Stuff I saw in the Festival

A quick roundup of things I saw in this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Two months too late as usual, but here we go…

1. Andy Zaltzman (16/8/11)
Andy Zaltzman is a funny man. But as a political satirist, he suffers the insurmountable problem that topicality can change at any moment, and, to his own admission (while he pointed pointedly at his mocked up “Certified Satirist” award in an attempt to excuse any bad joke that came up), he had had a bit of trouble when the riots in London started a week or so after he’d arrived in Edinburgh, and he had to rewrite half his show to accommodate it. Tellingly, half the jokes were repeats of ones he’d already told on his podcast The Bugle. Anyway, it was great to see him live again, and a barrage of bad dog-themed puns by someone with experience is always much more preferable to seeing newspaper headliners attempting them. It was also the best thing I saw in the festival (spoiler alert).

2. Jay Foreman (18/8/11)
Jay Foreman is losing his touch, I feel. As his show is one of those odd blends of music and comedy, he is tied down somewhat by the expectation that he will perform his old stuff as well as new stuff and his comedy can suffer for that. His theme was something to do with “the Future”, which was basically him moaning about how he’s getting older. Fittingly, his song The Procrastinator has had the lyrics changed to “Who remembers MSN?!” rather than “Don’t go on MSN!” And there was a lovely moment near the start when he sang the first song at breakneck speed when someone walked in late, in order to get them up to speed. He must have been practising at that. Enjoyable, anyway. Perhaps not worth the price tag.

3. “The Truth Explained in Doodles” (18/8/11)
Free stuff is very hit-and-miss sometimes. This particular show, jointly run by a man of diminuitive stature and a young “guest star” comedian, very much had the air of comedians trying to find their feet and find out what works. The short guy (who did actually start riffing about his height later on in the show – I actually thought it’d have been better if he’d kept it as some kind of elephant in the room) started with a really awkward dance thing that didn’t make any sense, and then the main part of the show was conducted via some kind of powerpoint or flash video – I think it was the second, in which case it was very nicely programmed and well thought-out. But there weren’t really any doodles, just cartoony animals that popped up occasionally. As for the other guy, he talked about how embarrassing it is to get caught wanking by your mum, if I remember correctly. He got more laughs, but it felt insanely awkward and inappropriate on certain levels.

4. “International Gay Sampler” (24/8/11)
I actually only got to see half of this, because we had tickets to something else, but the two comedians that I saw – one from Canada and one from the north of England somewhere – were very good and had us in stitches. I kinda regret having to leave… as free stuff goes, this was particularly good.

5. 4 Poofs and a Piano (24/8/11)
I, well, didn’t really enjoy this. I felt strangely outside of its target market, because I swear most of the audience were straight women, and the guys were flirting with presumably-straight guys in the audience to try and make them feel uncomfortable. It had a certain charm, but in general it was just a bit naff – I think that’s the best way I can put it. And that’s partly why I regret leaving the other show to run over to this one. Never mind, though.

6. The Sexual Awakening of Peter Mayo (25/8/11)
We were lied to about this show – it wasn’t half price and there weren’t any free lollipops. Thieving bastards. Shouldn’t have bothered, really… it was an OK but very studenty theatre production with three actors, and halfway through I started to need a pee really, really badly, which distracted me. It’s basically about a character, who clearly takes after Moss from The IT Crowd, finding his sexual prowess and going to orgies, or something like that. The other two characters were originally presented as together and sexually confident, and by the end of it, it turns out through a very simplistic dramatic irony that they’re the ones who don’t really have it together and are hiding behind smokescreens. The play had a nice visual style to it; there was a box made of electric lights around the stage, and the characters would step out of it to “pause” the play and make a soliloquy or some kind of exposition. It was an effectively told, simple story, but I could take it or leave it, at the end of the day.

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