Edinburgh Festival 2018: Comedy shows to book now

Natalie Palamides, Dylan Moran and Arthur Smith are among the acts to catch at this year’s Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival returns in August with a programme that’s as comedy-heavy as ever. Here are six of the best shows that are well-worth booking ahead for…

Arthur Smith – Syd

Somebody who should be knocking on the door of ‘national treasure’ status, Arthur Smith has successfully combined comedy with a dash of melancholy in recent years with his shows about Leonard Cohen. Once again he has a backing band, the Smithereens, for this show about his dad, Syd, who led an extraordinary life by modern standards, including a spell in Colditz castle as a prisoner of war. Smith’s evolution from boozy bard to wistful host hasn’t come at the expense of any of his comic sharpness, and Syd promises to be another memorable show. Pleasance Dome, August 3-9, 4.10pm

Glenn Wool – Wool’s Gold II (The Iron Pirate)

Pound-for-pound probably the best standup at the Fringe. The burly Canadian has removed himself from the main venues these days, instead performing on the free part of the festival, and waving a bucket around for donations at the end – which seems remarkable considering what a master he is of the craft. His slow, menacing delivery is underpinned by a fierce intelligence that puts him two steps ahead of his peers. His show last year on freedom of speech went almost completely under the radar but was so good it should be a set text for all budding comics. This year he raids his archive of previous material not just to re-perform it, but to see if he still agrees with it. Monkey Barrel Comedy Club, August 2-12, 14-25, 7.30pm

Natalie Palamides – Nate

Last year’s winner of the Best Newcomer award returns to Edinburgh from her hometown LA. The show that won her that award, Laid, was a messy spectacle that made its point about femininity via intelligent absurdism and a hefty egg budget (think a politicised Harry Hill). It also heralded the arrival of a comic with considerable flair and originality. This year, Palamides drags up as Nate, a young fella who is doing his best to be a good man in the #metoo era. She has oodles of charm, and her improv background gives her the steel to open her show up to moments of chaos and deal with whatever happens. Pleasance Courtyard, August 1-12, 14-26, 6pm

Fin Taylor – When Harassy Met Sally

A fine young comic who loves a good push-back on a liberal consensus, and I defer to his own description of his new show, When Harassy Met Sally: ‘His finger’s still on the pulse, except now he doesn’t know whether that’s flirting or harassment.’ Yes gender is in his sights this year, and you can reasonably expect to ask some awkward questions of both left and right. As a performer he’s a nice combination of bullish and playful, and can make an hour-long Edinburgh show feel like an underground club set – and that’s no mean feat. Pleasance Courtyard, August 1-26, 9.45pm

Kate Berlant – Communikate

Another visitor from the US, Kate Berlant is a sharp, charismatic performer who one feels is only heading in one direction in her career. She’s probably best known in her homeland for being in a beautifully bitchy duo with fellow comic John Early. Their 2017 video series, 555, was a pointed satire of Hollywood and the desperation of its ambitious residents. It had the New York Times cooing at the pair’s chemistry, describing them as “connoisseurs of passive aggression”. Berlant is a superb stand-up in her own right, and this summer’s run marks her Edinburgh debut. Assembly George Square Studios, August 1-12, 14-26, 9.15pm

Dylan Moran – Dr Cosmos

Most comics wait until middle age to become misanthropic, but Moran has been that way since he burst onto the scene in the mid 90s, becoming the youngest Perrier award winner in 1996 aged 24. These days, Moran, 46, counts Edinburgh as his home, and he’s using the Fringe to launch the UK tour of his new show, Dr Cosmos. Details are light as to the content of the show, but his previous one, 2015’s Off the Hook, suggested he was still a force to be reckoned with. Note that along with the bigger gigs, he’s doing a handful of shows at the Stand 1 – an actual comedy club, and a small one at that – which is one of the hottest tickets in town. Various venues throughout the festival


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