Keith Smith: Comic Cuts

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Our round of Fringe comedy reviews

IT’S really rather rare to find yourself actively wishing you were sat in the front row at a comedy gig, but that’s exactly what happens when you head along to see Jarred Christmas (Gilded Balloon Teviot, 9.30pm, until August 26, ***). Funny and likeable, with even better sideburns than Bradley Wiggins, any over-reliance he has on the “fat man dances badly” interludes is swiftly forgiven with his gloriously daft finale, a nifty idea that makes the concept of audience participation seem palatable. Coming to the realisation that his last heroic deed was an attempt, aged 14, to rescue a drowning dog that went horribly wrong, the Kiwi comic sets about exploring tales of bravery that feature backfiring pranks, pork pies and rubber chickens.

Another stand-up with a knack for getting the crowd involved is Mark Cooper-Jones (Cabaret Voltaire, 3.50pm, until August 27, ***). Combining part-time work as a geography teacher with his comedy career has provided him with a rich source of material. Making his “class” compete against him in a capital city quiz is enormously agreeable, especially when a smart-alec punter unwittingly blows the whole premise, forcing Cooper-Jones into an amusingly shambolic ending.

Reviving a show first performed in 2002, Fringe favourite Richard Herring (Underbelly Bristo Square, 8.15pm, until August 26, ***) positively rejoices in speaking about the unspeakable in what has been described by some as the “Vagina Monologues for men”. It’s an intelligent analysis of male self-image and insecurity, questioning common assumptions and notions with some puerility thrown in for good measure. Facts, observations and jokes are delivered at breakneck speed, with hardly a pause for breath. As a result, it feels rushed, although given the subject matter, this Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am approach is arguably quite apt. But you can’t quite shake the impression that the teenage boy inside him simply sees this as a way to air the puns and euphemisms he’s conjured up.