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Brian Butterfield / Jay Lafferty / Ray Bradshaw - Bobby Carroll's Live Comedy Diary

Brian Butterfield. Peter Serafinowicz

Peter Serafinowicz is a living legend. Giant chameleon. Booming voice.

Look Around You. Shaun Of The Dead. John Wick. Terry Wogan's Pirate Radio. And the fantastic, "How the fuck did that only get one series?!", The Peter Serafinowicz Show. A cult item that rewarded my generation's culture with Brian Butterfield. Inept businessman and consumer of Bonbonbonbons. He captured all of our meme grasping imaginations. And here comes a second hurrah at a belated live tour. Sorry... business seminar. The Call Of Now.

Scotland is getting kicked out of the Euros on this particular Edinburgh night. So the remainder audience is noticeably nerdy. The geeks next to me are desperate to scan the QR code projected on the Queen's Hall stage's big screen. The chance to pitch Butterfield a pre-show business idea while Serafinowicz bungs in the padding and glues those prosthetic jowls on. The bully bait next to me are overly excited about their submission - an AI that sorts your socks. Not massively realising that the eventual chosen will get to come on stage and take part in Brian's Den. Those suggestions will need to be the wackiest ideas and the ones doomed to failure. This cluster next to me went full uninspired, ultra practical and would not shut up about it for the fifteen minutes before the show began. Expect to see SockSorter in an app store near you soon. Suffice to say they weren't invited up on stage for the big finale.

The show itself is kind of ambient comedy. The loudest laughs are in the extended prefilmed adverts for failed businesses projected again up on screen while our star is absent. Cuttings from unrealised episodes of The Peter Serafinowicz Show if it ran for fourteen (deserved) series. There definitely were solid jokes in the live performance ("What's your favourite superpower?") But they come within lengthy extended interactive skits. There's an overreliance on faked imagery. How do I feel about AI generated memes dominating a live show? Struggling to find a positive there. Luddite that I am.

I kinda wish Serafinowicz used his masthead character to launch a tour show that revisited many of his caricature and impression gems. There's a cavalcade worthy of revival. Ringo Starr composing his 007 theme songs, or Acting Masterclass. What we did get was pretty solid. Butterfield is markedly inept. He is Alan Sugar as Frank Spencer. The laughs should come easy. Serafinowicz rakes over ancient gags and new turf as he plays the big space of a theatre tour. I think the core audience were sated. But the uninitiated might wonder what they just spent 30 quid on? Butterfield's product is knowingly wobbly. The kinda toot that might get two stars on Trustpilot even by a biased bot.

Jay Lafferty

Friday night at the Monkey Barrel. The cutting edge live comedy success story feels just a little trad tonight. A full survey of the room and we are clearly swimming in international waters. Kiwis, Aussies, Yanks... one solitary Welshman. A quick glance at the line up and you couldn't get more homogeneous. By accident or design the emphasis is on Scottish acts with lushly rich accents and specifically local reference points. There could be trouble ahead. Yet those laugh tourists who bought a ticket to experience Tartan stand-up found a common ground with minimal stabilisers bolted on or bowling alley ramps pulled up from the acts. 90 minutes of authentic Scotch broth. Jump in, taste the meaty salt.

Jay Lafferty opened the show in a retro denim jumpsuit. Boogie Nights-a-go-go! Her first salvo was to continue to keep the compere's plates spinning by asking the room an unusually fertile question. What have we done to improve ourselves?

Answers sprouted from every seat with naive overconfidence. Running, further education achievements and a Tennessee improv class were shot down with a dismissive panache. The overriding topic of personal development had the feel of assignment work. A theme for this year's Fringe show perhaps? What is interesting about Lafferty is that her audience banter doesn't seem a craven ploy. Normally acts use and abuse chat as an 'in'. A long way round to make prepped routines seem like off the cuff inspiration. Here, jokes are the reward after she has enjoyed a good blether with the front row. She is as adept at controlled banter as she is material so why shouldn't she dabble in both ponds equitably?

When Lafferty did drill into a longer form bit it was met with frequent nudges and nods from the older set in the room. Turns out parents' WhatsApp groups are a universal nightmare, whatever corner of the globe you hail from. A tale of a party bag for kids that caused it all to kick aff had plenty of relished twists and turns. Lafferty spun it out knowing she had the goods. Even when storytelling, she kept one hand in on being very interactive with the crowd. The girl can't help herself.

Gareth Mutch

Gareth Mutch reheated us some of his best cuts in the middle. I covered Mutch earlier this year and have seen him a couple more times since. Indisputably skilled, he always does the business. I should highlight that he is constantly finding new wrinkles on even his most surefire routines. Tweaking, layering in new ideas and building on the laughs; getting lost in the crowd and finding his way back to the tried and tested with a bulldozering skill. Quite admirable that he never phones it in and just recites his greatest hits. His comedy breathes.

Hannah Campbell

Hannah Campbell made a fine show of herself in a shorter set. She brought a terse Scottish wit to some new age concepts. There's something quite definitive about her material and delivery. No nonsense, voice and observations in powerful harmony. Rare for a new-ish act to be so accomplished in both areas. She could easily find herself being pitched as the next Fern Brady.

Ray Bradshaw. Credit: Jiksaw

Ray Bradshaw closed the night with a nice smattering of hits from his recent concept shows. Being a child of deaf parents has rewarded him with a fertile perspective. And his recent quest to gig in front of as many bald ginger men as possible has added some brilliant new anecdotes to his winning hand. Turns out calling your last show Doppleginger is more than just a clever name.

What I really love about Bradshaw is how unfussy and natural he is. There's nothing forced. Even when his anecdotes are a little finessed and refined around the punch he stays in an attractively neutral gear. Many closers can de-thread the bolt. Put such pressure on their persona that there is nowhere to go but diminishing returns. Bradshaw just has this precious soft magic and he glides real tenderly over his material. Even routines I was hearing for the fourth or so time had me enthralled and howling. A perfect headliner. Masterful. He left the visiting nations with something to write home about.

Monkey Barrel 2

The Edinburgh Fringe is upon us again and I can already see toolbelts and plywood invade the old town. Signs that certain venues are starting to be converted into temporary art festival mega complexes. I always find it amusing when the main Fringe brochure launches that the Soho Theatre 'dahn saff' has them on display before most libraries and bookshops in Edinburgh.

I had exhausting fun last year spending a whole day in one room of the Monkey Barrel and seeing every show scheduled in a sweaty comedy marathon. What 24 hour gimmick should I attempt this year I ask myself? I think I'm going to spend a day with no shows pre booked and only go see acts I'm flyered at while wandering about the city centre. Caveats: I can't have seen the show already and it needs to be starting within 30 minutes of me being flyered. Wish me luck on Monday 12th of August when I deep dive into Nothing But Flyers.

Jay Lafferty: Bahookie is on at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh from 22nd to 26th August.

Ray Bradshaw and Some Funnier Friends is on at the Waverley Bar in Edinburgh from 4th to 25th August.

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