2022 Edinburgh Fringe

Nish Kumar, Jamali Maddix, No More Jockeys, The Wrestling - Mark Muldoon's Fringe Diary

No More Jockeys. Image shows from L to R: Mark Watson, Alex Horne, Tim Key

Whilst the Fringe wasn't suffering from a shortage of comedians performing the same stand-up show every day for a month, there was also a bunch of beautiful one-offs. Experimental events, live podcast recordings, mixed-bill shows - that kind of thing. Plenty of them are well worthy of special mention.

Cult web series No More Jockeys staged a live contest for one night only, and the show's committed fanbase ensured it sold out within minutes. As usual, Mark Watson, Alex Horne and Tim Key competed against each other in what turned into a very-extended edition of the parlour game. Fans of the series won't be surprised to hear that the real magic lies in the trio's internal dynamic: Watson a committed rule-follower, Key's cheeky badboy persona, Horne as a sort of dweeby admin guy. Extra effort is expended here on staging and costume, and long, brilliant tangential sections - sometimes involving the audience, sometimes not - add up to a night that easily surpasses the pleasures of the already-great online version.

110% John Kearns and Pat Cahill is a mixed-bill night that sees the two alternative comedians kinda 'shoot the breeze' in a fairly laidback manner, before introducing a couple of guest acts again from the more alternative end of the comedy spectrum, with - on our night - varying results. Kearns and Cahill are good value hosts though, sometimes electrifyingly so.

Image shows from L to R: Catherine Bohart, Helen Bauer

Gigless, apparently, is an 'LGBTC' show - "the 'C' stands for chaos". A regular mixed-bill night hosted by Catherine Bohart and Helen Bauer - and born out of pandemic-era Zoom gigs - Bohart further outlines the vibe for newcomers: "it's a queer celebration show but the straight woman [Bauer] does talk very loud". They're an exceptional double act though: Bauer raucous and freewheeling, Bohart authoritative and nitpicky. It's exceptional late-night fun.

The finest of the bunch though, has to be Stamptown. It's half clown show, half night out. It deserves to grow despite the fact that Queen Dome is clearly the perfect venue for it. The Fringe could really do with a big, successful, wild alternative comedy night - ideally one that, years later, has people saying "I was there". Stamptown could be it.

Both Gigless and Stamptown raise the question though: do chaotic shows like these even work best as mixed-bill nights? Guest comedians come along and do 10/15ish minutes of their own material, and it often can't help but feel like the air is being let out of the show a little. The audience sometimes willing their section to finish so they can get back to the joyful chaos that surrounds it. Even accomplished live acts can feel like a bit of a lull. Presumably, significant care when choosing guest slots would solve the issue.

A special shout-out must also go to The Wrestling, which is literally comedians wrestling each other - as well as occasional professional wrestlers - in a massive one-off special for Comic Relief. It's genuinely spectacular and well produced, with some superb comedy moments, not least Rosie Jones's brilliant climactic victory over Nish Kumar.

Late Night Mash. Nish Kumar

Speaking of Nish Kumar, let's round up what remains of the rest of the festival. He brought his Your Power, Your Control tour show to the Fringe in condensed 75-minute form. With less time and an, erm, shifting political landscape, Kumar largely focuses on one story: the bread roll throwing incident that topped international news sites in December 2019, and its surprising after-effects. Previously this had felt like his strongest show to date - I'm not sure that's still the case in this form but it's still a great performance from one of the best we have.

If parts of Jamali Maddix's show sometimes seem to display a slight lack of original comic thinking, he's otherwise super fun company, enjoying needling the liberal Edinburgh audience, justifying his jokes with lines like "there's not enough pro-terrorism material at this festival".

Josh Glanc maybe labours his clowning ideas a little, but those ideas are usually strong, particularly including two superb audience interaction concepts - made deliciously better on our day by how reluctant one particular audience member was to participate.

Having had his long-term comedian girlfriend leave him for a "more famous" peer a couple of months before the Fringe, Stuart McPherson's show is enjoyable this year, but you wonder if next year's might be the one to really look out for.

Bella Hull

Both Emmanuel Sonubi and Josh Jones deserve their Best Newcomer nominations: both were light and skilled hours that kept the focus on audience joy. Maybe crowded out by how many great debut acts there were this year, Bella Hull's show was good rather than great: she remains one to keep an eye on.

And that is largely that for Edinburgh 2022. All that remains is some thank yous: the team at British Comedy Guide, largely perfect weather, Lidl's 65p chilled coffees, light-touch security operations at venues, Moorish smoked hummus, everyone who had a bad or difficult time this year, everyone who recommended a show I loved and, most importantly, original pre-sugar tax Irn Bru. See you next year?

Read the other editions in this series. Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter, if you like.

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