My favourite shows of the Fringe

I got a message from Luke this morning…

“I think BBC News might be illustrating their story on the Comedy Awards with your photo of James Acaster holding some bread…”

And so they were!

…So I guess one of us got something from the Awards, then!

I’m still deflated from returning to the South, but I’m glad I got to see some great stuff while in Edinburgh this year.

Here’s a list of shows I loved this year!

Josie Long – Cara Josephine

So technically I saw this in preview – essentially an extended version of Josie’s stand-up show about former lovers, becoming an auntie and the discovery that it’s possible to be in a relationship with someone who treats you like a friend (something I rediscovered recently too!). It’s effortlessly funny, full of quality quotable lines you wouldn’t find on a ‘Dave’s Best Joke’ list, and all the better for it; who’s got the keys to my motor?

Nish Kumar – Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity

If Nish had entered the very first Edinburgh Comedy Poster Awards, he surely would have been a shoo-in. A show that examines racial identity with devastatingly funny results, I’d expected a Fosters nod for Nish – but maybe next year? Watch our Fringe Focus interview here.

James Acaster – Recognise

I saw this previewed on the same evening as Nish’s effort and marvelled at Acaster’s (it feels odd to call him by his first name) structuring, laid-back approach and ingenious imagination. Even then I would have placed at least £1.20 on him taking the Comedy Award this year. As it’s his third nomination in a row, it may be his last shot at the top prize. Whatever happens, don’t miss your chance to see this technically excellent show once the show comes to London (or potentially tours).

John Kearns – Shtick

Today it was revealed that Kearns is to appear in BBC Three cop comedy Top Coppers; he’s come a long way since winning the newcomer award and praising the merits of the Free Fringe. It’s notable that his show wasn’t flyered this year – and the only artwork he’s had created for the show appears in a dodgy frame onstage with him. The show lightly touches on his vocation becoming a full-time role and I wanted even more – but it’s part of Kearns’ nature to leave you hanging. The interaction with three audience members on the night I saw him was beautifully judged – as was the recycling of a prop (I’ll try not to spoil it too much).

What is notable is that Kearns is one of three of last year’s newcomer shortlist competing for the top prize (alongside Romesh Ranganathan and Liam Williams). The only two shows from this year’s wildly successful Free Fringe programs are Kearns’ and Williams’ – acts already associated with the awards. Eight nominees in both categories are hosted at the Pleasance, one at the Assembly and the others at the Underbelly. With so much on the ‘bucket list’, I was expecting to see a couple more nominated.

Pippa Evans: Don’t Worry, I Don’t Know Who I Am Either

From the opening homage to her hero, Brian Connelly, Pippa had unleashed my most embarrassing laughing style – the uncontrollable swan ‘ha’ that I get ripped for. With a mixture of songs, stand-up and characters, and fearless audience interaction, this was possibly my most enjoyable hour spent at the Fringe. (I did ruin the chain of Disney songs game though… Sorry about that!) Watch our Fringe Focus interview here.

Danielle Ward – Dani Frankenstein

Danielle appeared for just a week at the Fringe, bringing an alluring pink wig and skeleton bodysuit with her – winning my hypothetical ‘best costume of the Fringe’ award. With a mixture of her pop star character Dani’s tour diary, a moody extended story and some rather genius sexy raps, I’m looking forward to seeing more – and there has to be a music video for set highlight, the anti-rape anthem ‘Don’t Put Your Dick in Me’!

Lou Sanders – Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again

I saw Lou talk to her vagina, take a song lyric very literally and bestow her left field approach to erotic short stories back in June, but it was still hilarious even then – the Soho would be mad not to programme it back in London. If you like your comedy bizarre, energetic and laugh-out-loud funny, make a date with Lou. Or just see her show. Watch our Touchcast interview here.

Hatty Ashdown – Hurry Up Hatty

Hatty was the first comic I saw upon arriving in Edinburgh (aside from a quirky afternoon ACMS) and it was a warm welcome to the Fringe! This was Hatty’s first full hour, laden with stories from her slightly conventional childhood, as a self-described ‘nan-child’. I’m really keen to see what Hatty comes up with next – perhaps a full hour about performing in the problematic Wee Pub!? (Who were difficult hosts – avoid next year.) Watch our Touchcast interview here.

Lazy Susan – Extreme Humans

I saw this promising sketch duo preview before the Fringe (watch our Fringe Focus video here) and could not be more thrilled  to see them awarded with a Best Newcomer Fosters Award. They combine properly funny sketches with likeable performances – no gurning, overacting or one-upmanship. The final show has a different ending to the one I saw (which made me lose my breath laughing) so I’m really keen to see it again in London. Do. Not. Miss.

