Edinburgh 2008 - Reviews, and Reviews of Reviews, Part 3

23 August 2008

This is part three of my reviews of the shows I saw at this year’s Edinburgh festival. Here are links to part 1 and part 2.

The Honourable Men of Art at The Stand

Daniel Kitson, David O’Doherty and Andy Zaltzman were joined in the second half by Alun Cochrane for this late show, which was basically just them dicking about. Much of the performance was taken up with a very closely fought Scrabble match between Kitson and a member of the audience. And in the second half, another member of the audience was challenged by Cochrane to a dressing-up race. There was very little prepared material, save for some ridiculous impressions by Andy Zaltzman (Marvin Gaye: “Hello dad, you look cross”), and some comedy songs by David O’Doherty (who has just won the if.comedy award).

All good fun, if somewhat bizarre. My rating: 6/10

Dan Antopolski’s Penetrating Gaze at Underbelly.

Dan Antopolski is back after a few years’ absence in which he has become a parent. This was the theme that dominated, but it didn’t prevent him from randomly flitting between various topics. His jokes are so clever and quick he can sometimes be halfway through the next one before you’ve worked it out, and I think this is probably why he seemes to divide audiences. I think he’s an absolute genius, yet some reviewers (and some audiences I’ve seen at Antopolski gigs) just don’t seem to get him.

Fest, for example, only give him two stars:

"Unfortunately the fact that he's "a family man these days" is the show's only discernible theme ... the increasingly sweaty comic raises few laughs from a tepid audience bemused, rather than amused, by his seemingly pointless anecdotes ... Antopolski conducts bizarre €œconversations€ with himself in the guise of his heavily-accented Slavic cousin. Whilst these lengthy episodes add variety to an otherwise tedious monologue, they become increasingly muddled and near-impossible to follow as Antopolski himself loses track of which voice he's speaking in. Similarly, while his raps about sandwiches, racism and babies are well-delivered, the lyrics are simply unfunny."

The bit about losing track of what voice he’s speaking in - that’s supposed to be the joke. This reviewer must be one of the 50% of people who bafflingly just don’t seem to get Dan Antopolski - you can tell from the phrases like “bemused”, “near-impossible to follow” and the sweepingly arrogant “simply unfunny”. Maybe if you’re simple, it is unfunny.

Fortunately, Chortle agrees with me, giving this show four stars.

"There's a strong sense of cheeky fun running through this, with Antopolski clearly enjoying every minute, happy just to be entertaining himself; if the audience come along too, then it's a bonus."

In the show I saw, Antopolski himself pointed out the crapness of the review he got in The Scotsman, which was fooled into believing that he was re-hashing material from 2002. Which all quite nicely goes to illustrate how reviews are so subjective as to be almost completely worthless. You can’t tell from a low star rating if the show is bad, or if the reviewer just doesn’t like the same kind of comedy as you. Or is unable to be able to identify half of the jokes in the first place.

Still, I think Antopolski is great, and if, on the strength of this recommendation, you go to see his show and don’t like it, then not only have you failed to understand Dan Antopolski, you have failed in life. But it’s all just my opinion of course, because that’s all reviews are. My rating: 9/10

Reginald D. Hunter: No Country for Grown Men at Pleasance Grand

The Pleasance Grand is the largest comedy venue I went to in Edinburgh, and it definitely changes the atmosphere. I much prefer a smaller space for comedy, but Reginald D. Hunter (website is a bit out of date) coped well, addressing the issue at the start of the show.

He makes some very interesting and intelligently argued points about the infantilisation of modern men - possibly too much for the Chortle reviewer, who seems to want more punchlines, giving the show three stars:

"These jokes are good, but the rate's slow, with so much time spent on expounding his opinions, which aren't always compelling enough to deserve such a big chunk of proceedings."

I don’t think the gag rate is important - in fact, Hunter’s ability to keep an entire audience listening silently for ages, before delivering the ultimate punchline, is what makes him so special. It’s rare to find a comedian who can keep us all interested in what he’s saying without needing to deliver a gag every twenty seconds.

My rating: 7/10

Faultless & Torrance: The Three Musketeers at Underbelly

I know half of this duo from the stand-up course I did last year, so I’ll invoke my rule about not reviewing people I know. But I will say that it was really good fun and really, really silly. There is quite a nice review of it by The Stage.

Rob Deering: Boobs 2008 at Underbelly

You can’t help but love Rob Deering, with his big silly face and guitar, and in recent years his exciting technological contraption that lets him accompany himself by recording a few bars and then looping it, allowing him to build up a complete multi-tracked song.

It wasn’t the ideal venue though - a dark cellar that was too big and had a dripping ceiling. The audience was surprisingly small and quite quiet to start with. It took a while to get everyone going, but things had warmed up by the second half.

For a change I will completely agree with the review in Fest:

"The dank interior of the Baby Belly caves doesn't really help the atmosphere either, despite its stoney grandeur. The leaky roof and musty odours, left festering for hundreds of years, simply don't complement the sunshine-and-smiles image that Deering's stage persona emits. This isn't poor comedy, however; it's just nothing new from a comedian that many Fringe audiences have seen before and, while it might please ardent fans, it's not likely to win Deering any new devotees."

My rating: 7/10

That’s it for part 3. I’ve now reviewed 12 shows, so there are 8 left. Until next time…