For this Edinburgh Fringe 2017 preview, I’ve handed over responsibility to the totally unbiased and upstanding Andrew Hunter Murray, comedian at large. You might recognise him from such shows as No Such Thing As A Fish, Austentatious, and The Mash Report. Read on for his top comedy picks from the festival, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Words by Andrew Hunter Murray
Thanks Matt. This time of year, a lot of Edinburgh show recommendation lists do the rounds. Some are rigidly impartial, written only by ascetic warrior monks who have spent their whole lives adhering to a solemn vow never to meet a single comedian to preserve their impartiality. Most, regrettably, are based on hidden networks of friendship, mutual backscratchery, suitcases of unmarked tenners and simmering sexual intrigue, and as a result are wholly, embarrassingly untrustworthy.
To add my own fillet of lies to this roiling bouillabaisse of mendacity, here are ten-odd shows I think you should see, by acts I know to a greater or lesser extent. However, to give the whole thing at least the flavour of honesty, I’ve written reasonably frank declarations of interest with each one, plus a handy score out of ten. Obviously, my personal interest in each case has corrupted me to the core. Even if someone only scores 2/10 on the Crony-ometer, these recommendations can only ever be the dubious tipoffs of a compromised hack. If you see any of the below shows and enjoy them you are contributing to the whole rotten nexus, and I’m afraid you’re in it as deep as I am.
Act: Tom Skelton: Blind Man’s Bluff. Tom is a charming, unpredictable comedian who can take an audience on wild flights of fancy as an improviser, and he’s just as talented as a stand-up. If you don’t love him within fifteen seconds, he’ll give you your money back. Please note: I haven’t run that idea past him.
Cronyism declaration: As a student, I was in the same improv troupe as Tom. I have always admired his comedy (silky, charming, with strong foundations) just as much as his hair (ditto). Since 2008, we’ve been for several drinks, on one stag do, and frequently told each other we should go for more drinks. Would ask him to help me move a body. 6/10.
Act: Aunty Donna: Big Boys. Aunty Donna are a brilliant sketch trio from Australia. Their shows are absolute pandaemonia of late-night raucousness, gratuitous swearing and extreme dance. I see them at least twice a year, and due to my diary this year I can’t see them at all, so now you have to see them twice. That, I’m afraid, is the rule.
Cronyism Score: They don’t know me, and I suspect they’d struggle to pick me out of a line-up if I mugged one of them, so I’m hoping to claw back some cred here. I did once see them in the street and aggressively fanboyed them in the hope some of their insanity would rub off on me. They were as disappointingly pleasant and normal off stage as they are as thrillingly batshit on stage. 2/10.
Act: Ivo Graham: Educated Guess. Ivo can make a sentence dance like a bear at a seventeenth-century fair – in unpredictable and gripping ways. He’s also extremely funny. He has a bit about sharing a hotel room with one’s parents in one’s late twenties and a translucent bathroom door that nearly caused a riot the last time I saw him do it. Highly recommended.
Cronyism Score: Ivo and I come from pretty similar backgrounds (white, privately educated, male, fussy about grammar, not very good at self-deprecation) and as a result seem almost wholly identical to the casual observer. We occasionally meet up to eat lunch, and spend most of our free time over the following week composing intricate text messages to thank and encourage each other. A strong 7/10, nudging 8.
Act: Sara Pascoe: LadsLadsLads. Sara is already Legit Famous, meaning you don’t need any encouragement to see her from me, but she’s extremely good at coming up with clever, thought-provoking stuff so funny that you don’t notice how clever and thought-provoking it is for at least two days. And then, in the queue at Morrison’s, it hits you, with all the force of a deep-frozen box of own-brand fishsticks.
Cronyism Score: We once shared a cab to the station after a preview; we have friends in common; and she’s been a guest not only on my day job at QI but also on the podcast I co-host, so a perfectly respectable 6/10.
Act: Ahir Shah: Control. Ahir’s stand-up is great: he’s thoughtful, funny, and unabashedly political. He’s also an absolute tonic on Twitter. Granted, he probably won’t be reading out tweets in his new show, but it’s still a good sign, isn’t it?
