Fringe comedy reviews: Elaine Miller | Logs | Extreme Nonsense | Peter Buckley Hill | Consignia | Daniel Downie | Obie

The good news down at the comedy end of the Fringe is that it is pretty much all good news. Rooms are full and the disappearance of entire buildings under posters of so-so comics with “as seen on some ego-building, life-wasting, laugh-vacuum of an even more banal panel show” straplines has been avoided completely.
Elaine MillerElaine Miller
Elaine Miller

There are few flyerers, no PR agents, no Big Management Teams and the comics themselves are happy. Of course, you can pay Live Nation 15 quid to see Henning Wehn try some stuff that might not be funny enough to go into his tour, but why would you do that when there is nso much to make you laugh on … what was it they used to call it … The Fringe ?

The Fringe is the kind of place where a woman in an interactive vulva costume takes her audience on a wander round the Old Town in a twenty strong bubble filled with as heady a mix of laughter, amazement, admiration and anger as you will ever experience. Elaine Miller (****) is as ferocious as she is funny and every stop on her walka-talkabout is packed with extraordinary and fascinating facts wrapped in earthy language and laughs. We get medical misogyny and the monster that was J Marion Sims, suffragettes, the urinary leash and the toilets in Nicolson Square, why The Vagina Monologues were wrong and everything you ever wanted to know about your (and anyone else's) squidgy bits. By the time we reach Greyfriar's Bobby and Elaine is sticking her pubic hair on (accidentally dislodging her clitoris as she does so), we would follow her anywhere, learning and laughing. Take your daughters, take your sons. Take your husband.

Hide Ad

If you like your comedy mildly incomprehensible, you are spoiled for choice this month. The gently, sweetly ridiculous trio who brought us the Malcolm Hardee Award winning Legs have followed it up with the equally delightful Logs (****) Just changing one letter opens the door to a wonderful wooden world of loggy laughter with Julia Masili and the Duncan Brothers. The childlike earnestness of a big man wearing a little log cabin, or a woman dressed as a tree pulling laughs out of almost nothing, are a great, giggly joy. Flyering by the genial Shaun with his big blow up log (“Sketch show, dead funny. Free”) has garnered an odd crowd. “This is rad,'” says a confused bloke behind me. But he stays. And he laughs. You wood laugh too.

Rob Duncan, Dan Lees and Tom Curzon offer Extreme Nonsense (****) and that is exactly what we get. They harness the power of 'nice' and make of it an irresistible force. Whenever the thinking part of your brain begins to say 'but this is just silly!', you find you cannot do anything except giggle. Toy trains, support babies, apocalyptic visions of what will happen if we all don't pull together and the promise of 'themes' lead into quite a lot of audience participation, but don't panic, no one here wants to know where you are from or what your job is. We sing, we cry like babies, we go 'groovy', learn that “we want it” and find a positive message in a song about poo and landslides. Fans of the violin and guitar are in for a treat.

More guitar led treats are in store at Peter Buckley Hill's (****) solo show which any connoisseur of the comedically idiosyncratic, the surreal singalong and (perhaps unexpectedly) Gregorian Chant will love as much as I do. There is a special thrill to be had when someone with an enormous brain chooses musical comedy silliness as a performing medium. And no one does that better than PBH.

Incomprehensibility, each year, reaches its apotheosis with Consignia (****). They eschew likeability, pretty much entirely, creating instead a kind of Dadaist comedy that comes teeteringly close to shambolic and inept, leaving you to work out whether that is deliberate, or actual. It is unsettling. Which, I suspect, is just what they want. Mark Dean Quinn, an absolute Eyore of a comedian, is irritated that we are all far too sober to enjoy the show. But what's not to enjoy about a man in a high visibility jacket rubbing Vick’s over his face and sitting for 40 minutes with his head in a bucket? To paraphrase Pierre de Coubertin: it is not the laughing that counts, but the taking part.

Hide Ad

I am deeply ashamed to admit that, until this year, I failed to see that there is an entire Festival of Scottish Comedy running through August at The Beehive in Grassmarket. The best haggis in the world comes from Dingwall, and they turn out some excellent comics as well, so should you fancy a wee daunder through some Scots language and history as the fascinating basis for an hour of quality laughter (including jobbies, boabies and the rest, don't worry) Daniel Downie (****) is yer man. Wallace, Bruce and Burns are here alongside the unicorn and the midgie and Rabbie himself would, I think, have highly approved of what Daniel did To A Louse.

More homegrown laughs are to be enjoyed with Obie (****) who has the natural comedy gifts of the Glaswegian and the skill and experience to use them to peak funniness. This is an hour of laughter with no real theme, no dead dad, no clever subtext and no revelations at the end. It is that too often dismissed type of Edinburgh show, the 'just funny' hour. The entire room rocks with laughter, pretty much constantly. “It's all made up, these are just jokes,” he reminds us every so often. And jokes there are, about painting stripes on a budgie, comedy as therapy, funny friends and so much else that is honestly only funny when he says it. So go and see him and you will understand. This is a body-and-soul funny man.

Hide Ad

Elaine Miller walking tour tickets can be booked here. Extreme Nonsense, PBH Free Fringe, until 21 August, 4pm. Daniel Downie, Scottish Comedy Festival @ the Beehive Inn, 2pm, until 29 August. Obie performs New Shit I’ve Just Made Up at the Globe Bar, 2.15pm, and The F*** It List, Banshee Labyrinth, 5.40pm, both until 29 August. Peter Buckley Hill: How Does He Smell, Canon's Gait, 6.40pm, 19-24 and 26-29 August. All other shows, run ended.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at