The accepted wisdom on Fringe comedy shows this year is that there are plenty of good shows but no belters. So it's a relief that the acts who have made it to the if.comedy award shortlist are all high-quality efforts. Of course, being an awards panellist myself, you might expect me to say that. Nevertheless, despite the unfortunate absence of Michael McIntyre, the shortlist covers a lot of bases without compromising.
As far as laughs per minute, you can do no better than Tom Binn's spoof hospital radio DJ, Ivan Brackenbury. Perhaps not a highly original concept, nor a character that is much developed, but the main gag of dedicating inappropriate records to patients (for a jaundice sufferer he plays Coldplay's "Yellow") pays surprising dividends. And there are plenty of other wheezes and tactless remarks to keep this show motoring along.
More silliness is to be found with the aptly titled Pappy's Fun Club, the darlings of last year's Free Fringe who are now a hot ticket at a larger venue. Pretending to be Bob Dylan's backing band may sound odd on paper, but works remarkably well in the hands of four young men with irreverent and engaging personalities.
Andrew Lawrence does not set out to be engaging, but he is most certainly irreverent, and in the first 15 minutes of his show he gets away with abusing the Scots (and, eventually, everyone else) on their home turf. He advises one man to go to Aberdeen "to disturb the gene pool", but despite his misanthropy Lawrence keeps his audience rapt, and wondering how far he can push the envelope.
Pushing the envelope is what Brendon Burns is all about. His show attempts to make us look at our sanctimonious attitude to our partners and minority groups in society – though he doesn't get so bogged down in social anthropology that he can't stop to call Russell Brand "the personification of herpes". Underpinning, and ultimately undermining, Burns's ambitious and slightly uneven show is his approach to a payoff. Like the late hell-raising comic Sam Kinison, Burns often screams the punchline, which can mean emphasising effort over content.
Andrew Maxwell uses a bit more milk and honey to get across similarly intelligent ideas to Burns. In a routine about religion, the Irish comic toys with the idea that Jesus faked his own death and moved in with his boyfriend in Milton Keynes, and proceeds to debunk any phenomena or icons that stand in the way of reason, cutting to the funny quicker than his contemporaries.Reuse content