The Beta Males – Happenstance

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the sketch four-piece – but I was rewarded with a breathlessly entertaining sketch romp, with a network of sketches, that interwove – at first without you realising – and then suddenly becoming ever clearer until you had your own personal eureka moments. It was possible to look back on Happenstance and go ‘oh yeah – how did I not notice that?’ Perhaps I was thrown by the ‘What a Farce!’ sketch at the top of the show, which wasn’t a recurring runner and wasn’t as vital to the central plot of the piece – which, if intentional, is rather clever in itself. There’s genuinely something for everyone in this show – and the performers deserve recognition for their chemistry and quick-witted reactions to some unexpected moments during the performance.

Sarah Campbell – Don’t Worry It’s Sarah Campbell

Sarah’s always wicked company, especially when she’s onstage performing a ‘reverse William Tell’, sharing her experiences of Dalston Tesco Metro and digesting the Guardian’s Weekend Supplement (‘Just do something!!!’) Sarah gets to panic, so the rest of us don’t have to! 

John-Luke Roberts: Stnad-Up’

Hey, there’s clearly a conflict of interest presented by me writing about this show, but then again, it might seem like it wasn’t one of my favourite shows if I don’t write about it either. Luke’s total and utter commitment to his performance in this show, from the ‘teeth-on-a-stick’ aided entrance, to the (literally) ‘bitter’ representation of the moment of breaking up with his ex-girlfriend and the recurring use of a single audience member, made for a unique Fringe show this year. Some might not have got it (leading to a hilarious two star review and a Jimmy Carr comparison in The Skinny), but others were totally taken in. Fingers crossed it gets a spot at the Soho later in the year… Watch our Fringe Focus interview here.

You can find out more about the shows I appeared in – Grainne Maguire’s What Has the News Ever Done for Me? and Knightmare Live here.

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Pippa Evans

This weekend, my Fringe Focus is with the (in my opinion) busiest woman in comedy, Pippa Evans.

I met Pippa through working at BBC Radio Comedy (as one of the very talented line-up of Newsjack, which used to be one of my favourite shows while I was in the department).

As well as showing off her wide range of voices on the radio (‘cockney urchin’ being a personal favourite), Pippa performs as musical comedy act Loretta Maine and co-founded Sunday Assembly with Sanderson Jones, which has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon.

This year, Pippa’s appearing in not one, but three shows. She returns to “too-good-too-be-true-but-actually-is-true-omg-how-do-they-do-it-?-true” Edinburgh Fringe staple, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. Of course, Loretta Maine will be in full voice in Loretta Maine: Strong Independent Woman (Unless I Am Very Tired) and, in her Fringe debut, Pippa will be performing as… Pippa Evans, in Don’t Worry, I Don’t Know Who I Am Either.

Pippa talks about the scary notion of performing as herself for the first time in our interactive video – head over to Touchcast to watch it now!

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Jake Lambert

This week, I’m catching up with one-liner comic, poet and storyteller Jake Lambert.

I met Jake through the BBC New Comedy Award and he impressed me with his natural onstage personality and his sharp, witty one-liners. He’s got a great, broad appeal (and he’s thoroughly lovely too).

While we were filming my Dad decided to interrupt us by calling me to enquire about a certain iconic sketch group… You can see what happened below in this exclusive ‘uncut’ clip.

You can catch Jake performing his free show (shared with Dom Lister) at Dropkick Murphys at the Fringe this August. Click here for more details. He’ll also be performing at Comedy Cow: Prime Cut at the start of the festival too.

Click here to watch Jake guesting on Frankie’s Fringe Focus on Touchcast now! 

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Lazy Susan

Ladies and gents, this week I’m thrilled to bring you one of the acts who’ll surely be taking the Edinburgh Fringe by storm this summer.

If there’s any justice, the sketch show that will be on everyone’s must-see list this August will be Extreme Humans by Lazy Susan. I’ve seen a preview, and even in its earlier stages, it was breathlessly funny.

In our Fringe Focus episode, the duo dress me up in a variety of their props and telling me about the characters they belong to, effectively turning me into a ‘human buckaroo’ in the process. But did I buck? Well you’ll just have to watch to find out!

Catch Freya and Celeste (aka Lazy Susan) performing Extreme Humans at the Pleasance Courtyard at 7pm from July 30th – August 25th (excluding August 12th, when most of the performers have a well-earned rest!)

