Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Laura Davis | God Damn Fancy Man | Wil Hodgson | Christy Coysh | Frank Foucoult
Laura Davis: If This Is It ****
Monkey Barrel Comedy, Carnivore 1, until 28 August
Laura Davis used to be such a cute comedian when she started out at 19, she reassures us, sharing one of her animal-related gags from that period. The Australian never sought to be a tubthumping political act. But circumstances have forced her to make a clean breast of her views, for a passionate advocacy of the arts' role at this time of multiple crises. Due to border restrictions, the still currently homeless comic was locked down for 14 months in New Zealand at her mother-in-law's through the pandemic, advising her UK landlord over Zoom which of her possessions she wanted to keep and which he could toss – a bleak day. Davis' response to the isolation however was to embrace it, becoming a woman of the woods, sleeping rough, washing in streams and performing stand-up alone to the trees. What some might uncharitably class as a mental breakdown, afforded her a sense of renewed purpose and an edge for lashing out at civilisation for its misguided priorities.
Throughout the more playful, ridiculous aspects of her career, Davis has expressed existential angst about her role as an artist and whether comedy qualifies her as such, while valorising the arts in general. And here, while also noting the pressing concern of climate change, she makes a defiant stand for the arts not being passed over as the world rebuilds post-Covid. Sincere depth of feeling growls from her. Yet her dense, joke-packed diatribe is delivered with the knowing, unhinged glint of her apocalyptic woodswoman experience, as if she has nothing to lose while laying almost everything bare. There's a rabble-rousing energy and revolutionary zeal to her call to arms that Davis affects could tip into bloodshed. In reality though, she surfs it with considerable elan, making serious points with wonderfully silly flourishes. Jay Richardson
God Damn Fancy Man ***
Laughing Horse @ City Café, until 28 August
James Nokise is always in command of his room. His is a very comfortable hour and, generously, he makes his small audience feel very relaxed. Some comics don't. But James is a grown up. Chilled but warm, intelligent and funny, to the extent that, when he tells us about his first suicide attempt, we actually feel we know him well enough for him to be telling us about it. Looking at my notes I realise that this is actually a show full of darkness brought into the light by Nokise's skill as a communicator. Of course there are a lot of laughs, many of them drawn from a glorious treasure trove of fascinating and funny stories about his Samoan family and language. As Will Smith looks down from the wall of the venue, Leonard Cohen and Moana, gay overtures and gender fluidity all gently sit alongside a consideration of how bullshit spreads, a great Janey Godley impression (for a Samoan), and – finally – a full translation of the Maori haka. This is not the most exciting show around but it is a lovely, relaxing, funny hour in the hands of a fascinating comic. Kate Copstick
Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies ****
Just the Tonic at The Caves, until 28 August
I have just paid Wil Hodgson twenty quid for some of his “lovely porn for nice people.” But more of this anon. I am at his first show in Edinburgh for years, and the brand ambassador for the People's Republic of Chippenham has lost none of his funny. Deadpan delivery has never come this fast but entirely non-furious. Be happy you are not paying him by the word. The newbie who took Care Bears, My Little Ponies and pink mohicans to the very pinnacle of comedy as we knew it (Perrier Best Newcomer Award) in 2004 has grown up, settled down and inherited his mother's barber's shop business. He is loving it. And having that 'proper job' that comics are often 'advised' to get provides some great chunks of funny for us.
But, as ever, the great, deep joy of the hour is filled with Wil's passions and, while he hasn't put away the Bears and Ponies entirely (check out his tats), they have given over the limelight for this show to Mad Frankie Fraser, safe-blowers and the beheading of the Duke of Monmouth. Wil also turns out to be a great comedy actor and his portrayal of a famed gentleman safe-blower chatting to a New York gangster is an absolute joy. There is no real theme to this show (which is a massive relief); it is that most captivating of things, an hour with someone sharing his various passions with you. The Costa del Crime, the Dark 60s and the importance of the oche in gender identity politics might not be for everyone, but if anyone can turn you on to the simple joys of True Crime on TV, Wil Hodgson can. It is SO good to have him back. And the chance to pick up a free, hand-drawn, mini-mag that is a kind of mega-saucy body-positive adult Beano is absolutely not to me missed. Kate Copstick
Christy Coysh: Bangarang! ***
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Nip), until 28 August
Christy Coysh's Fringe debut doesn't quite have the material to stretch to a full hour, reprising a signature bit and instigating rather too much crowd work on occasion. But last year's Musical Comedy Award-winner offers a real blast of sonic foolishness, pumping up the room and blowing the doors off his show. The flamboyant, supremely talented Prince gave the unpromising locale of Minneapolis its own funk rock sound. And Coysh is trying something similar for Wakefield in West Yorkshire, extolling its civic virtues in raps, croons and with the aid of looping technology. Blessed with a physique that's less lithe dancer than irrepressible party animal, he's a magnetic mover when he appears from behind his keyboard, his jerking dinosaur impression the abiding memory you'll take with you. The lyrics impressive enough, if distinctly secondary to his performance skills, Coysh's persona is as much pioneering artiste as it is party firestarter. But he punctures the faux pretentiousness somewhat by also appearing as his own, aggressive New York agent Max Atrocity, a bulldozer of a man whose support of his client is dubious at best. Whipping up his crowd and delivering a series of genuinely banging set-pieces that, admittedly, seem a bit slighter in the cold light of morning, Coysh has nevertheless announced himself as one to watch here. Jay Richardson
Frank Foucoult: Songs ****
Just The Tonic at the Mash House, until 28 August
Frank is a serious musician, he tells us. I hesitate to disagree with such a charming, talented and smartly dressed young man (his parents are in the audience and they are radiating righteous pride), but I would suggest that he is more seriously funny than simply serious. The show is called Songs and it is absolutely packed with the things. Frank's way with a lyric is of the 'why bother making everything scan, or even rhyme, when you can frequently get a huge laugh from taking a thought for a walk and letting the music catch up when it can' school of songwriting. It removes the possibility of guessing the joke at the end of a rhyming line – unless Frank wants you to. Which is just wonderful.
He fearlessly takes the hack 'call and response' of audience participation to its logical conclusion in between songs (sadly, no one in tonight knows Calum Archer, Frank's former boss). He also really likes to moan and I am enjoying his absolutely delightful hour so much that when he uses the word “normalcy” I do not have it in me to tut loudly, as is my wont. The show has a 'sad song', songs that are apologies for other songs, autobiographical songs and a glorious outpouring of “pure jealous hatred” directed at Gen Z. When we are allowed to decide where to put his capo for one of the later songs, we all become big crying babies and I think I speak for the entire audience when I say his attempt at “intensity” was, how can I put it: “intense”. The spirit of Jake Thackray certainly wafts by a couple of times but what we are lucky enough to get here is a unique comedy voice. Intelligent, funny and with perfectly judged levels of weird. Kate Copstick