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THE Edinburgh Fringe has been going for 75 years, and Arthur Smith has been to every single one*. This year, he claims, will be his last.
The night mayor of Balham will, as always, be good value. As will other long-established acts, including Josie Long, Simon Munnery, and Omid Djalili — the latter fresh from being “cancelled” by some of the most eye-wateringly right-wing columnists around.
But if you like comedy, you probably know about these people already. So instead, dear reader, here are my top ten “up and coming” recommendations for this year’s festival.
To any of the acts listed reading this: you may have thought you had already upped and come. But rest assured: there is more upping and coming… to come.
Shelf: Hair — a queer sketch / music / stand-up duo who have the most wonderful chemistry but are definitely not a couple. A beautiful, universal debut hour about sexuality, haircuts, and friendship.
Yuriko Kotani: Kaiju About, the Japanese Londoner Kotani is effortlessly charming in this very personal show that still has time for a bit about landlords that we can all ideologically agree on.
ACMS (The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society) remains the best place to discover if alternative comedy is, in fact, dead. A mixed bill every night: expect triumph and disaster.
Mark Silcox: I Can Cure. Mark has some important information to share with us about the big business scam that is cough medicine. Relentless, absurdist genius from a master.
Eleanor Morton Has Peaked, this year’s Fringe will be stuffed with viral TikTok stars finding out it’s not so easy on stage. Morton — reluctantly — found fame online but she’s the real deal. Expect mediations on failure, wit, and the occasional silly character.
Luke Rollerson: Bowerbird — this ludicrous clown is primed to win best poster (he’s dressed as a sofa), but he might also have the best show. Relentlessly creative, physical, and with painfully perfect timing, Rollerson will leave your sides in need of reupholstering.
Siblings: Siblage — the real-life sisters do fabulous character, sketch and gurning comedy. Expect telling observations about the minutiae of social interaction, larger than life performances, and absurdist nonsense.
Sharlin Jahan: Sharlin vs The United Kingdom (A Love Story) — Jahan is BBC establishment; a British, Bangladeshi Canadian. She’s been here a decade and hasn’t quite figured the place out (who has), and has razor sharp jokes, comments and sass to impart regarding assorted cross-cultural matters.
Julia Masli: Choosh is inspired bullshit and thought-provoking clowning about migration from this Estonian-born emotion wrangler. The serious never overwhelms the silly, and this is an intimate, inspiring, and preposterous hour.
Jen Ives: Peak Trans — transphobia is currently being used by Tory leadership candidates to telegraph their intolerance.
I’m sure Ives would prefer to simply have a quiet life, but instead she has a show tackling all this nonsense head on, proving that comedy can still be at once funny, political, and — given the current climate — utterly vital.
*he hasn’t really.
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