Steve Richards begins his stand-up debut with an apology. "The show's called Rock 'n' Roll Politics but there's no rock 'n' roll in it", he says. "I've locked the doors now though, so you can't leave."
Not that anyone looks like they want to. Besides, isn't there something a bit rock 'n' roll about The Independent's chief political commentator taking to the stage in black jeans and jacket to talk about budgets and devolution at the world's largest comedy festival?
And isn't politics the new rock 'n' roll anyway? Tickets to see Gordon Brown at the book festival sold out faster than Springsteen, Richards points out. Everyone wants to know why the world is "all shook up".
And so, in a wide-ranging, relaxed hour, which kicks off with the question "is the coalition dead?", Richards presents his answer to the death of satire, weaving together lobby gossip, acute analysis and autobiography with questions from the floor.Topics change daily depending on the news and interests of the audience. It's like Question Time without the annoying tub-thumping.
A politics geek from early on - aged 13, he turned down tickets to David Bowie to go and see Harold Wilson give a speech in Stevenage - Richards brings decades of knowledge and enthusiasm to bear on everything from referendums ("the femmes fatales of politics - MPs are drawn to them, though they will destroy them") to pasties, not to mention the odd swiftly drawn character assassination.
Things really catch light when he engages the audience: there are questions about Scottish independence, mistrust in the media and celebrity politicians. As to what Frank Dobson was referring when he whispered to Richards, "this is the nearest thing to group sex I've ever had", well, you'll have to see the show to find out. Rock 'n' roll indeed.
To 26 August (not 13, 21). For tickets call: 0131 623 3030
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