Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviews: Simon David: Dead Dad Show | Simon Munnery’s Jerusalem | Phil Green: Four Weddings and a Breakdown | Robin Ince: Weapons of Empathy | Ginny Hogan: Regression

Five stars barely suffice for Simon David's ingenious Dead Dad Show, while Fringe veterans Simon Munnery and Robin Ince continue to entertain and inspire, in our latest batch of Edinburgh comedy reviews

Simon David: Dead Dad Show *****

Underbelly (Venue 302) until 27 August

Five stars somehow feel inadequate for this joyous, hilarious, brilliant, witty, sparkly campfest of a show. The writing is eye-wateringly smart and tight, and time after time echoes the wit that characterises the Airplane film scripts. Simon David is an extraordinarily charismatic triple threat of a performer, and the staging is studded with clever little 'moments' and transitions. There is not a missed comedy beat in the entire hour.

The back of the performing space is taken up with a screen that, on its own, flashes up more funny than many entire shows. We open with Everyone's Talking About Simey, who is a boy, but he's wearing a skirt. And his dad dies (Northern Lung). This glorious, screaming spoof is interrupted by the first of several phonecalls from the absent director. And we get another layer of laughs in our mille feuille of fun. The show is unexpectable at every turn and now we sashay from Simey at the Prom deep down into the tragedy of The Normal Hole. Those of you with more refined sensibilities should be warned that there is a lot of dick in this Hole - and many other orifices as well. His dad, of course, dies (Nose AIDS). Simon then goes 'real' and offers a stand up set like no other I have seen. Yes, he 'goes there'. And 'says it like it is'. Where 'there' is is not entirely clear. There are at least three five star shows here along with stilletto sharp stabs at the Arts Council, TikTok, self indulgent Edinburgh Fringe shows and the Olivier Awards.

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The final section of the hour dances cheek to cheek with genius. So I will not spoil the thrill for you. Except to say that, yet again, his dad does die. Simon is, to put it mildly, a tad obsessed with awards. This show deserves them all. Kate Copstick

Simon Munnery’s Jerusalem ****

The Stand Comedy Club (Venue 5) until 28 August

Simon David: Dead Dad ShowSimon David: Dead Dad Show
Simon David: Dead Dad Show

On my way out of Simon Munnery’s show at The Stand I bump into another well-known comic. “I’ve just been to see Simon Munnery,” I say. “Well, you have to don’t you,” he says, “I go every year.”

There’s something utterly refreshing about Munnery’s shows. You come out feeling like you’ve had a bath, an afternoon nap or a walk in the woods. They are organic, with effortless laughter, and the time whizzes by whatever Munnery decides to do. Today we have poetry, Bob Dylan impressions and dissection of William Blake’s poem Jerusalem, with animations. Munnery does not particularly analyse the content of the poem so much as the structure, finding absurd patterns in its construction.

There’s a discourse on heaven, with particular reference to a camping ground in Norfolk. And he throws in perfectly crafted epigrams which demolish capitalism. Munnery satirises the nonsensical thinking behind corporate slogans. He’s a revolutionary at heart.

It would be hard to imagine a Fringe without Simon Munnery, but he almost didn’t come this year.Without his usual flat at The Stand he was facing sleeping in a tent, and the ground is cold and he’s getting older. He almost turned back at Peterborough when the phone call came through to say the flat was unexpectedly available again. It’s all in the show – or it was when I saw it. Perhaps it will be in the show when you see it too.

There is always a mixture of old and new in a Munnery show and it evolves in the course of the Fringe into something fully formed and beautiful. But it’s good to see the work in progress. Good to see it taking shape before your eyes.

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There are bits of Alan Parker in this one, bits of the League Against Tedium – and a new character – an upper class old duffer who miraculously appears when Munnery removes his glasses. Perhaps we’ll see more of him in future. Claire Smith

Phil Green: Four Weddings and a Breakdown ***

PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth (Venue 156) until 27 August

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It’s common for comedians to obsess over a theme for their Edinburgh show - a subject to provide a narrative arc, elevate it above those whose sole purpose is just to provide some chuckles, and attract the attention of awards judges. Phil Green loves a theme so much that he has three; it’s almost certainly two too many.

The quartet of matrimonial ceremonies and mental health issues of the title are all present and correct, but take a fair while to arrive and are the least successful section. Better is an enjoyably stereotypical examination of the various demographic cohorts, from baby boomers to Gen Z, which leaks into the rest of the set, although it takes a brave man to say in front of an Edinburgh audience that only boomers believe Sean Connery is the best James Bond. Then there’s pop trio the Sugababes, whose constantly-changing line-up and discography are married up to events in the performer’s life.

Everything just about comes together in a warm and fuzzy conclusion with callbacks aplenty, but a little more focus could have turned an enjoyable hour into something more than the sum of its (many) parts. David Hepburn

Robin Ince: Weapons of Empathy ****

Gilded Balloon At The Museum (Venue 64) until 27 August

“I don’t have time for this” seems to be the unintentional catchphrase of Robin Ince’s self-described “gentle show”, which turns out to be anything but, as he takes the audience on a frantic exploration of books, art, life, the universe, and everything.

The co-host of BBC Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage is well-known in Edinburgh for performing multiple shows - a few years ago you could build an entire day’s schedule around his remarkable work ethic. This year he’s down to just the two (he also has an evening show at The Stand) but on current form he has enough material for several more. Hasty glances at the clock regrettably bringing a string of entertaining tangents to an end, while his delivery quickens with every passing minute. Such are the constraints of a single hour that he starts early, those turning up on time having already missed a giveaway of Bunty comics and Fringe recommendations.

The title of the show comes from his ambition to collect the audience’s weapons of empathy; music, books or art that “help you understand yourself or other people”. His intention is to curate them in an online museum and and a loss-making art exhibition - jesting the lack of profitability proving that he’s still an artist.

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He admits to being “obsessed with almost everything”, but his main passion is illustrated by the books and ephemera piled on the stage, providing an obvious but accurate metaphor for Ince’s own hyperactive magpie brain. These bookshop finds inspire and shape the show, each one plucked out to provide an anecdote, life lesson or joke.

It’s a pleasure to spend time with Ince, who manages to be both funny and inspirational. Whose life wouldn’t be improved by his suggestion of swapping the morning trawl through social media and culture war columnists for a few pages of Derek Jarman or Tove Jansson? David Hepburn

Ginny Hogan: Regression ***

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14) until 27 August

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There’s no lack of ambition in this well-structured biographical story of life as an American millennial, opening with sexual awakenings courtesy of Monica Lewinsky and concluding in the present day 24 years later.

The fiercely-intelligent Hogan’s former career as a data scientist inspires her to use numbers to try and work out what went wrong in her 20s, an early graph showing her number of weekly dates increasing in relation to how much she drinks. It’s a jumping-off point for a growing alcohol dependency that stalks all that follows, including a string of short-term jobs and mental health crises.This may all sound terribly serious, but she’s an expert in mining humour from unlikely sources - from AA to ADHD - so there’s never too long to wait for the next laugh.

It’s unfortunate that the whole enterprise ends up teetering on the line between comedy and the self-help industry so beloved of her adopted Los Angeles home. “Life is hard, sobriety means you have to face it”, she solemnly opines, with no punchline following to puncture the well-meaning pomposity. Flagging up her own privilege via a bond-trading mother and an expensive education also risks alienating the audience, although by the end it’s impossible not to root for her. David Hepburn