Fringe comedy reviews: Viva Your Vulva: The Hole Story | Spanking The Monkey: The Etymology of Onanistic Euphemisms | Tom Skelton: 2020 Visions (What If I Hadn’t Gone Blind?) | Eliott Simpson: (A)Sexy and I Know It | Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man

Sex education comes to the Fringe via a fearlessly funny pelvic floor expert and a visiting lecturer with a suggestive handle, just two of the standouts in our latest comedy round-up. Reviews by Kate Copstick, Fiona Shepherd and Claire Smith

Elaine Miller
Elaine Miller

Viva Your Vulva: The Hole Story *****

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Venue 24), until 28 August

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We are going through the most censorious Fringe I can remember. It is sad and it is worrying. The parameters of “acceptability” are narrowing almost by the day, not even leaving enough room for Sadowitz’s willy to squeeze through. Or for a caring professional to support vulnerable cis women without being spat at in the street. Those of us who remember Moira Knox will now be realising how comparatively broadminded and cheery a woman she was.

Talking of broadminded and cheery women, Elaine Miller is, in her own description, “a fanny physio”: an award-winning physiotherapist specialising in the pelvic floor. Not that funny, you might think. And you would be wrong. I feel it only fair to warn you that unless your pelvic floor is in fairly good nick (which it will be if you have seen Miller’s previous shows) you might want to think about Tena Lady. This hour is pubes-deep in technical terminology like “minge mist”, “squelchy”, “budju”, “innies and ooties”, “wee clitoral hugs” and, of course, “accordion”. In a country where 50% of women don't know their vagina from their vulva, this show should be compulsory. In a country with a genital-dessicating history of sexism in medicine, this show should be compulsory. It takes a special kind of comic to do it. Fearlessly funny, and an expert in her field, Miller is exactly that.

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Through vibrators and the orgasm gap, past the wonder of the self-cleaning, expanding vagina, we get an empathetic and informed take on gender identity politics. There is no better way to learn about your bits, her bits, their bits, biological bits, than here with Elaine. It is a wonderful, safe space where you will learn and laugh until you wish you’d taken my advice about Tena Lady. Kate Copstick

Spanking The Monkey: The Etymology of Onanistic Euphemisms ****

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Royal Society of Edinburgh (Venue 431), until 28 August

“I’m 65 this past June, which of course is a milestone age in most western cultures,” says Mike Blaha, who, as a producer, has brought the Fringe some of its most creative laughs over the last 17 years. “It did influence my decision to do the show. I wanted to perform comedy for years and just never had the balls to do it, and I realised I wasn’t getting any younger.”

And so Professor Richard Fondler (“Dick” to his friends and favoured students) comes upon us in the elegant surroundings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Dick is a visiting Emeritus Professor of Etymological Studies and his current lecture is on masturbation. To be specific, the euphemistic words and phrases we use to describe it. So, get a grip, and give yourself some pleasure by sitting in on Professor Fondler’s class. This is a unique Fringe experience. It is a genuinely fascinating and academic information-packed discourse on wanking. You really should take notes. I did. It is also a beautifully controlled piece of character acting. But, be aware, it will tickle your laughing parts like … well, like something Fondler will explain to you.

The engagingly earnest professor covers the Sunday Roast Hypothesis, the Old Testament, James Joyce, rap, and a whole Big Boy’s International Phrasebook of what we, in Glasgow, refer to as “choking the gaffer” and our enjoyment never droops. I can see a great, euphemism-packed future for the Prof, although he does cover, in the opening section of the show, the sad fact that we women just do not get the euphemistic variation that men do on the subject of rocking the little man in the boat. The show is a great big pile of wank. And I mean that in an admiring way. Kate Copstick

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Eliott Simpson: (A)Sexy and I Know It **

Laughing Horse @ City Café (Venue 85), until 28 August

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Eliot Simpson thinks that the A in LGBTQ+A should stand for asexuals. Which is how he identifies. We seem so far from Number Six’s “I am not a number I am a free man!” cri de coeur, when perfectly interesting, complex young people are fighting to be a letter. Simpson is an interesting performer, and although not hilarious, his hour is interest-packed, from simple opinions (hummus is better than sex) to fact (octopus sex). He has a mix of one-liners, observations, sexual politics, the occasional pun, pandas and JK Rowling (who gets a boo). The show offers up some thoughts on toilets and their door signage. I suppose this is a kind of pan-comedy. Kate Copstick

Tom Skelton: 2020 Visions (What if I Hadn’t Gone Blind?) ***

Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 302), until 28 August (not 17)

Tom Skelton isn’t going to let a pesky pandemic disrupt a good show title. There may have been a bit of global adversity since he wrote 2020 Visions but the premise hasn’t changed – he lost 95% of his vision back in 2010 because of a rare genetic condition and now he is ready to compare his first decade as a VIP (visually impaired person) with what he speculates might have happened if he had retained his sight.

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In the latter category, many overseas adventures in dark ops and mainstream politics, high-achieving sporting glories and a relationship with Taylor Swift. Back in the real world, a touching insight into the terror, trade-offs, adaptations and victories – both minor and major – of dealing with disability.

Skelton can pass for sighted and those days when he “couldn’t be bothered being blind” only hampered his path to self-acceptance. There may not be many laughs at these points in the narrative but there is empathy in the room (though Skelton might want to elicit an auditory cue from the crowd just to be sure) and a happy ending thanks to a potato-based pasta-related encounter. At this bittersweet show, it’s definitely OK to laugh with the blind. Fiona Shepherd

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Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man **

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Venue 24), until 28 August (until 17, 24)

It’s hard to know where to start with this one. Set in a university library, it features an uptight librarian, an implausibly handsome science hunk and a motivational sex expert who bounds through the audience like an evangelist preacher. It’s an energetic but badly written farce that bristles with sexism, appalling stereotypes and incredibly tame (but graphic) sex tips. The audience participation segments are excruciating for those involved and the whole disaster ends with the lamest striptease in history which finishes not with actual nudity but by revealing a pair of shiny underpants decorated with the American flag. Claire Smith