Race is still a touchy subject at the Edinburgh fringe

As the only brown person in the room at The Glang Show, I couldn’t shake a sense of otherness when a quip turned sour

I’m a few months into a new career as a standup comedian. I’ve had some lovely gigs, some horrific gigs and I have started to get paid for being funny. The path to comic glory is long and the only place to be in August is the Edinburgh fringe.

In the past, I have covered the festival as a theatre critic; this year I went purely to hustle for five- and 10-minute spots on live shows. On my penultimate night, I went to see The Glang Show at the Hive. It defies any sort of description, but if you picture Vic Reeves Big Night Out in a bouncy castle, on acid, you’ll be close. It is joyful, wonderful fun.

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Joke’s over: why standups should refresh the tired ‘Edinburgh show’

The classic Edinburgh comedy show lasts an hour, with a strong narrative component and an inevitable ‘sad bit’. But this rigid template is stifling creativity

The late Sean Hughes had a reasonable claim to inventing what we now know as the “Edinburgh show”. Before 1990, wannabe comics went to the Edinburgh fringe and performed their best standup material. Hughes came along with something different: a funny monologue, set in his bedsit and containing a narrative to go with the gags. Comedy with a hint of theatre, in other words.

It worked: A One Night Stand not only won the Edinburgh comedy award (then called the Perrier), it got Hughes a Channel 4 series. And 28 years later, Hughes’s template for a 60-minute show still dominates the fringe.

So common is the ‘sad bit’ now that not only is it a cliche in comedy circles, it’s also become a cliche for standups to knowingly point it out

Related: Edinburgh award champ Rose Matafeo’s Horndog is a comedy smash

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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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Dazzling drama: the unmissable theatre, dance and comedy of autumn 2018

Gender-swapped classics, Hans Christian Andersen’s closet secrets, two giants of US comedy sharing a stage, plus Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo as rulers in love

Twenty years after they made their names, the individual members of The League of Gentlemen are riding as high as ever – with Inside No 9 a cult smash on BBC2, and Mark Gatiss prominent in practically everything on TV. But they’ve carved out time – after a screen revival last Christmas – to return to their sinister Royston Vasey-based sketch comedy for an autumn tour (their first since 2005). Gatiss promises “some old favourites, some new stuff and some sort of sequels” to the three recent Christmas specials.
At SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, 28-29 August, then touring

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Rose Matafeo wins Edinburgh best comedy show award

New Zealander’s show about sex and modern social mores scoops top comedy gong

New Zealander Rose Matafeo has won the coveted best comedy show award at the Edinburgh fringe festival.

Steve Coogan, one of Matafeo’s comic heroes, presented her with the £10,000 prize at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Related: Young women are smashing it at Edinburgh as the #MeToo legacy kicks in | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Related: Edinburgh award champ Rose Matafeo’s Horndog is a comedy smash

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Rose Matafeo wins Edinburgh best comedy show award

New Zealander’s show about sex and modern social mores scoops top comedy gong

New Zealander Rose Matafeo has won the coveted best comedy show award at the Edinburgh fringe festival.

Steve Coogan, one of Matafeo’s comic heroes, presented her with the £10,000 prize at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Related: Young women are smashing it at Edinburgh as the #MeToo legacy kicks in | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Related: Edinburgh award champ Rose Matafeo’s Horndog is a comedy smash

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Larry Dean: Bampot review – cheeky, chatty, all-smiles comedy

Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh
Dean is a standup with the popular touch and an easy swing to his style. Just don’t go expecting anything high-concept

Wednesday was a day of ups and downs for standup Larry Dean. In the afternoon: a maiden nomination for the Edinburgh comedy award. Early evening: show derailed by a woman having an epileptic fit in the front row. Dean dealt with the incident as well as possible, but it disturbed his flow as the gig stopped, started and stopped again. At the end, I left with the impression of another solid and enjoyable set by the Glasgow man, but no advance on his previous work. On other days, he may make a stronger impact.

The show was intended, Dean tells us, to be a celebration of loved-up life with his Australian boyfriend. But that relationship ended just before the fringe, so – one hasty rewrite later – we get a set ranging across his childhood, family, sex life and recent breakup. Much feels familiar from previous shows: the blokey take on his homosexuality; his hoity-toity mum; jokes about his Catholicism. My heart didn’t exactly soar at the routine about masturbating in a public toilet while someone is pooing next door. Another, about fellating a slimmer with “excess skin”, is no more high-minded but comes with a choice word-picture (“I felt like one of those Victorian photographers …”) to recommend it.

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Glenn Moore review

Just the Tonic @ The Tron, Edinburgh
Supposedly the story of his attempt to go on a mission to Mars, Moore’s set is actually a string of high-quality jokes

Comedy is not just about jokes, as we comedy types like to whinge – usually when Dave’s joke of the fringe top 10 is released to widespread nonplusment. But sometimes, jokes are precisely what it’s about – the time you spend at Glenn Moore’s show being a perfect example. Moore’s set – now nominated for the Edinburgh comedy award – is the best showcase of pure joke-writing skill I’ve seen on the fringe. They keep coming at you, and back at you, throughout the show, which purports to relate why Moore has applied to go on the first civilian mission to Mars. If he ever gets there, the little green men won’t know what’s hit them.

It’s richer than a straightforward battery of one-liners would be because Moore has threaded them into a story; and because (disavowing a career-long commitment to frivolous fictions) he pretends that the story is true. That’s just a game, of course, a wrong-way-up way of celebrating the ludicrousness of Moore’s shtick, as he introduces his flatmate, a surgeon who operates after all-night drinking sprees, and his inamorata, with whom he has sex so wild that “afterwards, we exchanged insurance details”.

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Felicity Ward: Busting a Nut review – a jumble sale of jokes

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
From gags about vintage frocks to her toilet roll-hoarding mother-in-law, Ward is endearing, if under-powered

Not every Edinburgh comedy set needs a theme, story or tear-jerking finale. But it helps when the material coheres; when something turns a series of unrelated routines into a show. Aussie comedian Felicity Ward has assembled such sets in the past, addressing everything from her mental health to irritable bowel syndrome in smart, swaggering standup. But this year’s show, Busting a Nut, has no binding agent, save Ward’s livewire personality. It’s just a 60-minute club set ranging around such subjects as inspirational quotes, having a big nose and recent holidays.

That absence of narrative and argument puts pressure on the jokes. And for me, they don’t quite plug the gap. To begin, our host is newly married and living with her husband’s parents. Mother-in-law is a “feeder”, she says, and a hoarder of toilet rolls. The wedding is recalled, with a pedicure set piece (big-hitting if cut from familiar comic cloth) and a routine about Ward’s quest for a “vintage” frock. There’s a nice conceit casting the wind on Fuerteventura as a predatory man and a choice one-liner about yoga.

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