Comedy cuts: Mark Thomas| Shazia Mirza

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EVEN serious topics can be hilarious. The chances are, someone might get offended, but the best comedians can find comedy gold in even the most controversial situations and work out a way to defuse tensions.

Mark Thomas: Cuckooed

Traverse, Cambridge Street

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Erich McElroy: The British Referendum

Just The Tonic, Candlemaker Row

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Shazia Mirza: Bulletproof

Assembly Rooms, George Street

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In fact, acting like a sort of medieval jester like that, comics can get away with almost anything.

Well known for exposing government and industrial corruption, in Cuckooed, Mark Thomas turned his attention to a man he had known for many years who (it turned out) had been spying on him in the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The show itself could hardly have been more clever. As the evidence piled up, the capacity audience grew almost as angry as Thomas himself. Somehow, though, for all the hurt and betrayal, Thomas found rich seams of humour and mined them relentlessly.

Both thought-provoking and hilarious, Thomas is always worth twice the asking price.

Born in the USA, but now a UK citizen, Erich McElroy is worried about us in the upcoming referendum.

The comic has lived here for almost 14 years and, while he’s steeped in American politics, he does love Britain, which was why he felt compelled to share his feelings.

Not that the show is one huge political rant, far from it. McElroy has a very easy, free-flowing style and he effortlessly and hilariously points out some of the absurdities on both sides of the campaign.

Well worth it, even if you’re not in the least bit political.

Shazia Mirza is used to confrontation. Her show – Bulletproof – is so named because of an incident where the Birmingham born comic had to perform her act while wearing a bulletproof vest. Hopefully the Fringe won’t be quite such a tough room.

Clearly, female comedians, even those of Pakistani descent, more than pay their dues in Pakistan. ‘Tough room’ doesn’t begin to cover it, apparently.

However difficult a Fringe crowd might be though, as a former science teacher in Tower hamlets, the talented Mirza has seen and heard it all – and quite a bit of it ends up in her eye-opening and very funny show.