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."
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!
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.
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.
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.
The poet laureate of punk celebrates himself w special guests including me.
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!
Reliably hilarious stand-up with a political edge from the Wellesley Tudor Pole of comedy.
Lots of people tell me this is great, and it was written before Bush resurfaced via Strange Things.
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.
I saw this character at Machfest and it was a comic love letter to a lost world of Reithian values.
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!
Former enfant terrible now grande dame of US Alt Com. The Alice Bag of stand-up. You owe her so much, kids.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 (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 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.
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.
Former teenage wunderkind of stand-up returns, presumably as inspiring as ever. The Manda Rin of stand-up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More surgically precise strangeness from the Exene Cervenka of quirky character comedy.
Always brilliant practitioner of Very Low Energy Musical Whimsy. The Jandek of comedy.
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 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.
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.
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.
One man. Millions of tiny jokes. The Willard Wigan of comedy.
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."