Comedy; GIG OF THE WEEK

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The Independent Culture
Bill Bailey Until 21 Aug

Calder's Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh (0131-226 2151)

Whenever the actor/ comedian Billy Connolly picks up his banjo, the heart sinks. No such feelings of dread enter the mind when Bill Bailey turns to a musical instrument for company on stage. Rather, you are thrilled that here at last is someone who can incorporate comedy and music in the same act without having audiences reach for the snooze button.

There can be no other performer who would think of playing "Three Blind Mice" in the style of the pianist Richard Clayderman, or the Dr Who theme as sung by balladeer Jacques Brel, in French.

Bailey, who holds a teaching diploma from the London College of Music, is delighted by his unique position in comedy: "I relish the position of being able to play music competently and then get laughs out of it. That gives me a certain glee."

Audiences tend to feel the same way. In this week, when the comedy universe has migrated to Edinburgh, he's as good a performer as any to check out.

PUNCHLINES

Southbound

Oh, no, I hear you cry, I can't afford to go to Edinburgh, and, even if I could, my liver couldn't stand it. Never fear, because most of the best Fringe shows come down to London. We have just had the Short BAC and Sides season at the Battersea Arts Centre, and, after the festival, the Perrier Pick of the Fringe season will take place at Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End. You no longer have to go outside the M25 to catch the cream of Edinburgh.

Autumn highlights

Another act that is coming to London after Edinburgh is Lee Evans. The comic begins a 10-week run at the Apollo on 14 September. It should be a busy autumn: Steve Coogan (above) is at the Lyceum from 28 September, and Jeff Green at the Apollo from 23 November. Gag of the week comes from Junior Simpson, the black stand-up: "People of colour have had to suffer 400 years of slavery, 500 years of apartheid, and three and a half years of Alan on EastEnders."

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