Gunge, pub quizzes and a baby: Edinburgh Fringe review

Get Your Own Back Live, Knightmare, Chloe from 24 and a bit of GroupOn? Jenny and Alex have been to the Fringe...

We’ve just spent a week at the Edinburgh Fringe, where we devoted equal amounts of time to eating, tutting and refusing leaflets. In between this, we managed to fit some shows in.

We’re going to talk about some of these shows here, instead of telling you about the thousands of hipsters we encountered. Seriously, guy doing “street typing” on a typewriter – no thanks.

Get Your Own Back Live!

I’ll cut to the chase here – being in the audience for Get Your Own Back Live was the most fun I’ve had since I was born. And I’m counting that time I found a bottle of mystery booze in a hedge.

The show is a pretty faithful (if cheaper and more self-aware) version of the original. Two teams compete in a series of random games while a hyped up audience yells until their ears bleed; the difference now, however, is that the winners get the choice to gunge the other team, or to get gunged themselves.

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The games were hugely entertaining – included in our show were speed duvet cover putting on, threading a string through the audience’s clothes, and catching paper plates with tongs while making a ninja sound (this last game was created by Dave Benson Phillips’ son).

And speaking of Dave Benson Phillips – he squirted me with a Super Soaker! Automatic winner for happiest moment of my life. In fact, just like the original, it’s Phillips that makes the show so wildly entertaining, with his boundless energy and non-stop audience interaction. If anything, he’s become funnier and more energetic as the years have gone by, and he works seamlessly with the (grown up) contestants to create a nostalgia riot.

Knightmare Live

We reviewed Knightmare Live back in 2013, but it deserves mentioning here because it’s still going and it’s still brilliant. Everything previously said applies, but to quote ourselves, “Knightmare Live is great fun. Go see it.”

Alex Love: How To Win A Pub Quiz

Useless knowledge is a must for this mix of stand-up and a quiz at the end (to make sure you were paying attention and not just sitting there scratching your bum). How To Win A Pub Quiz tackles all manner of subjects, from lawnmowers to “What is Tim Henman?”

At first glance, stand-up and a pub quiz might not sound like a natural combination, but by the end of the show every expectation has been done away with. That the energy and humour is maintained throughout the show is testament to Love’s ability to work an audience (as long as that audience are all fans of The Darkness).

A brilliantly fun show packed full of running gags and ad-libs, and if you win the quiz then all that reading Wikipedia instead of working will have been worth it. 

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Randy Writes A Novel

Randy Feltface (operated and voiced by Heath McIvor) is a small purple puppet who has written a novel. He’s also quite foul mouthed and suffering from a crisis of confidence as he tries repeatedly to read out an excerpt to the audience. Yes, this is a show where you watch a muppet procrastinating about something that doesn’t exist. That’s the Fringe for you.

The setup is just an excuse for Randy to deliver a hour of stand-up from behind a desk about literature and growing old in general. The material may perhaps be irrelevant here, as it’s Randy that is the main attraction. Despite staying in the centre of the stage and having eyes that are just painted on, Randy’s expressiveness, movement and stage presence sell you the concept that he is a real person capable of living a wacky life to present in anecdotes. His interactions with the audience too make him a much more real performer than any of the thousand shouting students doing their ‘original’ take on Shakespeare. This is key to accepting Randy’s occasional rants and solipsistic lapses (aside from one misplaced rant about veganism that he himself mocked before launching into anyway).

Through the whole show, though, the laughs keep coming. In fact, Randy might be the funniest comedian at the Fringe, and that’s despite not really being there. It’s certainly the most I’ve ever laughed at a swearing Australian puppet.

Max Dickins: My Groupon Adventure

True fact – Groupon can change your life. Comedian Max Dickins proved this when he set out to inject some spontaneity into his life by doing a random Groupon deal every day for 18 months. I don’t really want to use the phrase ‘with hilarious consequences’, so instead I’ll say ‘with bum and llama related consequences’. That are hilarious.

Without wishing to detract from the show’s humour, in truth there’s little new or remarkable in his story if you’re familiar with other Genuine True Stories About A Thing Done For A Bet™ routines by Dave Gorman, or people who have written for Dave Gorman. But while the material may be functional, Dickins delivers it with sincerity and perfect comic timing, and this shift of focus to a more personal type of storytelling makes it incredibly engaging.

If you can’t make it to the show, Max has also written a book about his doings with Groupon, which you can find here.

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24 Hours With Mary Lynn Rajskub

Chloe from 24 has a one woman show at the Fringe! If that sentence didn’t sell you on the idea, then I don’t like you.

Before becoming television’s snarkiest computer genius, Mary Lynn Rajskub was a comic, and most of her act is about returning to her comedy roots while trying to be a wife and mother and former star of 24. Yes, there is some 24 material in there, but mostly this is about a day in the life of a quite weird and socially awkward 40 something who manages to be endearing and funny in every way you’d expect from the actress behind Chloe O’Brian.

The 24 hours thing is not only a nod to her most famous role, but also to the show’s central conflict – waiting for an Amazon Prime delivery. Props to her for including the full, unabridged 24 theme to illustrate this, and even more props to her for cutting it off before the part anyone would actually recognise. Unless you have the 24 album. Which I do.

Yolav And Graham’s Jovial Trauma

Yolav is a terrible stand-up comedian from a country that no longer exists, and Graham is his interpreter who doesn’t really understand comedy. As Yolav performs his act, Graham stands there, either monotonously interpreting or apologising profusely.

At first it appears to be a left-leaning satire on immigration, pointing out that there are worse ways to travel than Megabus and the like (the answer is via raft, in case you were wondering), but as the show unfolds it turns out to be mercilessly ridiculing left-leaning satire, particularly the lazy student kind that overwhelms the Fringe. For example, Yolav starts making jokes about how his wife was shot, although later it transpires she just might not be returning his texts. It’s also a deconstruction of comedy in general as Yolav goes through all the usual comedy tropes while Graham translates Yolav’s own commentary. Think Stewart Lee’s impression of a stand-up comic, delivered by Borat, interpreted by Stephen Merchant, and you get part of the way there.

Yolav And Graham’s Jovial Trauma is one of the darkest hours you will see at the Fringe and one best with expectations checked at the door. Indeed, a part of the show is Graham mocking reviewers for thinking Yolav was actually a real immigrant (he speaks in a made up language throughout). Nevertheless there really is nothing quite like it and it definitely lives up to its claim of being the best immigrant and interpreter stand up you’ll likely ever see.

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Come Look At The Baby

To finish, a show that should fill the ‘Why is this on Den of Geek?’ comment quota for the month. Come Look At The Baby is a true-life performance piece, where the audience is invited to sit and look at a baby doing baby stuff in a sensory tent for half an hour. Spoiler alert – sometimes the baby laughs, other times the baby does a bit of sick on Grandma.

Come Look At The Baby reminds you that you don’t need all-singing, all-dancing, strobe lit spectacular to be entertained. And as an added bonus, all the ticket proceeds go to charity. And as another added bonus, there are no ‘not very good’ drama students in it.