Jason Byrne, Fringe Festival, Edinburgh
Tim Minchin, Fringe Festival, Edinburgh
Hurrah for that scathing, embittered edge
Sunday 17 August 2008
One of the best surprises for me at this year's Fringe was Jason Byrne's show – an odd confession, I know, given that Byrne is a former Perrier nominee who has been selling out at Edinburgh for a decade. I gave up on him long ago, when I decided that his much-vaunted improvisation amounted to a hyperactive man-child charging around the venue and swearing at people. It just wasn't my cup of tea. But I'm embarrassed that it's taken me so many years to give him another chance, because Byrne now has one of the strongest stand-up sets on the Fringe. Yes, he's still shouty and sweary, and yes, he's prone to bending double with laughter at his own off-the-cuff gags. But now he's got the routines to match the hurricane energy – raucous, self-flagellating tales of school sports days and shoplifting from Tesco. I think what's changed is that there's now a scathing, embittered edge to Byrne's persona – apparently sharpened by the stresses of marriage and parenthood – which balances his natural exuberance. I don't know if the passing years have made him any happier, but they've definitely made him funnier.
Tim Minchin is in a bad mood, too, although you wouldn't know it at first. A bohemian buccaneer with bare feet, drainpipe jeans, a frilly shirt and eyeliner, Minchin enters to a backing tape of deafening rock-opera, and proceeds to play a witty song on the grand piano about anti-ginger prejudice. You'd think him the kind of consummate entertainer who would win over everyone – and he almost is. But, as evinced by the walk-outs when I saw him, a vein of radical atheism in his material makes him as controversial as any comedian. Highlights of a rip-roaring show are a nine-minute beat poem railing against new-age superstition, while commenting on his need to rail against it, and a hyper-rational ballad about the mundane realities of love which is still deeply romantic. Wrapped in the showmanship of the Mighty Boosh is the musicianship of Jools Holland. And wrapped in that is the incisive thinking of Richard Dawkins.
Fringe box office: 0131226 0000
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 The response to my Pizza Express review has been overwhelming, and taught me a lot about journalism
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea's 'Booty' music video is just a load of butts
Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
The Walking Dead season 5 synopsis: Spoilers and existential questions revealed
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes