Arts and Entertainment London comic Chris Coltrane held up a photo of Putin’s naked torso and joked that if the Russian President wanted to stop the promotion of homosexuality 'maybe he should stop posing for photos like this'

Semi-naked photos of Vladimir Putin and a blast of Tchaikovsky played on an iPad formed parts of comedy protest against homophobia in Russia, staged outside the Russian Consulate General in Edinburgh today.

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RICHARD WILSON (OBE), actor: I was moved by seeing the ordinary men talking about their experiences. The courage shown made one wonder what one would have done oneself.

COMEDY / Laughing them out of court: The Comedy Store has got bigger and better. But it's not the same, cry the comedians who knew it as it was. Report by Owen Slot

Paul Merton received two nominations for the British Comedy Awards which went out live on ITV on Sunday night, but he wasn't at the London Television Centre venue. Josie Lawrence was invited to present an award, but she wasn't there either. And nor were any of the Comedy Store Players. For Sunday night was the last night that crowds would ever go to the Comedy Store in Leicester Square, and the Players had all agreed that they and their impro comedy would be there to see the place out in style.

Notebook: The joker turns thief

BARRY CRYER, it must be said, doesn't look very much like Robert Maxwell. Nevertheless, this is the man who is set to take the role of the sunken Captain for a try-out performance of Maxwell: The Musical next month before an invited audience. Cryer is unperturbed by the dissimilarities: 'I shall be wearing a black wig and a fat suit.' And the voice is rather good.

Edinburgh Festival Day 2: Word of Mouth

HELEN LEDERER, comedian, took all of 30 seconds to recommend Mark Thomas to punters. 'He's a confrontative and experiential, challenging, on-the-metal satirist,' she says. Not to be outdone, Mark Thomas directs the queue to Helen Lederer.' She's a charming and witty, playfully vulnerable earth mother.' Joe Traynor, from London, less nepotistically, offers comedian Jimeoin at the Fringe Club. 'He's quite different from the usual stand- ups. Not all dick jokes.' Sharon Duggal, also from London, enjoyed Stand Up Black America at the Pleasance, especially bald and beautiful comedian Rene Hicks. 'The performers were great. Unfortunately the audience was all white and didn't get it.' Comic of choice for Sophie Roberts of Small Fish Big Ponds Theatre Co is Harry Hill at the Pleasance: 'He's not particularly male.' For top-flight comedy Susan and Melinda Prenter from Edinburgh say 'Watch the bungee jumping. We've been twice today.' (The bungee jumping crane is at the Meadows every weekend.)

Edinburgh Festival Day 20: Festival Eye

THE FRINGE Festival has proved almost uniquely recession proof. By Thursday, the central Fringe Box Office had grossed pounds 766,901.50, selling 146,147 tickets - 15 per cent more than by the same date last year. The number of tickets sold by all venues is estimated at 612,500 which compares to the 563,882 tickets sold last year. The number of performing companies has also risen from 510 to 540 this year. This year's Fringe featured approximately 10,650 performances of 1100 shows, and 244,000 Fringe programmes were distributed. Tourists visiting Edinburgh during August have increased by an estimated 13 per cent from last year.

Edinburgh Festival Days 13 & 14: Festival Eye

IN THE poster wars which break out each year between the big PR companies, smaller performers are often caught in the crossfire. One such sucked into last year's vitriolic battle was comedian Ian Cognito. His solution to being pasted out of sight again has been to spend his entire advertising budget, pounds 400, on one poster which occupies a whole billboard near the Fringe Club. So paranoid has Cognito become that he visits his poster each day, sometimes with a picnic, and has inserted razor blades round the rim of the board to deter saboteurs.

Edinburgh Festival Day 11: Festival eye

'IF Oliver Cromwell had known that a pair of tits could bring down the monarchy,' quips comedian Mark Thomas, 'it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.'

COMEDY / Taking laughing stock: Jenny Landreth spends a week at the Montreal Comedy Festival

THE BRITISH comedians Mark Thomas and Jack Dee were sitting at a large table with five Canadian performers. 'Tossers,' said Thomas. 'Do you have tossers here?' The five shook their heads. 'No. We have arseholes and jerk- offs,' one said, 'but not tossers.' Thomas crossed out three lines in his notebook. 'What about hedgehogs?' asked Dee. The Canadians didn't seem sure, which was surprising; you might have thought the squashed hedgehog gag was international.
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