Caroline Rhea / Casey Patmore / George Anderson / Eddie French - Bobby Carroll's Glasgow Festival Diary

Caroline Rhea

One thing the Glasgow International Comedy Festival does better than the Edinburgh Fringe is spackling the bigger draws all over the city. Fantastic for the residents, perfect for those who want to see more than three streets in the centre... but it does mean walking from one venue to the next can find you unexpectedly in a cold wash spin cycle of weather. I arrived at Oran Mor wetter than Jaws' pyjamas.

Former US kids show star Caroline Rhea radiates the much-needed warmth to tumble dry me out. Making her way to the stage gingerly via a crowd of at least 250 eager Sabrina The Teenage Witch fans, there's a down to earth atmosphere to I Identify As A Witch. Also, an incredibly scatty one. She opens with a bit of "local" to a huge home team response. Edinburgh is bashed, Glasgow rocks. Whoop whoop! But c'mon Glasgow, she was in Edinburgh only last night? What do you reckon she said about the capital city only 24 hours earlier? Then we are in an ADHD swirl. A whirlwind of more "local", claims to fame, crowdwork, stop start routines, asking everyone in the front row and beyond their star signs. Channel surfing but never settling in. The audience is tittivated by this 'mad aunt off her meds' shtick and return at her loudly, easily. When she completes a routine about Irish names or lazy eyes, she evidences the goods. Blunt, hot and deadly like a burning stake. It feels like we've barely started and then it is intermission time.

I think the intermission was called early partly due to someone in the front row brazenly taking photos of the nostalgia celeb from an unflattering angle. An announcement is made that Rhea will be wholly available for selfies after the show and until then cameras should be put away. And when she comes back on, she takes the starstruck snapper to task. But in the sweetest way. A cookie is regifted to the pay-as-you-go paparazzo. The girl is invited on stage and shown the correct way to get a photo with a star that doesn't reveal any wobbly bits. "Now delete the bad ones from your phone."

We get about five minutes of behind-the-scenes Sabrina reminiscences. These stories are alive and told with a big physicality. The highlight for even a casual viewer of the Melissa Joan Hart tween sitcom back in the day. And Rhea at least tries to end on a few fully formed bits without interrupting herself. She never fully succeeds but the sheer energy spent faffing about, giving us glimpses of her US circuit gold, has an hypnotic thrall.

Image shows left to right: George Anderson, Casey Patmore

Casey Patmore and George Anderson's two hander Big If True is miles better than your usual "first show on a Sunday" in the Van Winkles basement. Patmore opens the show with a vibe not a million miles away from Caroline Rhea above. He keeps threatening to start his newish act's ten minutes of material but he's too busy getting laughs out of the admin, running himself down and taking the piss out of his show sharer. Very good-natured piss-taking that only comes from two friends comfortable dicking about rather than bigging each other up.

Self-deprecation is Patmore's stock in trade and he's pretty adept at it. Riffing on the idea that we all need to minimise our expectations about him and the imminent "10", he finds plenty of juicy lines. Surprising even himself sometimes with the warm reception. The gentle lacerations he cuts himself with disguise a keen comedy mind and lovely comedy persona. It ain't all gravy though. A few of his conceits are a little tired or don't find a full flow line. His strongest material about the no pet clauses in his lease and dogs being terrible business negotiators sensibly top and tail the show. Nervy, smart and promising.

His partner in crime also operates in the beta male, underdog landscape. The difference is, Anderson has that American bravado and patter that just sings a little sweeter in British rooms. Coming on stage and grabbing the mic stand by the neck, he reminds of a baby-faced Marc Maron. His material has a depressive poetry to it and his ideas are more sustained and unpredictable. A noodle hater and bagel fan, it isn't as internalised as the best comedians from across the Atlantic. His takes are often sniping at the outside world rather than true introspection. His finest stuff about bench memorial plaques, the indignities of finding a printer in your "mid late early twenties" and horse slavery work their magic with a steady, intense oddball thrust.

I laughed at both these comics far more than I would expect to going in cold, sober and in broad daylight. I reckon Patmore will graduate to paid twenties with ease and I relish seeing Anderson take on an hour solo.

Eddie French

Staying in Van Winkles, next up is Eddie French Is A Poser. It is another show that start as if the stand-up's main motor is going to be exclusively fuelled by self-distraction. French knuckles down quite quickly though, gets their work-in-progress notes on index cards out and delivers an hour with plenty of structure and focus. Wearing an impressive rockabilly bowling style shirt, wallet on heavy chain (and did I spy a glimpse of neon pink brothel creepers?) one can start to assume what music tribe French belongs to before they even crack their first gag. Yet the hour is often about how the performer feels rejected by their own subsets. Too southern to be Northern, too macho to be embraced by the non-binaries, too joyful to be a "traditional" punk and too into Doctor Who to engage with any of that rabid fanbase.

Without ever straying far from their own chosen niche French finds plenty of anecdotal and observational evidence to prove their thesis. Their unlikely choice of the ultimate strain of nerdom is spot on, for example. The prejudices and obsessions of weed aficionados has comedy legs. There are chunks that are obviously still bedding in, but French is quite good at doing off the cuff, and never to the detriment of their overarching intent. More importantly, they have dramatic flair, a juicy vocabulary and the hour is littered with big theatrical flourishes and act outs.

French had attracted a small crowd, but this was the most relaxed and welcome I have felt at a show this festival so far. I could just switch off and trust in a capable and erudite personality. Fans of Andrew O'Neill should seek out this post punk kindred spirit.

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