Our critics have handpicked five top rated, laugh-out-loud and surprising comedy shows they have seen so far.
Catherine Cohen: The Twist...? She’s Gorgeous, Pleasance Courtyard - Beneath * * * *
“Hot mess” seems an outmoded label for fabulous chanteuse Catherine Cohen. Because if, as she purringly declares, she’s the voice of her generation, this millennial New Yorker has apparently absorbed and erased the boundaries of ironically detached performance. Gilt-edged glamorous and off-the-cuff witty from the get-go, her stream-of-consciousness is at once exotic, pretentious and Instagram-speak moronic.
The tragic subtext of cabaret convention is replaced with a completely upfront admission of how problematic but weirdly wonderful her life is.
Accompanied by the dutiful, permanently amused Henry Koperski on keyboard, she launches into her introductory number, tracking a lack of male attention at school through to her comedy career. In one important regard Cohen is an absolute throwback, a trouper of the old school, unable to extricate her winning smile from the pain and bewilderment. An hour in her company is a unique and confusing delight.
Until 25 August
Goodbear: Dougal, Pleasance Dome * * * *
This show is an hilarious Slinky, tumbling down the stairs of funny, each sketch morphing into the next on the changing of a sound cue or a lighting effect. Some are funnier than others but they are all clever stuff.
The opener, set in the heat of battle, is an excruciatingly funny parody, the ongoing, cross-country romance of Florence and Walter is a wonderful running (well, walking) gag, sexual tension at a nineteenth century ball is pitch perfect and even darkness is embraced in the spooky puppet sketch which has the best (one of the few) punchline in the show. Hypnotists and great apes, the Delvavado Sisters and Albert the homecoming hero all pour out across the floor in their own kind of funny.
The craft and the care in this show are hugely impressive. This is aspirational and inspirational sketch comedy. Until 25 August
Adventures in Dementia - Steve Day, Laughing Horse at The Lock Up * * * *
Steve Day, Britain’s only deaf comedian, tells the story of his father in this beautifully written hour.
His Dad died last year, after slowly losing his mind to Alzheimer’s Disease. But this show celebrates the man as he was – squaddie, semi professional footballer, champion bricklayer, husband and father.
Day, who thanks to the latest generation of hearing aids, is able to hear music for the first time since childhood, uses a soundtrack of nostalgic hits to evoke the different eras of his father’s life. He sings along, invites the audience to join in and even does a dance routine – such is his joy at being able to hear music after being deprived of it for so long. His story is funny, wise and full of tenderness. It’s the exceptionally well told story of an ordinary family, which reminds us of the wonder at the heart of everyday life. Until 10 August
Leo Kerse: Transgressive, Gilded Balloon, Teviot * * * *
At the risk of ruining his publicity, he is not, on the face of this show, remotely transphobic, racist or any of the other things of which he has been accused.
He is not exactly Chris Martin, of course, but the fact he gets belly laughs out of global warming, self-identification and the unequal distribution of white privilege does not make him a racist, transphobic monster, just a very good comic, with something of an aversion to boundaries.
Kerse talks about his own experience being abused by a university doctor. He makes the whole thing ridiculously funny. He also talks about his personal relationship with Dani, who is a trans woman. Much of what he says in this hour is genuinely thought-provoking. Although much of the hour is spent in hugely entertaining poking of the woke, this is a warm and personal show. Until 25 August
Luca Cupani: Lives I Never Lived, Just The Tonic at The Mash House * * * *
The better he gets as a comedian – and he is getting better all the time – the less Luca Cupani's niceness seems like simply a characteristic and more like a superpower. This show has a neat and clever theme, being an examination of some of the careers he fancied but never took up. Which, in hindsight, is just as well for the Catholic Church, the French Foreign Legion and the Japanese Samurai sword industry.
Horrific suicide techniques, the appalling crimes of the Catholic Church and even the tragedy of Fukoshima get his gentle ‘less is more’ treatment. He is also capable of fantastic moments of reductio ad absurdum, as he ponders the whole ‘life flashing in front of you’ thing. And, quite unexpectably, we are treated to a fun section on the complexity of Japanese grammar.
This show is a huge tangle of comedy pathways all lit up by his charm and gently bewildered persona. This is a lovely hour. Until 25 August