Festival review: Hal Cruttenden; Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33)

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I HAVE always been a fan of Hal Cruttenden. Albeit my fandom has been tested this August by my extreme irritation at his posters which joined the many proclaiming their subjects to be “star” of every TV show they’ve ever popped up on, no matter how briefly.

Hate to break it to you, Hal, but you were not the star of the Royal Variety Performance. And FYI the rest of you, Michael McIntyre is the star of Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.

Meanwhile, in the Cellar of the Pleasance Courtyard, Hal is in his element and a joy to watch. Looking more like a very cheery Michael Ball than ever, if Cruttenden were any camper he’d have to be held down with guy ropes. His hour trips from building sites and mean cities to the repercussions of Scottish independence for liberals in England, and from the “loveliness” of middle-class life to football (yes, really, Hal knows about football – well, he knows a racist bastard when he sees one). He also tackles student riots and the unfairness of the “women and children first” rule.

As always, this is finely crafted, cleverly worded stuff. He gets properly political, but so smartly that you barely notice the sharpness of the barbs. He is the first comic I have heard address the question of the Scottish involvement in what has always been seen as the appalling behaviour of the English in the days of Empire. And he makes the topic of inter-UK fighting fresh again.

Hal is feeling old. So old he is flattered to be offered drugs. He worries about his food addiction, is still frightened by his wife’s Northern Irish accent and despairing of his own terminal niceness. He even gets friendly heckles. I for one cannot help but adore someone who accuses Edinburgh of being “just a little bit Sheila Showbiz”. Cruttenden is at home to Captain Fabulous this year.

Rating: ****

Until 26 August. Tomorrow 9:45pm.