While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fringe 2008: BBC Comedy Presents

BBC Comedy Presents
11.00pm Saturday 2nd of August

This show was the perfect way to commence my Festival experience. There’s no way of knowing which four stand-ups will be performing on a given night, or who’ll MC, but it’s a safe bet you’ll like at least one (though I’d class anyone who doesn’t like 2 or more a sourpuss… why are you even attending a comedy show if you don’t like comedy… etc).

BBC Comedy Presents acts as both a one and a half hour variety show, and a taster of comics with more to offer over the course of the Fringe. For an outlay of around £10, you can’t do much better.

The MC last night was Rhod Gilbert. His name didn’t ring a bell, but once he came on stage I remembered him from a 3 minute spot he did on Rove two years ago about luggage problems.

Funny guy, great interaction with the crowd, perfect MC. Well, he did forget the name of the first performer, so maybe perfect is too strong.

The forgotten one was Daniel Rigby, who’s performing as The Comedy Reserve for the festival. He was by far the most inexperienced comic on show, stumbling over his words a few times and often lacking the conviction to pull of some of his material. When he left the stage, he shook his head, but it honestly wasn’t that bad, Daniel. Really. You got some laughs. It was a tough spot, and you managed just fine.

Next up was Tiffany Stevenson (who’s hosting Old Rope in the Courtyard most nights this month). She was that bit more polished, and more at home on the stage and that really makes the difference. (Aside: for a show that starts at 11pm on a Saturday, most people have already had a few drinks… this can mean a lot of easy laughs if they like you, or a rough time if they don’t…). Her material stuck to the well-worn stand-up standards (white trash, relationships), which placed a ceiling on how funny/memorable her ten minutes could be without having that X factor.

Someone who does stumble off the observational comic path into much more surreal material is Dan Antopolski, who was served up next. He’s a Fringe veteran, and was another step up in polish and confidence from the preceding comic. His routine was a mixture of out-and-out jokes (with punchlines!), an odd-ball character schtick, and rap. Seeing a white comedian rap isn’t exactly new, but his ‘Sandwich Rap’ was the absolute highlight of the night for me. I think his solo show, Dan Antopolski’s Penetrating Gaze would be well worth seeing.

Finally, MC Rhod asked the audience if they liked Seinfield. One or two mumbled assent. Stunned, Rhod then asked if they liked Frasier, and a chorus of yeahs broke up. This was probably the strangest moment of the night. Rhod observed that it’s just as well it wasn’t Jerry Seinfield waiting to come on, and that Kelsey Grammar was unavailable, but thank goodness for John Pinette (who was in the Seinfield finale).

If you watch any of Pinette’s videos on YouTube you get a pretty good indication of his schtick. He’s a big bloke with a short temper who likes his food. And he is hilarious. He does, without a doubt, the best Ewok impersonation I have ever seen:

Even though he was doing Traditional Stand-up (which I criticised Stevenson for) and didn’t overtly interact with the crowd (no interrogative questions for the first row) he didn’t need to stretch himself. His material was strong and he’s obviously been living in his persona for a long time. I’d recommend his show, I Say Nay Nay, though after twenty minutes last night and half an hour of watching clips on YouTube today, I don’t know if I’ll make it myself. There’s oh so much to see!

Anyway, I’d definitely recommend BBC Comedy Presents as a way to cap off an evening / get a taste of some comedians / hedge your bets if you only go and see one comedy show.

No comments: