2022 Edinburgh Fringe

Stewart Lee's Edinburgh 2022 comedy show recommendations

Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee's August newsletter sets out his recommendations for the comedy shows to see at the 2022 Edinburgh Festival.

He typed: "Here are my tips for August in Edinburgh. Bear in mind, although I did 34 Fringes between 1987 and this year, appearing in over 50 different shows, it's ten years since I knew who the hot new people were in comedy, and fifteen since I had a handle on Fringe theatre. My choices below are based on nostalgia for the old, curiosity the new, and a desire to see again people who have been brilliant before. Or they're things people told me to see for various random reasons."

Aboriginal Comedy Allstars

Aboriginal Comedy Allstars

I don't know anything about this but it's sort of the point of what the Fringe is actually for, isn't it? The Coloured Stone of comedy!

Rob Auton: The Crowd Show. Rob Auton

Rob Auton: The Crowd Show

Auton is a great alternative comedian/poet/artist in the lineage of John Hegley, Daniel Kitson, Bruce Lacey and Simon Munnery. The Nestene Consciousness of Stand-Up.

Alasdair Beckett-King: Nevermore. Alasdair Beckett-King

Alasdair Beckett-King: Nevermore

ABK is one of the comedians who, during lockdown, made me reassess whether it was possible to generate really good comedy for the internet, by meeting the limitations of the form head-on.

Jason Byrne: The Paddy Lama - Shed Talks. Jason Byrne

Jason Byrne: The Paddy Lama - Shed Talks & Jason Byrne: Unblocked

Neo-conservative author Douglas Murray's live promoters, Phil McIntyre, bring us two helpings of high-octane in-the-moment madness from the reliably nuts Irish funnyman and heart condition sufferer, currently entering the 'Legend' phase of his career. The Caoimhín Breathnach of comedy.

Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble. Jo Caulfield

Jo Caulfield: Here Comes Trouble

Ageless and effortless, Caulfield is the act you send Fringe-bewildered visiting relatives to to prove to them that loads of the comedians that aren't on the TV all the time are much better at the business of stand-up than all the ones they have heard of. Once upon a time, I sent them to John Bishop. I wonder what happened to him? Jo Caulfield is the Stevie Nicks of stand-up. A young Deborah Vance if she was real.

Dr John Cooper Clarke - I Wanna Be Yours. John Cooper Clarke

Dr John Cooper Clarke - I Wanna Be Yours

The poet laureate of punk celebrates himself w special guests including me.

Paul Currie: The Chorus of Ghosts Living in My Skull Keep Telling Me to Take a Shit in the Fruit Salad. Paul Currie

Paul Currie: The Chorus of Ghosts Living in My Skull Keep Telling Me to Take a Shit in the Fruit Salad

Properly joyously deranged surrealist clown comedy in the tradition of Phil Kay, pre-ayahuasca Jim Carrey, and prime Paul Currie. Let Paul Currie curry your f(l)avour today! With garlic naan!! The Reverend Joseph Garvan Digges of comedy!

Omid Djalili: The Good Times. Omid Djalili

Omid Djalili: The Good Times

Reliably hilarious stand-up with a political edge from the Wellesley Tudor Pole of comedy.

Evening Without Kate Bush. Sarah-Louise Young

Evening Without Kate Bush

Lots of people tell me this is great, and it was written before Bush resurfaced via Strange Things.

Fascinating Aïda. Image shows from L to R: Liza Pulman, Dillie Keane, Adèle Anderson

Fascinating Aïda

Three glamorous dames of a certain age swear with unexpected foulness through musical parodies that despite their apparent gentility often take extreme leftist political positions. Knocks young stand-up boys in t-shirts into the piss-filled urinal where they belong. Hips! Lips! Tits! Power! The Pigface of middle class liberal musical comedy.

Peter Fleming's Woefully Inaccurate History of the BBC. Tom Burgess

Peter Fleming's Woefully Inaccurate History of the BBC

I saw this character at Machfest and it was a comic love letter to a lost world of Reithian values.

Paul Foot: Swan Power. Paul Foot

Paul Foot: Swan Power

Sinister, surreal and lascivious, like Christopher Lee's Dracula or a strange fly, Foot handed a generation the keys to a door he himself then bricked up, walling himself into an airless tomb of hermetic hermit hilarity. Paul Foot is the Eustache Dauger of comedy!

Janeane Garofalo: Pardon My Tangent. Janeane Garofalo

Janeane Garofalo: Pardon My Tangent

Former enfant terrible now grande dame of US Alt Com. The Alice Bag of stand-up. You owe her so much, kids.

Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies. Wil Hodgson

Wil Hodgson: Barbicidal Tendencies

Hodgson is an unaffected raconteur fascinated by the intricacies of life in the small market town of Chippenham. I always assumed one day they would be massively famous, but they ain't, which is our gain really, as they are able to continue to give us a barber's eye view of Chippenham uncompromised by being a celebrity. The Thomas 'Mensi' Mensforth of comedy.

Rosie Holt: The Woman's Hour. Rosie Holt

Rosie Holt: The Woman's Hour

Holt is one of the comedians who, during lockdown, made me reassess whether it was possible to generate really good comedy for the internet, by meeting the limitations of the form head-on.

David Johnson Emerging Talent Award

David Johnson Emerging Talent Award

My late promoter is commemorated with a show and awards evening that is sure to be as memorable as it is worthwhile as it is hilarious. Cuntage a-plenty! Your trousers may go up as well as down. The Alan Wise of comedy!

Jonny & The Baptists: Dance Like It Never Happened. Image shows from L to R: Jonny Donahoe, Paddy Gervers

Jonny & The Baptists: Dance Like It Never Happened

Political musical satire that rocks like a rock and is as funny as the funniest thing there is. My go-to show. The most fun it's possible to have on the Fringe. The Ian and Sylvia of politico-musical-satire.

David Kay: Garden Office Legend. David Kay

David Kay: Garden Office Legend

D Kay is a proper alternative comedian of the old deadpan-surreal school and MUST BE SEEN BY ALL!!!! The Old Man of Hoy of comedy.

Phil Kay: Quantity Street. Phil Kay

Phil Kay: Quantity Street

To my generation the ever unpredictable P Kay was a legend, but his commitment to chaos baffles the gatekeepers of contemporary comedy, even as it inspired a phalanx of followers in the '90s. The Paul Rutherford (trombonist) of jazz stand-up.

110% John Kearns and Pat Cahill. Image shows from L to R: John Kearns, Pat Cahill

110% John Kearns and Pat Cahill

See these two odd men's special late night shows. Also, a good way to see Kearns without incurring the Avalon tax, although if you were to see Kearns' Avalon promoted show you could also see this one as part of your reparations.

Shannon Matthews the Musical

Shannon Matthews the Musical (Kunt & The Gang)

The Shannon Matthews story was made for Essex electro-punk-popster Kunt's distinctive kitchen sink realist sensibility. I can't wait. The Alecky Blythe & Adam Cork of Comedy!

Lloyd Langford: DILF. Lloyd Langford

Lloyd Langford: DILF

Lloyd was another one of my annual solo Fringe nights out. I liked being at the back of The White Horse on Cannongate, Guinessed up with a whisky chaser ready, and knowing I was in for a solid hour of low-status Welsh laughs. The Meic Stephens of stand-up.

Trevor Lock's New Show. Trevor Lock

Trevor Lock's New Show

South American hallucinogen-casualty Lock is the shamanic Syd Barret of stand-up, the death of his ego the only thing that ever stood between him and superstardom.

Josie Long: Re-Enchantment. Josie Long

Josie Long: Re-Enchantment

Former teenage wunderkind of stand-up returns, presumably as inspiring as ever. The Manda Rin of stand-up.

MARVELus: All the MARVEL Movies... Kind Of!. Image shows from L to R: Javier Jarquin, Gary Tro

MARVELus: All the MARVEL Movies... Kind Of!

I have no idea what this will be like, but I expect I will enjoy it if I go with the right person (Ben Moor or some small children). The Mighty World of Icarus of comedy.

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: BookTalkBookTalkBook. Image shows from L to R: Ben Moor, Joanna Neary

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: BookTalkBookTalkBook

I have seen this and it is brilliant. I don't know why they are only doing it twice, the twats. It's as if Jorge Luis Borges has written a parody of book festival events, a Russian Doll of a show that kaleidoscopes psychedelically into itself and then evaporates. The Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington of surrealist literary parody.

Eleanor Morton Has Peaked. Eleanor Morton

Eleanor Morton Has Peaked & Eleanor Morton: Craig On Tour (One Night Only)

Morton is one of the comedians who, during lockdown, made me reassess whether it was possible to generate really good comedy for the internet, by meeting the limitations of the form head-on.

Simon Munnery: Trials and Tribulations

Simon Munnery: Trials and Tribulations

Those of us that came of age as comedians in the 80s/90s know Simon is one of the all time great British stand-ups, the Peter Cook of his generation, but without the early massive success and subsequent squandered wealth. A must see!!! The Søren Kierkegaard of comedy.

Joanna Neary: Wasp In A Cardigan. Joanna Neary

Joanna Neary: Wasp In A Cardigan

More surgically precise strangeness from the Exene Cervenka of quirky character comedy.

David O'Doherty: whoa is me. David O'Doherty

David O'Doherty: whoa is me

Always brilliant practitioner of Very Low Energy Musical Whimsy. The Jandek of comedy.

Jerry Sadowitz: Not for Anyone

Jerry Sadowitz: Not for Anyone

Sadowitz's schtick made conceptual sense when we all lived in a supposed liberal consensus, but now we are in the foothills of Phil MacIntyre-promoted fascism-lite will it read differently? He is one of the great stand-ups but we are in a different world to the one that gave us the classic '80s opening line, "Nelson Mandela! What a cunt!" I wish I could see it nonetheless, but he won't let me. The Gilles de Rais of comedy/magic.

Paul Sinha: One Sinha Lifetime. Paul Sinha

Paul Sinha: One Sinha Lifetime

Paul is a brilliant, measured, writerly, satirical, compassionate stand-up, and I was worried his success in his favoured field of TV trivia quizzing would steal him away from the art form, much as talking to Ed Gamble about food threatens to steer J Acaster from the path The Norns have chosen for him. But here he is, back. Brilliant. The Captain Scarlet of comedy.

Eleanor Tiernan: Away With The Fairies. Eleanor Tiernan

Eleanor Tiernan: Away With The Fairies

Tiernan has been quietly and unassumingly brilliant for ages now and every Fringe her show is my treat to myself. This is promoted by evil comedy agents Avalon though, so if you do see this, carbon-balance your guilt by going to see a free Fringe type show or some worthwhile loss-making art. The Sister Anselme O'Ceallaigh of stand-up.

Thom Tuck and Tim FitzHigham: Macbeth. Image shows from L to R: Thom Tuck, Tim Fitzhigham

Thom Tuck and Tim FitzHigham: Macbeth

Two funny posh men, who have squandered their birthrights, fuck about with Macbeth, probably while drunk on the finest wines known to humanity. Pointless but, I assume, brilliant. The First And Second Murderers of Comedy.

Tim Vine: Breeeep!. Tim Vine

Tim Vine: Breeeep!

One man. Millions of tiny jokes. The Willard Wigan of comedy.

War of the Worlds (On a Budget)

War of the Worlds (On a Budget)

I have no idea what this will be like, but I expect I will enjoy it if I see it with the right person (Ben Moor, who did this same idea in 1989 with Dave Green & Danny O'Brien, who went on to coin the phrase 'life hack').

Lee also said in his newsletter: "I always say it's better to support smaller venues and Free Fringe if you can, but this is often deliberately misconstrued as an attempt to disenfranchise other acts, rather than to level the playing field for people who can't afford the losses incurred at larger venues through well known comedy promoters. Social access to the arts based on class and wealth is in the worse state it's been in my lifetime, with some attempts to disbar diverse voices from having a platform seeming to me like evidence of a deliberate political agenda to consolidate the power and profile or The Rich and The Right.

"Edinburgh landlords in 2022 are guilty of consolidating this imbalance through ignorance and greed, The Fringe Society through neglect. So, buying a ticket to see Kunt and The Gang at the Free Fringe is actually political act akin to manning an '80s miners' strike picket line or setting fire to a massive '70s bra.

"I expect the Monkey Barrel will be where comedy coalesces into something new this year, but only a fool, or a Sunday supplement Arts Journalist, makes firm pre-Fringe predictions. Before I had kids I used to aim to see 100 shows a year, and this year I reckon I may make that target again. And the beauty of the Fringe is you always find something superb that you never heard of before, and never would have imagined. So ignore this list of recommendations as a matter of principle. And remember, official coverage of the fringe by informed critics on an accommodation budget is at an all-time low due to the collapse of 'legacy' media, so do your best to spread the word of genuine finds by whatever means necessary."

The full newsletter - which also features his tips for other programme categories, such as theatre - includes caveats about seeing shows promoted by Phil McIntrye Entertainment due to their links with author Douglas Murray, and promoters Avalon (Rob Auton, Eleanor Tiernan), who Lee says spearheaded the pay-to-play ethos of the Fringe in the '90s and '00s, "ruining many young people's lives for ever and stamping their dreams into the dirt."

Lee himself will be performing the shows Basic Lee (Work in Progress) and Snowflake at this year's festival.

Published: Thursday 21st July 2022

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