Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotland on Sunday reviews: Simon Munnery, Glenn Wool, Caroline Rhea, John Gordillo, Will Franken and Hannah Gadsby, reviewed by Kate Copstick
I RARELY feel sympathy for comics who blame the audience for something not working, but in the case of Simon Munnery, one of the most creative intelligences that the comedy world has, he deserves much better than he got in Australia where a run of his brilliant show Fylm – in which what is on stage is not Simon himself but a projection of him from where he is sitting in the audience – left our Antipodean chums more puzzled than a colour-blind man with a Rubik’s Cube.
So this year he comes out at the top of the show and explains the concept before taking his place on camera. It is an awkward moment. It is another wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful show during which, luckily, Munnery composes his own review. At least he did the day I was there. I would not presume to do better than tell you what Simon Says. “Funny, very, very, very, funny, literally rib-shattering, deeply profound, seemingly inane and overwhelmingly pink.” I am sure if you go along to the show you will see exactly what he means.
In a Fringe where the main venue prices mean that gambling on getting laughs for your money is a serious and expensive business, an hour with Glenn Wool is pretty much a sure thing. As advised by Kipling, when Glenn meets with triumph and disaster (which he seems to do on a regular basis) he treats those two imposters just the same: he turns them into great comedy and we get a laugh-packed show. Kicking off with a nice warm-up mini-set covering the royal baby, Yewtree and dead horses, Glenn suddenly surprises the room by taking his comedy to a place it has never been. It came at the end of a moving section on equine emancipation.
Suddenly, without warning, there it was. A ridiculous pun. And then another. By the end of the hour, Glenn had slapped us about with a load of them. Watch out Tim Vine. Puns aside, this is a warm Woolly hour featuring overly confident children, internet reviews, a gig in New Jersey to an elderly Jewish club from Brooklyn, bilingual people and molestation. FYI, I found his thoughts about uses for the sex offenders register to be, literally, drink-spillingly funny. And his closing rant involving his grandfather was gloriously Glenn. He even gives us a name, at last; we who are longtime fans. Woolaholics. Not looking for a 12-step programme any time soon.
Fellow Canadian Caroline Rhea (she of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch fame) is a friendly performer. She gets the house lights up to distribute After Eights to the crowd, chats up a good-looking guy called Mark and rewards niceness with chocolate. She is warm and confident on stage, chatting us through experiences with fans before getting into some properly funny stories about her last relationship break-up, her emergency C-section, her daughter and her parents. This is a personal show – be prepared for a lot of family photographs, but sit back and enjoy the stories and the chocolate, and a lovely comfortable hour whips by.
John Gordillo is one of the smartest men in comedy. For too long he was the power behind the comedy thrones of Reginald D Hunter and Eddie Izzard, but returned to doing stand-up himself in 2006. This year his show is a brilliant combination and examination of the fake personal and the real personal. Gordillo has an adopted 18-year-old daughter whom he loves. Much in the show concerns their relationship. This is extraordinarily frank Gordillo. Elsewhere in this typically intelligent Gordilloan hour he lambasts the ubiquity of the online review – pausing only momentarily to swipe at the proliferation of online Edinburgh reviews – the “smooshing together” of the great with the crap on TV.
His rant about Dionne Warwick on Loose Women is a delight. Especially for Warwick fans. The main thrust of the show skewers the ludicrous anthropomorphism that big corporations utilise now in communication with customers, offering (apparently) not just electricity or broadband, but a loving relationship. This is a great hour. Not all hilarious. But quality, brain-food comedy.
Will Franken is never going to be a comic for everyone. His stuff is dark and complicated. A Franken show is labyrinthine and you have to follow him through, trusting that when you get to the middle it will all make sense and you can relax a bit on the way back. His characters are rarely pleasant and always odd. He is reminiscent of a much darker Pajama Men – but with only one man and no pyjamas. This year’s show is more “bitty” than last year’s, but go with Franken, for there is comedy treasure here. He takes on the little-discussed problem of global rounding, introduces us to Roger and his twin brother Roger’s Twin Brother, sheds new light on the BBC’s woes and reveals his bitter envy of the disabled.
We are hearing a lot about feminism at this Fringe. If feminism is about empowered and empowering women then great. But banging on about rape jokes and “undercurrents of misogyny” does little to help. Should you feel like a real blast of empowered and empowering female comedy (with Spanx-destroying laughs included) watch Hannah Gadsby’s Happiness Is A Bedside Table or Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It (reviewed on this page last week). Awesome stuff. Free of cant and full of can.
All acts until 26 August unless otherwise stated. Simon Munnery, The Stand Comedy Club; Glenn Wool, Assembly George Square, except tomorrow; Caroline Rhea, Gilded Balloon Teviot; John Gordillo, Assembly Rooms, until 25 August; Will Franken, Pleasance Dome; Hannah Gadsby, Assembly Checkpoint, Friday until 25 August
Originally published in Scotland on Sunday