Fringe comedy reviews: Jay Lafferty | The Best of Scottish Comedy | The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society

After a long hiatus, comics are relishing the energy of a live audience.
Jay LaffertyJay Lafferty
Jay Lafferty

Eight and a half months pregnant the last time she performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, Jay Lafferty now has a raft of routines about struggling to entertain a toddler. It's been a long pandemic. Fortunately, the breezily conversational Glaswegian is one of Scottish stand-up's safest pair of hands. And in Jay Lafferty: Blether 3stars, she focuses almost entirely on the grinding nature of life through Covid with wry cynicism and light, genial warmth.

The futility of lockdown self-improvement, be it wild swimming or other abandoned hobbies, are capably if straightforwardly critiqued. She's more compelling on the human relationships she's formed recently, from her seething dislike of her midwife, the Edinburgh “character” finding beauty in a street scene of animal savagery, to her encounter with her teenage self from the 1990s, prompted by returning to the time capsule of her bedroom at her parents' house. Culminating in a mortifying tale of revenge against a cheating boyfriend gone awry, it's the messily personal truth that elevates this entertaining hour above simply being relatable.

Hide Ad

On similarly fine form was Jo Jo Sutherland, compere for the first The Best of Scottish Comedy (3stars) showcase since the original lockdown, with her tartly witty insults unblunted by months of online gigs. Forging an upbeat atmosphere while dripping disdain for virtually everyone. Gareth Waugh delivered a solid set that wrung consistent laughs from the ridiculousness of his dog's social media presence and his recently acquired supermarket job. His account of receiving a massage veers towards regressive laddism but its daftly and vividly conveyed enough to justify the blokeishness.

Connor Burns has also recently found supermarket employment. Like Waugh, he gathers evidence of a world turned upside down by Covid in amusing observations. But his tales of being a delivery driver convey a richer, palpable despair, unshowily presented social satire and class-based commentary. His material about moving in with his girlfriend isn't quite as fully formed but he retains a dark streak and ambition of thought that mark him out as one to watch. Finally, headliner Gary Little arrives boldly, with a rhythmically delivered justification of his decision to wear double denim. The big, bald Glaswegian has always been a real, slightly intimidating presence at the mic and he defeatedly implores the crowd to note his “kind eyes”. Indulging in a hilarious bit of physical business, he demands one punter scrutinise variations on his gurning copulation faces following a less than glowing review from a recent sexual partner. Elsewhere though, this normally accomplished storyteller clearly hasn't had the chance to fully hone his routines about returning to dating as a 58-year-old, lacking the polish that ought to come later.

Barely curated chaos and diversity were the order of the night at The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society 4stars (Monkey Barrel). Ashley Manning marvelled at the presence of three queer Irish women on one bill, something virtually unprecedented in comedy or even Ireland. She's got some playfully bleak material on Catholicism, but I was truly impressed with Ruth Hunter, a dry, sardonic pansexual who blends aspects of her amorphous personality with delirious diary entries about being haunted. The experimental night also brought out a more unrestrained side in the “straighter” Catherine Bohart, who daringly pulled off out-of-character gags about incest and dildos but also mined laughs from berating the audience for their reactions.

Setting the tone had been snack food, nu-rave pioneer Amelia Bayler, belting out her absurdly silly songs about burgers, pizza and the bakery Greggs in big, bright costumes of said foodstuffs, filling the room with energy, the earwig quality of her tunes carrying her set. However, the highlight of the show for me was Rosco McClelland disguised as Big Foamhead, simply but inexplicably dancing and playing a rudimentary wooden instrument to Cher's Believe in a giant head made of foam. Prop comedy duo Soup Group were also fun, if not blessed with say, Spencer Jones' barrage of consistent gags. But kudos to Liam Withnail, who as the straight, white, male, conventional stand-up closing the gig, archly deconstructed feeling like a minority for once. With an excitable Josie Long deputising alongside regular co-host John-Luke Roberts, ACMS proved giddy, frivolous testament that Fringe comedy is back!

Jay Lafferty: Blether, Gilded Balloon, until 29 August. The Best of Scottish Comedy, Stand Comedy Club, until 29 August. The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society returns to Monkey Barrel on 12 August.