Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Yuriko Kotani: Kaiju About | Emmanuel Sonubi: Emancipated | Josh Glanc: Vrooom Vrooom | Joseph Parsons: Equaliser | Richard Pulsford: A Bit More Rich

A magical storyteller battling it out with shadow puppets, an ex-bouncer with a surprising soft side and a snack-inspired singalong all feature in our latest round-up of Fringe comedy. Reviews by Claire Smith, Jay Richardson and Kate Copstick

Yuriko Kotani: Kaiju About ****

Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), until 29 August

Dressed in a bright pink jumpsuit, next to a table laid with roses and teacups, Yuriko Kotani has created a show about self-care. During lockdown she experienced a break up and found herself homeless, as well as being separated from her family in Japan. So she’s had a lot to contend with – not to mention having to battle with the monsters in her head that tell her she’s not good enough.

Yuriko KotaniYuriko Kotani
Yuriko Kotani

Kotani has a magical way of telling a story that brings in horror, ghosts and Disney movies. Her imagination transforms everyday battles into something extraordinary. So an encounter with a fox, a racist, or a dripping tap can become some kind of superhero battle in Kotani’s hands. Her inner monster is projected as a shadow puppet on the wall – allowing Kotani to interrogate her own subconscious.

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Using stories, jokes, self-help tips and movie metaphors she dreams up creative answers to her problems and transforms her life. She’s delighted to be back in Edinburgh and she wants to share her discoveries with us.

Kotani ends her show on a satisfying upbeat and positive note. Nothing is serious. Laughter is strong. And in life, everything changes for the better. Claire Smith

Emmanuel Sonubi: Emancipated ***

Underbelly, Bristo Square (The Dairy Room) (Venue 302), until 29 August

Despite his relative inexperience, Emmanuel Sonubi is a distinctive, classily polished act, as evidenced by him having an impressive CV of TV credits before he's even performed his first Fringe show. Not that the festival is the be all and end all for a comedy career. But he's got the backstory and immediate stage presence to command a storytelling hour in what’s a sizeable room for a debutante.

A hulking guy with a massively intimidating stare when required, the former bouncer quickly and endearingly lets you know that it was all front. Sure, he’s got some amusing tales about the idiots who tried and laughably failed to get past him into nightclubs. But Sonubi admits that when it came to confrontation, there was no bigger chancer than himself. A musical theatre geek who grew up intimidated by his five older sisters, his soft underbelly is further exposed when he reveals the heart scare he suffered in 2019. Whether that instilled a spirit of carpe diem in him isn’t dwelt upon.

But despite some reflections on the nature of division in the world, Sonubi is a mainstream comic down to his biceps and he tends to focus on less interesting, more relatable fare. His ascendancy appears assured but he has got more to offer comedically. Jay Richardson

Josh Glanc: Vrooom Vrooom ****

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Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive) (Hive 2) (Venue 313), until 28 August

Josh Glanc has a propensity for big, cartoonish characters, often with a hyper-masculinity bordering on toxic that barely masks their extreme, childlike vulnerability. And with a tremendous commitment to silliness, he really throws himself into his shows. But this time round, as well as making musical elements almost universally a feature of his skits, which segue smoothly between one another with little fuss or grandstanding, he’s added real consistency.

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From his opening – with the Australian wandering through the crowd offering snacks, the roll call of goodies gradually forming together into a toe-tapping rock’n’roll number – Glanc’s quality control is superb, everything rich and strange but with a steady baseline of laughs and periodic eruptions of hilarity. In tennis whites and with his retro, almost prop-looking moustache, he offers an upbeat, anthemic tune extolling that It's Great to be Here!, which feels authentic and really sets the abiding, joyful mood of the hour.

A long distance haulier’s self-defining, vocational pride in his truck is amusing enough, the rapid lyrical density oddly mesmeric, until his blinkered confidence evaporates, the song evolving into an apparently schizophrenic self-romance. Another highlight among many is a commercial for a Christmas album, the character’s enthusiastically hard-sell, slightly sibilant voice mangling the names of the pop hits. But then wonderfully, he is suddenly stripped of Yuletide cheer as he engages in a phone conversation with an ex-lover.

Elsewhere, a relatively straight song about a lonely tree, admittedly performed in a tree costume, is a nice change of mood. Throughout, Glanc’s crowd interaction is masterful, carefully scripted with some great gags but allowing him enough scope to be loose so that he can make the performance feel special. When he self-consciously marvels that he's 37 and used to be a lawyer it is with a flicker of self-reproach. Yet law’s loss is undoubtedly comedy’s gain. Jay Richardson

Joseph Parsons: Equaliser ***

Just the Tonic at The Mash House (Just the Bottle Room) (Venue 288), until 28 August

In his slight but entertaining hour, Joseph Parsons lays plenty of his neuroses bare and tackles the difficulties he experiences as a gay football fan. What was once regarded as a contradiction in terms is now a more pressing concern than ever with this year’s World Cup being held in Qatar where homosexuality is illegal.

A follower of Bristol City FC and England, Parsons has heard plenty of homophobia on the terraces. But he’s also routinely perceived as straight in his personal life, prompting some searching questions about his identity, but also allowing him to be a shrewd, undetected observer of the ways in which more traditional masculinities and laddish heterosexuality present themselves.

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The quirks and cliches of football culture are useful markers for him to elucidate his personal journey, which covers unrequited love and body consciousness. And he’s an amiable, eager-to-please act, sharing his take on John Barnes’ famous World In Motion rap and a brilliant closing music video of him and his rainbow flag getting acclaimed at an England game.

Decrying the idea that politics can or should be kept out of sport, he could dig deeper into the corruption and tokenistic approaches of the football authorities, but that might come at the expense of sidelining his own story. Jay Richardson

Richard Pulsford: A Bit More Rich **

theSPace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53), until 27 August

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Never forget how fragile comedy can be. Or how labour-intensive (140 jokes in the show), and difficult to perform, an hour of one-liners is. Richard Pulsford’s strength is more as a writer than a performer and his diffident stage persona doesn’t particularly sell the funny here. I can imagine that listening to his gentle, chuckle-inducing material in a ten-minute spot in a club would be terrific. He certainly packs in the jokes. Stephen Hawking becomes unexpectedly entertaining here and alongside somewhat convoluted puns, we get lots of silly-funny stuff about pelicans, Sean Connery and death. There is even a knob gag. Kate Copstick