They are the kind of comedy shows to make timid audience members yearn for the days when interaction meant a bit of banter about their hometown or haircut; the kind which elevate mocking the crowd into an artform, and come with a delirium-inducing dose of fear that it could be you.
Adam Riches is the doyen of daft interactivity having won the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2011 for a perfect hour in which he forced the audience to play him at Swingball and feed him like a baby bird.
The key to his success is that he is never afraid to look as daft as his victims: whether playing an anarchic tattoo artist or sleazy mixologist, he strikes the balance between charm and intimidation dead on.
And so audience members pliantly nestle in his crotch, hand over their iPhones, kill an imaginary horse or make a sex tape. It is all uncontrollably funny.
And if there is perhaps a little less writing in the characters than previously, his Ryan Gosling, Sean Bean, “Britain’s muddiest actor” and The Guy You Meet Just After You Come Out of a Long-term Relationship show flashes of genius.
Elsewhere, Steen Raskopoulos finds inventive ways of getting up close and personal with his audience. The Australian newcomer has bags of promise and a delightfully odd bunch of characters from a small-time businessman to a contrary feminist rapper (“All you ladies put your hands in the air/ Don’t let anyone tell you what to do.”). In between skilful performances, he guides his audience into all manner of joyous interactions from disco dancing to telling ghost stories. While his tale of a neglected little boy may be too dark for some tastes, this is a sparkling debut. One to watch.
Finally, Funz and Gamez is a kids’ show with the boldly brilliant idea of making children the fall guys. It is possibly the funniest, strangest, darkest show on the Fringe: no wonder there are as many comedians as children in the lunchtime audience. The Manchester stand-up Phil Ellis hosts as a hopeless, heartbroken and broke children’s entertainer in an oversized green blazer. He is joined by Bonzo the child-hating dog on keyboard, a sinister elf, an inappropriate clown and Uncle Mick.
While the children are kept entertained with Dad-shaming marshmallow games, staring contests and copious sweets, the adults are kept in stitches with bittersweet songs, “life lessons” - “Don’t get too attached to your Nan” - and the spectacle of a grown man arm wrestling a child. It’s completely bonkers but amid the chaos there is comedy gold, for all ages.
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