Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Christian Brighty: Playboy | Ben Miller's Stand Up Science | Alex Farrow - Philosophy Machines | The Alternative Book Club | Patrick Monahan: Classy

An elegantly vicious hour of lust-driven character farce is the choice pick from Kate Copstick’s latest round of comedy reviews.

Christian Brighty: Playboy ****

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

There is an exquisite 'sweet spot' where the outrageously silly meets the eye-wateringly witty. It is rarely explored, rarely even found. Call it the comedy clitoris, if you will. But it is the playground of the Bad Baron, Christian Brighty, 'Playboy'. And, oh, by all that is hopelessly hormonal, we have such pleasure there.

His is a story of lust and love. But, luckily, mainly lust. The love bit is obviously doomed to failure, what with the Duchess Jessica's kaleidoscopic collection of lady-ailments and the sexually insatiable Baron's comprehensive lack of finer feelings. Apart from which, as this ever funnier hour unfolds in a script like comedy origami, we realise that the almost entirely unseen Duchess Jessica is also operating ‘tech' for the show.

Given she must contend with cueing carrier penguins, Cupid's arrows and shattering glass, as well as being made mildly unsettling love to by an emotionally inept man-boy with a tendency to malapropism, Amy Greaves (for she is she) is most impressive.

We meet the 'Bad Baron', hot from the naughtiest parts of Naughty Susan. Pausing only to reveal a tragic back story that challenges biology itself, hint at a hideous deformity, and explode an underground orphanage, he sets about insulting the room. Which he does with an elegant and eloquent viciousness that has much in common with the premier cru sneering of Marcel Lucont. But there is nothing common here. Except us, of course.

It is seldom one sees a production such as this, which will thrill both fans of Malcolm Hardee and of Colin Firth. Mix a smidge of Blackadder with a hint of Python in an Austentatious manner, and inject (plot spoiler alert) enough spunk to sink the French Navy, you still not be within fondling distance of understanding how much fun this hour is. Kate Copstick

Christian Brighty: Playboy. (Pic: Ben Meadows)Christian Brighty: Playboy. (Pic: Ben Meadows)
Christian Brighty: Playboy. (Pic: Ben Meadows)

Until 28 August

Ben Miller’s Stand Up Science **

Laughing Horse @ the Three Sisters (venue 272)

Alex Farrow – Philosophy Machines ***

Cabaret Voltaire (venue 338)

The Alternative Book Club ***

Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire (venue 338)

Robin Ince may not be here this year but his imprint is everywhere on the Fringe. The pioneer of 'non-binary' stand up was an inspiration to many who have gone on to mix the funny, the fact-packed and the intellectually challenging. The 'educational' stand up is all around us this year. Science and philosophy, history and literature are all here as the topic of 2022 comedy.

This pushing of the comedy boundaries stretches from Ivor Dembina's rolling coverage of the war in Palestine, This Is Not A Subject For Comedy (although it is with him), to Dr Kaboom who catapults bananas at small children as part of a live scientific experiment. Ben Miller's Stand Up Science offers a range of information starting with the fascinating medical phenomenon that is his own body.

Miller is not the punchiest of performers and overuses powerpoint, but I will never forget that oregano has 50 times more protein than milk. Nor the feeling of shame that I do not have a favourite element from the periodic table. Nor the spontaneous outpouring of caring, sympathy and advice from us, his first day audience when he becomes visibly unwell. And struggles on. Spirit of the Fringe. And sleep-deprivation, apparently.

More punch is to be found with Alex Farrow, who has been fascinating to watch turn from a philosophy teacher doing stand-up, to a stand-up who once was a philosophy teacher. As his confidence and technique have grown, so the academic level philosophy element has reduced. I rather miss it but Alex is now a slick and accomplished stand-up who has the skills to find the sexual funny in BF Skinner, to worry us into laughter at the growing sentience of AI and to encourage us all to disobedience and justify it philosophically.

We also get some stories about Come Dine With Me and a lengthy discussion on the hand gesture which, for purposes of publication in The Scotsman I will refer to as “The Shocker”.

The Alternative Book Club is a quintessential Fringe Experience for me, starting as it does with the heart-in-mouth entertainment offered by a burly techie on a wobbly ladder poking at a dodgy looking projector with a screwdriver. He gets a round of applause. The show is hosted (and created by) Shirley Halse who manages to be funny, friendly and focused, all with a small girl called Bramble in a harness on her back. The cost of daycare in Edinburgh, along with everything else, is out of reach of the Fringe-creating performer.

Bramble, however, has great stage presence and plays peek-a-boo with two young women in the front row while her mother guides us through the Louvre and introduces Chelsea Birkby (chosen book "Be A Great Stand Up Comic”), Alex Farrow who doesn't have a book but worries that the machines are coming for our jobs and has one for a therapist, and headliner (or 'Top Shelf Comic', under the circs') anaesthetist Ed Gamble, who cheekily brings his OWN book along but if his set today is anything to go by, it might be worth getting a copy.

I am so glad I am at these shows, they are the Fringe experience, they give audiences a 360 degree enjoyment that comedy alone cannot do. Which is why we come to Edinburgh in August. Kate Copstick

Alex Farrow: Philosophy Machines until 28 August

Alternative Book Club until 28 August

Ben Miller's Stand Up Science until 28 August

Patrick Monahan: Classy ***

Just the Tonic at the Caves (Venue 88)

It is fascinating (in a good way) to see a performer who has spent so many frenzied, huggy years being more easily distracted on stage than a toddler with ADHD turn into a proper storyteller. Frenzy and hugging were Monahan's schtick, and it was fun to watch. Sometimes frustrating but fun. Now he is positively relaxed - enough that his hour has a delightfully gentle vibe.

Of course, he still wraps himself (metaphorically) around his audience, but this show is all about the story. It is helped by having one hell of a story to tell. Just to give you a flavour: Irish father meets Iranian mother, baby Pat's first home in Khuzestan province is bombed and so the family drive 18,000 miles to Redcar. Where things get even less predictable.

Of course we get fun with pubic hair, Married at First Sight, the threatening sound of Arabic, strawberries as home security and some pointed observations on Gen Z. But life in a caravan, goats, seagulls and the Joys of Redcar are entertaining enough to make us glad that, when Pat runs out of time, he offers to email us the bits he didn't manage to do. With someone like Pat, you believe him. Kate Copstick

Until 28 August

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