Watch Frankie’s Fringe Focus with Lazy Susan on Touchcast!

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Joz Norris

I’m going for my first ever weekend mini-break tomorrow, so I’ve released this week’s episode of Frankie’s Fringe Focus early – and it’s a proper treat, thanks to the lovely Joz Norris.

I’ve already seen a preview of Joz’s show, Awkward Prophet, so I was particularly keen to chat about it with him. As I’ve seen Joz in many guises over the past couple of years (including throwing Ben Target around a stage whilst encased in a ebony morph suit), I asked him if he could bring a couple of costumes with him, and he didn’t disappoint!

You can watch me chatting to Joz about dodgy trousers, Bowie wigs and girls (ooh errr!) over on my touchcast channel now.

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Chris Coltrane

My latest Fringe Focus is with political activist and stand-up Chris Coltrane.

We met up to chat about his 2014 Fringe show ‘There’s No Heroes Left Except All of Us‘, but found that the space we planned to film otherwise occupied. Improvising in the baking hot sun, the ever-resourceful Chris ferried a wooden bench across the road from the pub, to a spot on the kerb.

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(Photo courtesy of @Chris_Coltrane)

We started recording, but my iPad had other ideas…

Luckily though, we soon got back on track, and so you can find out about why Chris got into performing comedy about activism, his favourite fellow political comics and how you can listen to his 2012 and 2013 shows for free – what a bargain!

Watch the interactive Frankie’s Fringe Focus with Chirs Coltrane here.

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Phil Wang

Oh hi guys, I did another one of those Fringe Focus videos, didn’t I?

This one is with the super duper awesome Phil Wang, who delighted me by saying yes when I proposed shoving my iPad in his face and asking about his now legendary ability to craft ‘intellectual dick jokes’.

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See, here we are having a right laugh about them. Or at least I am. (It was my joke. Apparently I should stick to asking questions and sporting orange lipstick. Although even the latter is questionable.)

If you’d like to watch me getting interactive with Phil about his Fringe show, Mellow Yellow, simply go to my Touchcast Channel and watch it! (Give it a try, it won’t bite…)

Find out more about Phil Wang on his website.

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Lead Pencil

Just over a week ago, I squeezed my way through the central London crowds to reach the Leicester Square Theatre. My mission? To meet the really very lovely Maddie, Louise and Dave of colourful, energetic sketch group, Lead Pencil for my latest Fringe Focus interview.

We had a chat about their 2012 show, their sketch comedy peers, preparing props for this year’s show and Manchester United fans. They’ve got great energy and are one of those acts that seem to enjoy being onstage and their audience – I’ve mostly seen groups who have ‘awkward’ onstage personas recently (not that I don’t enjoy them, or that they aren’t brilliant) – but Lead Pencil seem to be open to being themselves and that can be quite refreshing.

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Watch my interview with Lead Pencil here.

Lead Pencil will be performing on the Belly Laugh stage at the Underbelly during the Edinburgh Fringe at 6:20pm nightly. You can see them at the Brighton Fringe on May 17 and 18 (details in the poster above).

Frankie’s Fringe Focus: Tom Webb and Grainne Maguire

For the past couple of years, I’ve worked at the Edinburgh Fringe, trying to squeeze in as many shows as possible between the ones I was working on.

This year I’ll actually be going as a holiday – but I still wanted to do a project that celebrates the festival and the acts who’ll be performing there this August.

Each Saturday, I’ll be publishing a video interview with one of these acts on Touchcast, pulling in their posters, videos and much more. We’ll be chatting about their shows, previous festivals and the shows they’ll be in the front row for, come the summer.

The first of these interviews is with comedian Tom Webb. He’ll be taking two shows to the Fringe this tear, a stand up show, ‘MegaDudes Crime Club‘ and ‘MegaGames with Tom Webb‘, in which he plays mass-participation version of classic games with his audience.

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We chatted about his shows, giant games of Human Hungry Hippos and how nuts may help to stop you from going crazy during the gruelling festival schedule. Watch it here.

Next up I spoke to writer and stand-up Grainne Maguire about her Edinburgh panel show, ‘What Has the News Ever Done for Me?’, her first full-length show about bonnets and rain and incorporating 80s jeans and competitive dance moves into her last festival effort.

We Need to Talk About Bonnets

 

You can find out who Grainne would love to bring some ‘sex appeal’ to her panel show by watching the Touchcast here.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking to sketch group Lead Pencil and comedian Matt Winning.