A RATINGS and critical success for Comedy Central, The Alternative Comedy Experience returns to Edinburgh’s Stand Comedy Club next week to shoot its second series with an expanded, even more eclectic line-up of leftfield comedians.
Unlikely to be seen on slickly edited “shiny floor showcases” like Live At The Apollo anytime soon, the acts are variously described as “interesting”, “slightly different” and “weird” by the show’s curator and executive producer Stewart Lee, who maintains that ACE is “the best stand-up series that has ever been on television anywhere in the world!”
Added to the ranks of explicitly political comics like Josie Long and Andy Zaltzman are the staunchly left-wing Grainne Maguire, libertarian, instinctive contrarian Liam Mullone and the uncompromising, anti-consumerist Alfie Brown. Joining oddballs Paul Foot and Bridget Christie is headcase Lou Sanders, while the combustible Michael Legge, literate geek Nish Kumar and science nerds Helen Arne and Helen Keen are also among the newcomers. Scots David Kay and Stephen Carlin were two of the first series’ breakout stars. And the homegrown talent has been swelled by regular Stand compère Susan Calman and the relatively inexperienced Fern Brady, a smart, fiercely opinionated young act whom Lee recruited on the basis of a single YouTube clip.
Although there was no quota, Lee highlights the number of female comics, comparing it favourably to other stand-up showcases “where there’s a general absence of women, it’s almost a monoculture”. There’s also a liberal sprinkling of “new” veterans alongside firm Fringe favourites Tony Law, David O’Doherty, Robin Ince and Simon Munnery, such as the multi-talented, multi-faceted Kevin Eldon, seldom filmed, early stand-up pioneers John Hegley and Hattie Hayridge, plus Lee’s hero Kevin McAleer.
A near-mythical slide routine on 1980s showcase Friday Night Live notwithstanding, the singular Irishman has never performed stand-up for UK television before and Lee enthuses: “I can’t wait to see how that will cut up. I’ve never laughed at anything as much as I have at him.”
Yet even McAleer isn’t the most alternative act appearing. The Scotsman can exclusively reveal that although Lee is once again restricting himself to interviewing the other comics backstage, Canadian stand-up Baconface, programme associate on his forthcoming BBC Two series Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, will deliver a special midnight show on Friday 12 July. Details of how to obtain tickets will be released at the earlier recordings.
Virtually nothing is known about this enigmatic, gruffly spoken native of British Columbia, who performs in a Mexican wrestler’s mask draped in bacon and routinely employs the catchphrase “It’s all bacon!” Yet Baconface has criticised Lee for “exploiting his obscurity” to afford him “credibility as an artist”. Lee will only confess to “anxiety” from Comedy Central and the BBC about putting this bizarre character on screen.
• The Alternative Comedy Experience is at the Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh, 8-12 July. www.thestand.co.uk