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: Jay Foreman and Nish Kumar

To celebrate the start of the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’ll be publishing a new episode of Fringe Focus every day!

The series will finally conclude on Saturday – and on Sunday, I shall rest. And probably bake a three tier cake for the office, but that’s a different kind of effort, right?

So I’m not bombarding your inbox, I’ll keep the Fringe Focus posts to every other day – hence featuring two comics at a time. And here they are…

Jay Foreman

Jay Foreman is most likely the successor to Mitch Benn‘s topical musical comedy crown. He can often be seen collaborating with fellow Fringe Focus guest Bec Hill on YouTube, with Bec’s paper puppetry perfectly complimenting Jay’s witty tunes.

This year Jay’s doing a kids’ show at the Pleasance, Disgusting Songs for Revolting Children (and Other Funny Stories) and I was lucky enough to be treated to a one-on-one performance of one of his quirky acoustic numbers from the show – watch my slightly awkward bobbing to the music (and much, much more) over on Touchcast now.

Nish Kumar

Make no mistake – Nish Kumar is a lovely, lovely man, and a genuinely brilliant stand-up. He’ll be returning to the Fringe with his third full length effort, Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity.

I’ve seen a preview and it’s a great show – with some lovely callbacks and a hilarious story about Nish’s trip to the Isle of Wight with fellow comic Romesh Ranganathan. But obviously, don’t just take my word for it – go see it! And before you do, make sure you watch the Touchcast (even if just to see Nish get very excited about making interactive things appear onscreen)!

The New Year list

I’m deliberately not calling this post ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ because I don’t think I need to change who I am – and nor should you – but because I’m a fan of a to-do list and this is a good excuse to create an ‘action plan’ for 2014…

2013 has been, for the most part, fine. It’s gone ridiculously fast too. There were big changes at the start and end of the year (I got dumped by email in January – ouch) and changed jobs (moving to EastEnders in late December), but for the most part I feel like I’ve coasted along.

However, everyone should take a moment to think about the good bits as well as the disappointing receiving of electronic communications and so here are a few of the highlights…

#Team NCA

The BBC Radio New Comedy Award returned in 2013 (we got a BBC Production Award nomination for the 2012 multiplatform element that I produced which was pretty cool) and I found myself without a budget so recruited a big batch of amazing volunteers to help film and edited each film myself. The core group of Producer Tilusha, Production Co-Ordinator Tam and Production Management Assistant Isma were bloomin’ hilarious and wonderful. And of course the most fabulous Executive Producer Alison Vernon-Smith and the stylish (and talented) Production Manager Hayley Nathan. My favourite production of the 18 months I spent at BBC Radio Comedy.

Grainne & J-Bugg shake up the Beeb

I found two excellent, talented friends in the new Radio Comedy bursary writers…

A Summer of gigs!

Thanks to Elena Dana, I finally started gigging in London, even making my jazz debut. And I got a new telecaster… now to get an amp (see 2014 to-do list…) I also wrote at least three songs I can count among my favourites.

Making my own damn icing, thank you very much

When I baked in the Get Flat in 2012, someone else was around to do the icing while I made the batter. My early solo icing efforts were watery and rubbish. Then one day, thanks to a Primrose Hill Bakery coffee buttercream recipe, I cracked it. (Although I did have a massive icing fuck-up the other day and had to buy the pre-mixed stuff for a Xmas party at Grainne’s but never mind…)

Comedy! Comedy! Comedy!

I saw some amazing shows and met some hilarious, lovely people this year. People who made me laugh included: Bridget Christie, Phil Wang, Steve Bugeja, Rob Carter, Katherine Bennett, Kate Lucas, Adam Hess, Tom Craine, Joe Lycett, Dean Sekhon, Peter Brush, Grainne Maguire, Mae Martin, Nick Helm Sarah Campbell, Nish Kumar, James Bran, Joe Davies, Ivo Graham James Acaster, Dane Baptiste, Jonny Pelham (and many, many more – go and check them out…)

Producing a book… sort of

In the New Year the BBC will be releasing an iBook about writing for Radio Comedy that I produced… I’ll post more about this in 2014!

Anyway, 2013 review aside, there’s loads for me to be getting on with next year, so here’s some stuff I’d like to do in 2014…

  • Buy amp to go with new telecaster (rather than playing through mixing desk connected to computer speakers)
  • Finish painting bedroom – there’s no longer a reasonable excuse for the large unpainted patch behind the wardrobe!
  • Cook a wider variety of foods (other than jacket potato, pasta and homemade sauce and stir fry)
  • Invite friends over more regularly to share wider variety of foods
  • Apologise less for the way I look
  • Be less passive when someone judges the way I look unnecessarily
  • Buy more cushions for my large sofa
  • Keep up the exercise and resist chocolate/ice cream temptations!
  • Practice guitar more
  • Find rhythm section to play with me and Reece (who I’m working on songs with)
  • Get keyboard out again
  • Record more music – and record it better
  • Read more on my Kindle
  • Find permanent contract
  • Renew ISA
  • Fill up ISA
  • Invest in more loose leaf teas
  • Save up for Canon 5D
  • Be better at getting people together – but not feel so guilty if I don’t
  • Enjoy self as much as possible
  • Blog more!

There’s definitely more – most of that reads like a shopping list! I must have January sales on the brain….