Comedy: Dr Phil Hammond: 59 Minutes to Save the NHS, Pleasance Cabaret Bar
By Fiona Sturges
"With a white coat on I can stick my finger up your arse within a minute of meeting you and you'll be grateful," declares Phil Hammond. No, he's not a pervert, just a doctor, though if he's to be believed, the two aren't mutually exclusive. Just ask him about TUBE, the Totally Unnecessary Breast Examination. When Hammond asks how many women have gone to their GP with the 'flu and ended up having a breast examination, the show of hands backs his theory.
Inevitably, Hammond paints a gloomy picture of the NHS his anecdotes are underpinned by some equally dismal facts and figures. Noting that the Cenotaph, Britain's most famous memorial to the dead, is positioned between the Department of Health and the Treasury, Hammond saves the biggest roasting for the Government. Next come the Medical Council, the Royal College, hospital managers, incompetent doctors, even medical soap operas. The show isn't all funny ha-ha; much of it is plain horrifying. But Hammond's a likeable host with a deeply laudable agenda. If you leave the show feeling sick to the stomach, this comic will consider it a job well done.
Venue 33: 18.30 (1hr), to 22 Aug (not 13), 0131-556 6550
Comedy: Dara O'Briain, Pleasance Upstairs
By Steve Jelbert
It's easy to see why Dara O'Briain is a star in his native Ireland. This amiable bear of a man instantly puts an all-ages crowd at ease, save an unfortunate family at the front, who are asked, "Are you sure you haven't left any younger kids at a lap dancing bar?" O'Briain hardly revolutionises the form, but his effortless juxtapositions, such as a riff on the old men versus women debate where the warring parties are represented by Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy, are genuinely imaginative and ridiculously funny. A long description of his centenarian grandmother's recent funeral, with full military honours to recognise her part in the Irish War of Independence, perfectly blends the parochial with the general, contrasting descriptions of midget politicians glad-handing the locals as they pretend to carry the coffin, with a genuine sense of wonder at the risks taken by the normal folk of previous generations. Looking older than his 30 years, his energy certainly impresses the audience, delighted to see a performer out-sweating them. It can only be a matter of time until he conquers the mainland. Granny would be proud.
Venue 33: 21.20 (1hr) to 26 Aug
Comedy: Club Mozart with Rainer Hersch, Assembly Rooms
By Fiona Sturges
Club Mozart deals with Rainer Hersch's love-hate relationship with classical music one minute he's lovingly declaring it the root of all modern music, the next it's denounced as "deliberately obscure".
As the former touring manager of the London Festival Orchestra, Hersch is certainly in a position to poke fun, which is why it's such a disappointment to find him aiming so low. Matters don't improve when he stops talking and turns to his musical instruments. When he turns a hoover pipe into a didgeridoo, I had to suppress the desire to walk out. Struck by the stupidity of another of his gags, Hersch himself shakes his head and remarks, "I get paid for this." Imagine how the rest of us feel.
Venue 3: 19.50 (1hr), to 26 Aug, 0131-226 2428
Comedy: Bob Downe: Whiter! Brighter!, Assembly Rooms
By Steve Jelbert
Once, long ago, the idea of a limp-wristed Australian man was amusing in itself. Mark Trevarrow's creation, Bob Downe, with his scary overbite and something on his head more hat-hair than hairpiece, was a fine idea. If cruise ships plowed the Pacific, then clearly this man was born to be the entertainment director. But times change. These days no one would blink if Graham Norton was given the slot of commentating on a royal funeral, and the Sydney Mardi Gras is no more a secret than Michael Portillo's indiscretions. Sadly, no one seems to have told Bob. Accompanied by Amber and Ashley two youthful striplings whose undeniable athleticism gives the show one of its running gags as the star struggles to keep up Bob's material is as creaky as his limbs. Just why a camp, grinning fool performing gory versions of ancient disco hits should be considered funny is a mystery. To many people, a karaoke "The Greatest Love Of All" represents torture, not humour. On the bright side, there are no post-9/11 gags, as Bob is still mumbling about the "minnellium". (Remember that?) If you should find a show knocking about, please tell this MC. He certainly needs one.
Venue 3: 20.45 (1hr15), to 17 Aug, then 19.15, to 24 AugReuse content