Last month’s Edinburgh Festival saw more than 1,000 comedy shows performed in the city. It’s been suggested that you could barely go to see some stand-up without being confronted by a bitter Remainer ranting about Brexit, but this was hardly the case. In fact the 2016 Fringe was remarkably unpoliticised, with mental health a far more dominant theme than Corbyn, Farage et al. Other than that it was the usual mix of the good, the bad and the bizarre. And, if you didn’t make it to the Fringe, here’s a quintet of comics well-worth catching up with in the coming months…
TV stardom seems a certainty for Porter – and he appears to know it: in Edinburgh he carried himself like Mr Showbiz even when he was performing to half-filled rooms. He’s a high-camp stand-up, with a bit of Dave Allen thrown in – but what he really has a gift for is making people howl in the way Michael McIntyre used to before he left the clubs for the arenas. Dare I say, his old-fashioned patter and ability to work up an audience also brings to mind Michael Barrymore in his heyday. What’s all the more remarkable is that Porter has only just turned 23. His second show, Al Porter At Large, is a big, bulging sack of double entendres and superb routines, and it thoroughly deserved to be nominated for Edinburgh’s Best Show award. He’s not the finished article, but if you like bit of throwback stand-up, Porter is definitely one to catch before he hits the big time.
The handful of shows Hans Teeuwen did in the UK back in 2007-10 have become the stuff of legend – partly because of his unpredictable brilliance, partly because he was such an unknown quantity. He returns six years later a cult hero with a new show and a reputation to uphold. The fact he’s a jazz musician is a clue to his uncompromising style of comedy, which veers between the playful and the absurd. With music, rhythm and repetition so central to his act, there’s something oddly primal about Teeuwen’s routines. He uses his surrealism for satirical purposes too, particularly on the subject of freedom of speech – just read what he said about President Erdogan earlier this year.
A 60-minute story that once again proves Kendall is one of the classiest comics around. Shaken is her 12th full-length show, and is the tale of her telling a lie as a schoolgirl to save herself in an embarrassing situation. The tentacles from that lie spread and spread, and Kendall expertly teases out the agony as you wonder how on earth her younger self is going to get out of it. Far from being simply a storytelling show, Shaken also smartly reflects on how she as a comedian (and an adult) lies for a living, at least to some extent, and what might drive her to do that. The Australian has nailed the knack of telling a gripping story in an unshowy manner, and for that reason Shaken holds the attention better than most shows I saw at the Fringe.
Great gags, funny stories, a likeable lad – Adam Hess had one of the shows of the Fringe when it came to out-and-out laughs per minute. Stand-up comedy isn’t exactly short of twenty-something males doing routines about flatshares and heartache, but there’s nothing generic about his oddball act. And thanks to a pretty rigorous skill-set of material, delivery and physicality, he’s head and shoulders above most of his peers. The most obviously notable thing about Hess is his frenetic, highly-strung schtick, and the furious pace with which he speaks. It makes him a battering ram of a stand-up, with all the irresistibility that implies.
As a terrific stand-up and comic actress, Kerry Godliman has hardly been off our tellies in recent years, with regular appearances on Live at the Apollo, Miranda, Derek, and Jack Dee’s Referendum Help Desk to name a few. She also has a role in Christopher Guest’s latest mockumentary, Mascots, which is out next month. Somewhere along the way she’s squeezed in writing Stick or Twist, her second UK tour and her first for five years. During her days on the circuit, Godliman was one of the most reliable headliners around and was known for her zero-bullshit style. Stick or Twist looks to be another show of down-to-earth, straight-talking stand-up.