Sarah Keyworth: Dark Horse review – tomboy tales and top-notch jokes

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
The LGBTQ+ standup twists gender into new shapes in a fringe debut that feels like a great intro to a fresh comic personality

Should we be disowning words like “boys” and “girls” – or broadening what those words are allowed to mean? Sarah Keyworth is in an interesting position to discuss the question. She’s LGBTQ+, even if she seldom lingers beyond the first letter. As a solo-show debutante, nominated for best newcomer at the Comedy awards, she’s part of generation pulling gender into new shapes. And her adolescence was blighted by bullying because she didn’t conform to stereotypes of what a girl should be.

Such is the stuff of Dark Horse – a maiden fringe hour that (as per convention) sets out Keyworth’s stall, but without a hint of navel-gazing. For that, we’ve got Roly to thank – he’s one of two well-heeled children she’s nannied for the last four years. Latterly, Roly emerges as the show’s subject and star, as Keyworth sees her mafia levels of infant confidence eroded by the pressure never to be “bossy”, far less a “slut”. Like Cora Bissett’s What Girls Are Made Of, Dark Horse is determined to let girls fearlessly be girls. Keyworth risks overarticulating the point, and there’s no need: her show could scarcely be better constructed to express it.

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Fin Taylor: When Harassy Met Sally review – white-hot takes on #MeToo

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Amid the garish sex comedy, the standup provocateur makes a striking effort to embrace the complexity of gender politics

Those who shoot from the hip can easily shoot themselves in the foot, but Fin Taylor seems happy to take that risk. Taylor is one of those (straight, male) provocateur comics whose fearless plain speaking can shade into shock-jockery. But he’s a lively watch and often worth listening to – in recent years on the subjects of race and leftwing tribalism, and now – hold on to your hats! – on post-#MeToo gender politics.

When Harassy Met Sally isn’t a delicate take on our current moment, but alongside the missteps and highly debatable claims, there is some worthwhile thinking. And – in lieu, perhaps, of trigger warnings – Taylor has devised an amusing way to signal when his hot takes are about to get hotter to handle.

Related: ‘Why did the lefty cross the road?’ How liberal Edinburgh comics are panning PC

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Natalie Palamides review – big, uneasy laughs in fearless Time’s Up comedy

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Palamides’ goofy interactive comedy about a macho ‘douchebag’ has a confrontational sting in its tale

You could piece together Natalie Palamides’ remarkable new show, Nate, by splicing some of the great fringe comedies of the last half-decade. Adam Riches’ rowdy burlesques on alpha masculinity are in there, as is Zoë Coombs Marr’s cross-dressing satire on sexism, Dave. It’s hard not to recall Adrienne Truscott’s game-changing show about rape jokes, Asking for It. Then there’s Palamides’ own Laid, which won her the best newcomer title last year and whose eccentric, silly-but-suggestive atmosphere is recreated here.

It is a potent cocktail: a goofy interactive comedy about a macho “douchebag”, with a confrontational sting in its tale. Nate starts superbly, as Palamides – disguised under a lumberjack coat, biker boots, shaggy moustache and marker-pen chest hair – motorbikes on stage to a cock-rock soundtrack. She is chugging cans, toting fake phalluses and flaunting her 2D masculinity.

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Can you do comedy about rape? Natalie Palamides thinks so

The LA comic, who won best newcomer at last year’s Edinburgh fringe, has tested her electric new material on American audiences. But how will Nate – her ‘douchebag’ male alter ego – go down in Britain?

We should know, after last year, to expect the unexpected from Natalie Palamides. Who could have foreseen that the buzziest comedy in 2017 would come from an unknown LA actor making performance art about fertility, parental anxiety and eggs? But so it proved. In a blizzard of yolk and shattered shells, her show Laid wowed Edinburgh and poached the Comedy award for best newcomer. So we should have been braced for more surprises. But this? A cross-dressing comedy show for the #MeToo era that workshops, with audience participation, the idea of consent?

The show is called Nate, after a male character the 28-year-old has played since college. “He does come off as a douchebag, as we say in America,” says Palamides, speaking by phone from Los Angeles, where she has been developing the show with her director, the cult clown and previous Edinburgh Comedy award champ Doctor Brown. “At first you think Nate’s a jerk,” she adds. “But people warm to him because he’s sweet – a sweet lovable idiot.”

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Ricky Gervais’s transgender jokes show we’re all in a kind of transition

The comic has been accused of transphobia after riffing about Caitlyn Jenner in his standup show. So does giving him a favourable review endorse those gags?

Ricky Gervais sometimes gets people’s backs up and so, it transpires, do reviewerswho write about him. “B4 you write another @guardian review endorsing jokes about #trans people,” I was advised on Twitter after covering Gervais’s recent show, “please consider the impact.” Gervais dedicates a section of his show Humanity to jokes about (specifically) Caitlyn Jenner but also, by sly association, the idea of transgendering more widely. “If I say I’m a chimp, I am a chimp,” one riff begins, as Gervais makes merry with the culture of identity as self-assertion – and scores dependable laughs with rudimentary monkey business too.

Related: Ricky Gervais review – ruthless, self-revealing show is his best yet

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Manwatching: a secret female playwright’s liberating look at sex

The author of a hit show about desire explains why she’s staying anonymous – and why her play is only performed by male comedians

You’ve written a hit play, it’s been programmed for a run at the Royal Court – and you can’t take a shred of credit for it? You’d forgive the anonymous writer of Manwatching for feeling some frustration – but there’s little in evidence. “I keep telling the friends who know it’s me [and who are sworn to secrecy] that everyone should do a piece anonymously once in their lives. It’s tremendously liberating.”

Related: Manwatching at Edinburgh festival review – a frank insight into female desire

Of course the part of me that would like to boast is frustrated

Related: Unknown pleasures: do we enjoy art more if it’s anonymous?

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