Stand up and be counted: The best of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

On the eve of the release of the nominations for the coveted Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Awards, our critic Julian Hall chooses his favourites

Adam Riches

Who: The writer and performer's Fringe career didn't get off to an auspicious start, with a two-hander called Plat du Nuit. However, since 2007 Riches has brought up a series of character shows that have impressed the critics. A former playwright with designs on producing sitcoms and films, Riches is an energetic actor and his shows are some of the most hectic on the Fringe.

Show: Bring Me The Head of Adam Riches (Pleasance Courtyard) presents a high-octane mix of dysfunctional characters. It also involves a fair amount of audience participation. Manipulative, perhaps, but extremely rewarding, Riches' world is populated by a Mexican swingball champion, an agent who will sign everybody and everything, including the floors and the walls of the theatre, and the crazed inventor of the guessing-game Mastermind.

Gag: In character, as Daniel Day-Lewis: "I'm the most successful actor ever to appear in nobody's favourite film."

Andrew Maxwell

Who: Nominated for the if.comedy award (now the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award) in 2007, the Irishman has a fabulous Fringe pedigree, consistently earning high praise. He rarely tours the UK but he has had made a number of appearances on shows such as Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You.

Show: The Lights Are On (Assembly George Square) is a brisk tour around the UK and the rest of the world, picking up on tragic and comic news stories and events. One of a few comedians to offer a protracted take on the recent UK riots, Maxwell ranges over subjects from Cobra-owners to the Pope in an equal opportunities offensive.

Gag: On the riots: "Black kids in London, asian kids in Birmingham, white kids in Manchester – a scumbag rainbow."

Josie Long

Who: Long won the BBC New Comedy Award at 16, was best newcomer at the Fringe in 2006 and was nominated for the main award last year. The 29-year-old has recently been heard on BBC 6 Music, co-hosting with Andrew Collins, and has had her own Radio 4 show. She has also written for the E4 television series Skins.

Show: The Future Is Another Place (Pleasance Dome) charts Long's political awakening, following a car accident. The comedian decides she will gen up on the government, in order to criticise them more effectively, and then pulls off the tricky feat of balancing policy points with punchlines.

Gag: "Friends asked me how I knew so much about Jeremy Hunt. I follow a lot of people on Twitter and I don't have a job!"

Kerry Godliman

Who: An actress and comedian who made her first impact as a finalist in 2003's Funny Women competition. Two years later she was cast in a Channel 4 sketch show, Spoons. Since then she has starred in Home Time on BBC2 and Doctors and Miranda on BBC1 – she will also be appearing in the new sitcom from Ricky Gervais, Life's Too Short, in the autumn. This is her second Edinburgh show.

Show: Wonder Woman (Pleasance Courtyard) uses the superhero to measure Godliman's achievements in life and to illustrate just how much you have to run to stand still as a career woman. Godliman never sounds sorry for herself and the analogies she makes to her childhood idol are subtle, without the need for any glib shoehorning.

Gag: "I stopped going to the gym because I developed an allergy. To RnB."

The Pajama Men

Who: Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen met at High School in New Mexico and formed a sketch-theatre outfit called Sabotage. Under that guise, they were nominated for a Perrier newcomer award in 2004. As The Pajama Men they have had deserved critical praise heaped upon them wherever they have toured.

Show: In The Middle Of No One (Assembly George Square) is the latest in a line of highly-skilled, zany but never stupid collections of sketches within a loopy narrative. Here, a yarn about aliens and time travel utilises the pair's dexterous faces and voices as they inhabit weird creatures, such as the sexed up "Give-it-to-me" bird.

Gag: A life-support machine is made to sound like an alarm clock. When it is stopped, Chavez yells: "That man just hit snooze on death!"

WitTank

Who: Despite strong shows from other sketch troupes, such as Idiots of Ants and Kieran and the Joes, this trio, who formed out of the Durham Revue, have provided one of the Fringe's more joyous efforts. WitTank are comprised of Kieran Boyd, Mark Cooper-Jones and Naz Osmanoglu, who is also performing a solo show.

Show: WitTank (Just the Tonic at The Caves) is a nifty collection of short, sharp sketches that employ some fun recurring characters including a kleptomaniac archbishop and a gammon-obsessed headteacher.

Gag: A Donnie Darko-inspired scene in which a reprobate rabbit is conjured up every time a man eats sugar, pushing him further and further into hilarious debauchery.

Brett Goldstein

Who: An actor and writer who turned to stand up in 2006 and two years later was identified by the website Chortle as "one to watch". Since then he has clocked up hundreds of appearances at comedy clubs.

Show: Brett Goldstein Grew Up In A Strip Club (Pleasance Dome) is a skilful telling of how the comic spent a year in his early twenties managing a strip club in Marbella, as a result of an impulsive decision by his father. Gangsters and hitmen were among his colourful clientele but the tale is no homage to Guy Ritchie. Nor is it a stand-up version of an RnB video – rather, it is a tender portrait of mishap and human folly.

Gag: "If you enjoyed the show please don't tell your friends. We need a circle of trust, otherwise someone could get whacked."

DeAnne Smith

Who: The 32-year-old Canadian has enjoyed a defining year. She arrived in Edinburgh after a successful stint at Montreal's Just for Laughs and before that she was nominated for the Barry Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. She will no doubt be hoping the Fringe brings her a grand slam of recognition.

Show: The Best DeAnne Smith DeAnne Smith Can Be is a collection of pleasing routines and sharp gags, ranging from wariness of toddlers to attitudes to lesbian sex and intelligent design. Smith plays well with deconstruction of her own act, though her improv with the audience can be hit and miss.

Gag: On the reason Hollywood stars adopt African babies: "Black goes with everything."

Holly Walsh

Who: After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in art history, Walsh worked in galleries until turning to comedy full-time in 2006. Since then she has appeared on CBBC as a presenter and on 8 Out Of Ten Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Mock the Week.

Show: Hollycopter (Pleasance Courtyard) recounts how Walsh broke her arm after jumping off the end of Worthing pier, while participating in the annual Worthing Birdman event. Using the event as her thread, the 30-year-old takes in a light examination of her phobias and weaves in gentle anecdotes from less risky ventures.

Gag: "I have no concept of when the right time to start drinking is, but then I only ever drink in Wetherspoon's pubs."

Humphrey Ker

Who: A member of Fringe favourites The Penny Dreadfuls, a theatre-sketch troupe who have split into three solo ventures this year. Ker recently appeared on the BBC2 improvised sketch show Fast and Loose, hosted by Hugh Dennis. Though this year is his debut, he could jump to the main list.

Show: Humphrey Ker is Dymock Watson: Nazi Smasher! (Pleasance Courtyard) is a thigh-slapping WWII romp, with knowing nods to the modern day, about a hapless navy spy who has six days to save the world from an atomic demise at the hands of the Nazis. Numerous characters populate the piece, including a crazed Geordie training officer and a clever dog called Uncle Trevor.

Gag: "I picked up my kit, which was heavy, like an Ibsen play."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent