Fest's Fringe Top Picks: Comedy

Fest comedy critic Lyle Brennan picks out the best and most promising comedy shows of 2015

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Published 04 Aug 2015

Kyle Kinane

Underbelly Cowgate, 6-30 August (not 18), 10:10pm

Celebrated in the States for his deliciously bleak "scumbag stories", this low-key master of confessional stand-up was on fine form on recent sorties into the UK. He's at his best when articulating the tragicomedy of life's little low points – beer-fogged tales hinging on a moment of clarity that arrives with a weary, gruff-voiced groan.

Joseph Morpurgo

Pleasance Courtyard, 5-31 August (not 18), 8:15pm

Odessa, a Lynchian fever-dream of high art and low nonsense, was one of the most exciting shows of last year. Whereas then Morpurgo turned some naff '80s ads and newsreel into fleshed-out character comedy, this time he's been digging through crates of vinyl. We're listening.

Adrienne Truscott

Gilded Balloon, 5-17 August, 8:15pm

Who could fail to be impressed by 2013’s Asking for It, a perfectly-pitched skewering of rape culture that won Truscott the Foster’s panel prize? An unlikely degree of silliness propelled the show from one serious point to the next, and it sounds like the follow-up will retain a similarly deft balance of forthright stand-up and what she calls "gimmicks".

Tommy Tiernan

Gilded Balloon, 16-30 August (alternate days), 7:30pm

Most comics would balk at the challenge of sustaining an hour of gimmick-free improvised stand-up. Not Tiernan. His mind always seems to move at a fearsome lick, so keeping things fast and loose should suit him. Whatever comes out of the Irishman's mouth, you can bet he'll sell it with a bellyful of fire and a livewire sense of mischief.

Nish Kumar

Pleasance Courtyard, 5-30 August, 7:15pm

He hit his stride with 2014’s watertight Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity, a lofty title which, lest it be taken seriously, he’s sending up this year's Long Word... Long Word... Blah Blah Blah... I'm so Clever. In a sense, that’s Kumar in a nutshell: smart, political stand-up chased with a dose of winning self-subversion.

Brett Goldstein

Pleasance Courtyard, 6-31 August (not 17), 9:30pm

A spinner of captivating yarns, Goldstein last graced the Fringe with a thought-provoking treatise on porn, wrapped around the story of a sexually charged blackout in post-9/11 New York. Presumably the Burning Man festival, a sort of desert Disneyland for hippies, has left him laden with material for his return.

Minor Delays

Gilded Balloon, 5-30 August (not 17), 4:15pm

Three young alumni of the Cambridge Footlights and its Leeds counterpart Tealights – it sounds like a sketch troupe cliché, but the comedy's elevated with a couple of avant-garde touches. Accompaniment from a live string section and a golden rule of always facing the audience make this an intriguing prospect.

Adam Hess

Heroes @ The Hive, 7-31 August, 5:20pm

Fest slunk unbidden into Hess's 40-minute work in progress last August, and even then it looked strong. Now he makes his debut proper with a frantic scuttle through his dysfunctional formative years. Since starting out he's traded offbeat one-liners for a more anecdotal style, but don't expect any compromise on the laugh rate.

George Egg

Gilded Balloon, 5-31 August (not 17, 24), 2:45pm

Q: Do you want to see a man demonstrate the art of fine cuisine using only the equipment found in a Travelodge standard double? A: Yes, immediately. As a much-loved veteran of the touring circuit (and yet an Edinburgh newcomer), Mr Egg wields a trouser press better than most.

Sofie Hagen

Liquid Room Annexe, 7-31 August, 7:10pm

Self-doubt, mental illness, body image issues... it takes a special kind of comic to make these things funny. Judging by the reception she’s had since relocating from Denmark, newcomer Hagen is up to the task. As well as her technical chops, she's been praised for her warmth, charisma and honesty on stage.

Beasts

Pleasance Courtyard, 5-31 August (not 18), 4:45pm

If you like your sketch big, loud and daft, this one's for you. After 2014's Solo, in which three equally dubious one-man shows sought to drown each other out, the trio are supposedly attempting to shoot a live DVD. Tom Parry of Pappy's directs again, making sure things go wrong in just the right way.

Natasia Demetriou and Ellie White

Banshee Labyrinth, 8-30 August (not 23), 8:30pm

We lobbed four stars each at their recent solo efforts, so it’s probably safe to assume this will be the festival’s first eight-star show. In any case, they brought the tent down at the Invisible Dot’s Circus last year, teaming up to play a miserable, ungainly dance troupe called the Sexy American Girl Cousins. Let’s hope there’s more where that came from.