Edinburgh Festival `98: Comedy: Stands up to criticism

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The Independent Culture


THE EDINBURGH Comedy Festival this year has been full of pontificators predicting the death of straight stand-up. But in Peter Kay's case, it is very much alive and kicking; in fact, it's in the rudest of health. He is so overflowing with energy, he chucks gratuitous impersonations of Paul Newman in Slap Shot into the middle of a joke about wedding photographers. And now he's got a Perrier nomination to prove it.

Ah yes, wedding photographers. And taxi-drivers, bad DJs, Bullseye, Crimewatch, Top Cat, and Jim'll Fix It. Kay is hardly breaking new ground. I mean, how many times have you seen a routine about the unreliability of minicabs or the embarrassing way your mum dances at wedding receptions?

But Kay gets away with this hackneyed choice of material by the sheer verve with which he performs it. He simply hurls himself into an impression of a guest on Jerry Springer: "I've got a secret, and that's why I decided to tell you on national TV. I'm not what you think I am - I'm a man." Proving that he is just as lively when he veers away from his script, he has a whale of a time when a mobile phone goes off. Grabbing the device, he immediately rings the caller back and gets her involved in his ongoing gag about why mums always buy crap cola. Bidding her farewell, he adds cheekily: "I'll give you three rings when I get home."

He closes with a vivacious medley of incomprehensible lyrics from famous pop songs. Just why is it that when David Bowie sings "Let's Dance" it always sounds like "Les Dennis"? And do Sister Sledge really sing "Just let me staple the vicar" rather than "Just let me state for the record" in "We Are Family"?

Never mind the material, feel the exuberance.

Continues until Monday (box office 0131-556 6550)