Cronyism Score: Ahir and I are friends, and he once booked me for a gig, so frankly, I’m in hock to him. As a side note, after that gig, on the night of the 13th February, we shared a romantic pre-Valentine’s Day dinner on a late-night train back from Cambridge by eating edible chocolate body paint out of the tube, because neither of us had had time to eat dinner and apparently Cambridge shuts down at 7.30pm in February, and because one of us (out of decorousness, I will not say which one of us) had recently been paid for a gig in amusing novelty chocolate body paint, and that was literally the only food on the entire train. An upsetting yet bonding experience. 5/10.
Act: The Inane Chicanery of a Certain Adam GC Riches. Adam is a giant, unpredictable, brilliant character comedian, capable of inspiring audiences to fear, wonder, and to actually plait his hair live on stage. The first time I met him, I was in the audience at the Soho Theatre, and he made me paddle across the stage on a skateboard with a man dressed as a lizard on my back. To be fair, I was sitting in the front row. If you sit in the front row, he will probably make you do something weird too. Go and see him anyway.
Cronyism Score: I’ve been a guest on Adam’s podcast, but barring that, my hands are clean on this one. 3/10.
Act: Max And Ivan: The Reunion. Max and Ivan are a double act who blend sheer stupidity and extremely clever jokes. This year, they’re bringing their Edinburgh-Comedy-Award-Nominated show ‘The Reunion’ back to Edinburgh, and are also putting on The Wrestling, an electric showdown where real wrestlers convincingly beat up real comedians. Kill for a seat, or at the very least, suplex for a seat.
Cronyism Score: I like M and I, particularly after the first six months of acquaintance when I’d finally worked out which was which. We’ve also dressing-roomed next to each other, when they did not once complain about the fact I was running around topless with my chest painted in the colours of the Brazilian flag. 6/10.
Act: Trygve vs A Baby. Trygve is an exceptionally talented clown. He is elastic, hilarious, and on top of all that, he’s introducing the next generation to the stage this year with his own baby. We’re entering a real ‘Son of Mask’ situation here.
Cronyism Score: Trygve is a wonderful man, but he’s in other countries most of the time, meaning the opportunities for me to realistically plug his work are limited. I haven’t put in the Skype hours to feel truly dishonest about recommending his work, so: 4/10.
Act: Andy Zaltzman: Satirist For Hire. Andy Zaltzman is the satirical comedian this country needs, and it is my sincere hope that one day he does the decent thing and freezes himself like Austin Powers so that he can be thawed out at times of national crisis to make fun of current events. He hosts the Bugle podcast, brilliantly, and is doing a few shows up in Edinburgh.
Cronyism Score: I don’t think we’ve ever met, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say 1.
Cronyism score: Here, I’m afraid, is the motherlode. Not only am I in this show, I’ve known the other members of the cast for a collective 59 years, which is longer than Queen Victoria was in mourning. On their own, they each have brilliant shows: when combined, they put their forces together like all the smaller Power Rangers to make whatever that giant one was. For the record, they are: Cariad Lloyd (The Glenda J Collective). Joseph Morpurgo (Hammerhead). Charlotte Gittins (Mirror Image). Rachel Parris (Keynote). Amy Cooke-Hodgson (Bumper Blyton Improvised Adventure). Graham Dickson (The Narcissist). Daniel Nils Roberts (The Causeway). House musician Alex Judd (The Nature of Forgetting) has his own show too. Cronyism rating: 9/10. It would have been 10 but I’m only in it for the last two weeks.
Act: Folie à Deux. As well as being in Austentatious, I’m in this show for five nights only, 21st-25th August. It’s late at night, and Charlotte Gittins (of Austentatious) and I make stuff up for an hour. It’s red-hot bullshit and I’d love to see you there.
Cronyism score: It’s literally me, recommending me, in an article I wrote. The acme of cronyism. I’m reporting myself to the authorities*. 1000/10.
*Just a joke, there are none, that’s why people get away with this nonsense.
Many thanks to Andrew for his honest, learned contribution. Please direct any complaints to his Twitter account here.
P.S. You’re going to need to eat and drink whilst you are in Scotland, and you might as well do it right. Plan your own adventures with Map The List : Edinburgh, and take some ideas from the #MattTheTrips posts below.