Edinburgh Fringe Comedy reviews round-up

Brendon Burns. Pic: Toby Williams
Brendon Burns. Pic: Toby Williams
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Comrade Alexei doesn’t miss a trick

During the Fringe especially, there’s always a lot of talk on-stage and off about the difference between mainstream comedy and its more niche offerings, exploring whether it’s possible to have mass appeal while maintaining artistic credibility.

‘A lot has changed since I invented Alternative Comedy’ reflects Alexei Sayle (The Stand, 6pm, until August 25, * * * * *) wryly at the outset of this semi-biographical show, before noting that it was once possible to be have an opinion and still be considered part of the mainstream.

17 years on from his last stand-up show, the original firebrand demonstrates that although age might have allowed him a greater acceptance of our own unavoidable struggles with hypocrisy, he can still vent hilarious ire when required , whether it’s the TV show-assisted rehabilitation of war criminals or the re-emergence of elitism. Familiar touchpoints such as the miners and Communism are also addressed, but with impressive new frames of reference, something best exemplified by his unexpectedly surreal update of some famous old material about Thatcher. Aspiring agitators take note: buy a ticket and learn from the master.

The trouble with Brendon Burns

Troublemaker Brendon Burns (The Stand, 9.40pm, until August 25, * * *) is hardly a stranger to controversy, and he’s up to his old tricks again,

revelling in creating un-

comfortable comedy.

Having recently discovered he’s been partially deaf since the age of five, he sets about questioning notions of disability and our perceptions of why we laugh, all the while working through a list of five reasons he’s never going to break into the mainstream, from sucking on TV (complete with a car-crash example) to callbacks that reference past shows. There’s a lot of clever ideas squeezed in here, and it’s one show that definitely merits a repeat viewing.

Stirling service and all in the right cause

Local boy Iain Stirling (Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until August 25, * *), now living in London, makes no effort to hide his desire to get more TV exposure.

In fact, he’s got a plan to help achieve this, by carving out a place as a right wing comedian (‘there’s not enough of them’).

But while that segment displays an amusing level of self-awareness, the rest of his set soon slips back into banal, not-as-smart-as-it-thinks-it-is territory.

However, his confident, bordering on self-satisfied, delivery and some fairly vapid observations and opinions mark him out as a sure-fire panel show star.