in for a night of taking notice they were very much mistaken as Matt chose onlookers to aid him in his mystical quest to explain everything there is to know about nothing.

There was frequent reference to well-known television shows such as Family Fortunes, Countdown and The Price is Right to back up statements that were made by Henry the Hoover . Humorous graphs and charts were also used to illustrate his theories.

Not one member of the audience left without having participated, through voluntary or forced means, in exploding cats, vacuum cleaner fights and explaining parallel parking amongst many other phenomenons that began to unravel the secrets of nothing.

Overall, this jovial treat was well worth the short journey to the Pauper's Pit.

In only 60 minutes, Matt combined mind boggling magic tricks with well-rehearsed jokes that provide the audience with top class entertainment.

With more performances like this Dr Johnny Façade will soon be proclaimed Best Solo Comedy of the 2008 Fringe!

Luke Smith

The Man Who Said Too Much - tam hinton plc

The Man Who Said Too Much

Well, - ...? What can I say? I tell you what, I'll buy a pint of yak's milk for anyone who finds anything weirder on this Fringe. ...on any Fringe.... anywhere

Tam Hinton makes the surrealists look humdrum, run-of-the-mill, everyday, conventional. Melting watches - sure, why not? Trains steaming out of fireplaces - well where else would they appear?

Scratching about in the earth around the pieces of my shredded brain I can find odd memories, splinters of recognition. There's a spoon - but no I don't want to go there! And a car chase? Vicious Vera - who she? Did she turn into a dog or was that Brenda? No it was Brenda.... I think?

Tam introduces two of the characters from his work in progress - a play possibly - and the lives they lead. I think they may be based on his friends. Yes, that would explain it. He has brain-altering friends who are experimenting on him and changing his synapses into random number generators linked to an enigma machine. It's all code. They are about to invade. Don't panic!

I'm OK... really I'm fine... I've had a lie down... those pills are marvellous... no! no! not the spoon!

Public Health Warning

Those of a nervous or sensitive disposition are advised to wear a brown paper bag over their head and stop taking sugar.

"If this is the kind of thing you like I think you'll find you like this kind of thing" Peter Low

John Wilson

The Fringe management take no responsibility for any damage caused by watching this show or reading this review