Rob Brydon, Pleasance<br/>Katherine Jakeways/Gavin &amp; Gavin, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

Get this man off the telly! (He's far too good for it)
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The Independent Culture

Rob Brydon's Edinburgh turn has the same name as his recent TV series, The Keith Barret Show. And, roughly speaking, it has a similar format, with the tragically optimistic minicab-driver-turned-interviewer analysing the marriages of his celebrity guests (in the flesh, a couple from the audience has to suffice). The irony is, though, that while on television the Show was repeating itself by episode two, in the theatre it's such a treat that you'd think the series had spun off the live act and not the other way round.

Rob Brydon's Edinburgh turn has the same name as his recent TV series, The Keith Barret Show. And, roughly speaking, it has a similar format, with the tragically optimistic minicab-driver-turned-interviewer analysing the marriages of his celebrity guests (in the flesh, a couple from the audience has to suffice). The irony is, though, that while on television the Show was repeating itself by episode two, in the theatre it's such a treat that you'd think the series had spun off the live act and not the other way round.

Out of the confines of a heavily edited BBC2 half-hour, and with no need to stop for those hit-and-miss filmed reports, the format gives Brydon licence to banter at length with the crowd. He uses his hapless alter ego as a wooden horse to penetrate the Troy of bad taste: as the innocent, well-meaning Keith, Brydon can get away with remarks that would invite a punch in the face if he were appearing as himself. He's a master improviser. The trick is that while Keith seems to be on the verge of letting the show crash down around his ears, Brydon remains totally in charge and totally in character from start to finish.

In a strong year for character comedy, stand-outs include Ben Willbond, who exhibits sympathy for his gallery of Hooray Henrys even as he pillories them, and Gavin & Gavin, who benefit from sisterly comic chemistry.

But this year's revelation is Katherine Jakeways, a one-woman Little Britain. Her cast of characters, all blithely ignorant of their own failings, includes Sylvia, a Z-list actress whose celebrity-double agency is called You Lookalike Someone Familiar; and Elaine, a WI volunteer who visits "the terminals" in a cancer ward, whether they want her to or not. They're so distinctive that you could imagine that each of them was portrayed by a different actress. What sets Jakeways apart, though, is her unerring ear for phrases that are wrong in just the right way. If you put her on television, school playgrounds up and down the country would ring with the words: "He's the mother of all foxes" and "It's all gone the way of the pear".

When Andrew Clover appears in the guise of "Maurice Clark: Storyman" he's officially doing character comedy, but he rampages through the boundaries between stand-up, improvisation and audience participation, and plenty more boundaries besides.

To begin with, he charges onstage as Maurice, a sniggering pervert who wears slippers, a mac and specs repaired with sellotape. The authorities always contact us with bad news, he complains, but don't bother to get in touch when things are going well. "The police never ring you and say, it's been eight years now, well done." But Maurice's sick mind is just a starting point. Staying in character, Clover goes on to spin a deranged fairy story, juggling the audience's shouted suggestions with his own twisted, satirical gags about why all crows are from Liverpool and why Scotland is like an uncle who doesn't go to family parties. It's a rollercoaster ride of a show: exhilarating, deliriously fun, and it could well make you ill.

If Clover makes up much of his material on the spot, Laurence and Gus's show speaks of many hours of research, rewrites and rehearsal. Each sketch is sustained for 10 very polished and detailed minutes indeed, but, just to prove that they can reach the funny bone without going via the brain, they finish by emoting their way through Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is", and that's just as entertaining.

Dutch Elm Conservatoire are as well-choreographed and clever. The five-man team's forté is to inject reality into absurd situations. Now that Big Train is no longer on the rails, who else could keep straight faces in a sketch about a sheepdog unveiling his modernisation plans to the rest of the farm animals?

Katherine Jakeways, Gavin & Gavin: Assembly Rooms (0131 226 2428) to 30 Aug. All others: Pleasance (0131 556 6550), to 30 Aug

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