Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Tim Key: Mulberry | How to Record the Greatest Album of All Time | Josie Long: Re-Enchantment | Janeane Garofalo: Pardon My Tangent | Sam Morrison: Sugar Daddy
Tim Key's application for household name status may have been lost in the pandemic post but he's still a Fringe superstar, and the pick our latest bunch of comedy reviews. Words by Fiona Shepherd and Claire Smith.
Tim Key: Mulberry ****
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), until 17 Aug, and then at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 28 August
To lockdown or not to lockdown – that is the question for comedians this Fringe. Whether tis nobler to bury the trauma of the last two years and opt for something less boring instead or to address the elephant in the room and, by confronting, achieve a glorious communal catharsis?
Thankfully Tim Key has chosen the latter approach for his latest hour, although in his case the elephant is his front door just standing (or falling) there like a banal version of the 2001: A Space Odyssey obelisk. This stage set also comes with ensuite fridge, stocked with Key’s favourite rodent-related beer brand which he may or may not share with the game front row, handily doubling as his lager lackeys.
Key is attired for much of the hour, not in his habitual crumpled suit, but in a fetching velour tracksuit – was this the very garb in which he undertook his daily exercise in the first lockdown (quickly established as everyone’s favourite lockdown), or was it his lounging gear of choice while confined to barracks and descending into an alcoholic fug with solvents on the side? All will be revealed, though it’s not hard to guess, especially when he starts ordering cows on Amazon.
Key’s career, dating status and very sanity may have taken a knock around March 2020 but some things have survived the pandemic, not least his playing card poems, this time printed out on a movie poster-themed deck and flowing as poetically and sardonically as ever, tracing Key’s gleeful outrage but also his appreciation of the little things, like paintwork.
There’s never a bad time to namecheck University Challenge. Key fears his application for household name status may have been lost in the pandemic post but at least he is now famous enough to be the subject of a quiz question - even if contestants aren’t sure of the answer. Fiona Shepherd
How to Record the Greatest Album of All Time ***
Just the Tonic at the Mash House (Venue 288), Until 28 August
Despite strong competition from existing albums by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Lauryn Hill and insert-your-own-favourite-here, music critic-turned-comedian Tom GK reacted to the privations of lockdown by commencing work on a mid-life crisis album to match the all-time greats - and here it is as rendered live on a beautiful duck egg blue semi-acoustic guitar.
Unsurprisingly, the bits between the songs are the real meat of How to Record the Greatest Album of All Time. GK is a sweet and engaging music theory enthusiast, like a humble, humorous Howard Goodall, as he introduces the satisfaction of musical resolution and the characters behind chords, experienced through the prism of his synaesthesia, a condition where he sees music as colour.
GK hears differently too since being diagnosed with NF2 (“the really shit sequel”) and going deaf in one ear – he presents his diagnosis in the form of an X Factor sob story but the room is stilled by his softly matter-of-fact storytelling. Effectively he had us by half way through side one, with no thanks to the song about falling in love on Zoom. In the end it’s two stars for the album but thumbs up to the show. Fiona Shepherd
Josie Long: Re-Enchantment ***
Monkey Barrel (Venue 515), until 28 August
Josie Long has a lot to tell us. She’s breathlessly excited to be back on stage again at the Edinburgh Fringe. She’s had two children, moved to Glasgow and tried and failed to bring Jeremy Corbyn to power.
Long’s disappointment at Corbyn’s defeat has completely blindsided her. She’d like to like Nicola Sturgeon, but can’t quite manage. However she is in love with Scotland and is endlessly touched and moved by the day to day reality of her newly adopted country.
Long, as always, has a beautiful turn of phrase. Her descriptions of things, whether they are parks or rain or beetles, will enchant and delight you. Whether she is talking about her encounter with a Tory voting pest control man or describing her daughter’s attempts to control her bed time stories she infuses her every day stories with majesty and power.
Long is reliably scathing about anti-woke right wing comics and she’s quietly raging about the environment and the cost of living crisis. While there are laughs aplenty she slightly overdoes the political speech making. Still, it’s always a pleasure to see Josie Long.Her unique voice, her passion and her joy are an integral part of the Edinburgh Fringe. Claire Smith
Janeane Garofalo: Pardon My Tangent **
Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue 14), until 28 August
Janeane Garofalo seems confused. Disoriented doesn’t even begin to cover it. She wanders on and off the stage, talking about underwear, traffic, drug stores. Sometimes her words dissolve into a kind of soup. There is the odd flash of coherence, which you hold onto desperately before everything dissolves once again in a fog of incomprehension. You briefly wonder if this is some sort of high art comedy jazz. For a woman with such a long and illustrious career in comedy it is an unfathomable spectacle.The audience is willing Garofalo to get it together but she never does, for an utterly baffling hour. Claire Smith
Sam Morrison: Sugar Daddy ***
Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue 14), until 29 August
Last time he came to the Fringe Sam Morrison made a show about sugar daddies - and how much he loved his older boyfriend. Since then his beloved partner died of Covid, and Morrison has returned to talk about death, grief and memory.His descriptions of lockdown, when the two men holed up in his Grandmas’s house are evocative and sad.And there is no denying the depth of emotion here, when he talks about a wonderful relationship which has gone. Morrison has some interesting things to say about the way we talk about death and grief. And we get a real sense he wants to honour his partner by telling their story.Unfortunately Morrison’s style of comedy does not fit well with this narrative. He has a tendency to make all his punchlines repetitive references to sex. His sub plot about diabetes does not really harmonise. And there is too much musical theatre in his mannerisms and tone Often a comic will hold onto an important story until they have the skill to make it work. Morrison says this is a story he had to tell - but perhaps he has told it too soon. Claire Smith