John Bishop: Freefall, Pleasance Cellar, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

Acclaimed as best comedy act in 2001 by the North-west listings magazine City Life, John Bishop, an affable thirtysomething Scouser, has moved up the ladder from open mic spots to his first Edinburgh show at a rate which should reassure any dreamers who reckon they might still have it in them. Hardly a comic revolutionary, Bishop instead relies on his rapid wit and a certain wide-eyed naïveté to charm the audience as he regales them with simple shaggy dog stories from his own life.

At his best, he's extremely funny, often caught between the demands of his new career and the everyday struggles that face a father of three who resembles a sober Bez. Delightfully, he ponders the hyperbole of the press quotes which appear on festival promotional material ("They're all 'brilliant' apparently. What's wrong with 'Hasn't killed anyone. Doesn't mess with kids.'?"), while his rather wonderful dwarf gag (this year's theme, and make no mistake) is neither offensive or crude, unless you're an estate agent. Though perhaps he's straining to fill the full hour slot (and there are probably a few too many references to "straining", toilet humour fans), this likeable talent is improving rapidly and should please anyone who appreciates Peter Kay's mainstream excellence.

Venue 33, 21.40 (1hr), to 25 Aug (0131-556 6550)