The brightest young comedy hope at this year's Fringe doesn't look either bright or young. Daniel Kitson is only 23, but he has the most unkempt beard this side of David Bellamy, and with his long, thinning hair, over-sized glasses, frilly shirt and stripy trousers he could pass for a member of the Grateful Dead.
He is not your average stand-up. Thanks to his stutter, and his tales of being bullied by kids half his age, he seems to be a genuine underdog, as opposed to the usual twentysomething comic bemoaning his lot as a bait for sympathetic groupies. But there is no self-pity in Kitson's rambling reminiscences. He is constantly amused by his own misfortunes and he remembers his most embarrassing moments with infectious affection.
I wouldn't say he was ready for the Perrier, though, despite his being tipped for it months ago. The material is still coming together, but he is a natural comedian, and with enough experience, he could be the next Billy Connolly.
Last year's Perrier Best Newcomer award winners, Noble and Silver are as different from Kitson as possible. Their performance is meticulously planned, reliant on technology, seriously cerebral and so impersonal that Kim Noble and Stuart Silver, two young men with ginger sideburns, barely need to be there.
It's a Fringe show deconstructed. Somewhere between Tom Stoppard and the League against Tedium, Noble and Silver must have used a flow chart instead of a script. An apparently spontaneous, hesitant conversation will suddenly flash up in script form on a video screen; phonecalls taped weeks beforehand will comment on the action on stage. It's as much a live art installation as a comedy show – which is one way of saying that there could be more laughs. When the duo find the balance between gags and ideas, they'll hit their peak. For now, they're still one of the acts that make the Fringe worthwhile.
Several other comics have gone in for experimental deconstruction, and the best of the rest is Dan Antopolski. His specialism is to throw out a surreal image and then to take it literally, so that a joke about peanut-cloning or socialising with the Wombles will be followed by a lengthy examination of its inherent logical problems. Antopolski does this with casual assurance, even if he steps back and forth over the thin line between jokes that are so unfunny that they become funny – and jokes that are just unfunny.
At last year's Fringe, Antopolski appeared in Lee Mack's Perrier-nominated revue alongside Catherine Tate. She too has her own show this year, in which she and a sidekick perform a series of playlets. They reveal Tate to be a wicked observational humorist as well as one of the country's most subtle actresses – Victoria Wood and Julie Walters in one body.
Garth Marenghi is a Steve Coogan-worthy parody of a James Herbert-type author. Assured of his own literary brilliance – not least because each of his novels has a hard-hitting message, such as "Don't genetically engineer crabs to human size" – Marenghi presents a play with the help of two actors who are almost as inadequate as he is.
It's a spot-on spoof. Whether or not you've ever read a horror novel, it's delightful to witness the portentous conviction with which the cast delivers such lines as, "He toiled for what seemed like forever but actually wasn't." The trio hasn't moved on from last year'sFright Knight, but if you want to see a pompous author making an execrable job of reciting an execrable script, you won't find anything funnier until Jeffrey Archer revives The Accused.
All above acts: Pleasance (0131 556 6550), to 27 AugustReuse content