Edinburgh Fringe Review: Amused Moose Comedy Award Final, Space @ Symposium Hall

One week of the Edinburgh Fringe left and it was time for the first major comedy award to be handed out. The Amused Moose has thrown up some big finalists in the past and this year was no exception. 

I wasn't so sure about the first act though. It would be harsh to say that Sleeping Trees’ variety of sci-fi sketch comedy would only appeal to Trekkies and Red Dwarf fans, but there was something distinctly geeky about it, from their live borderline prog rock music to their matching USS Enterprise-style tops. The skits swung wildly between the downright odd and the slightly niche, from pig lullabies to booming Brian Blessed soundalikes. There might be a market for this, but it left me pretty cold. 

Next up was short-haired Laura Lexx, who made much of the fact that she was straight and from Brighton. There was a nice little subversive nugget in her set in which rather than slag off her husband as many comedians do, she underlined that they were happily married. Lexx also had some good lines when explaining why she had short hair and the set also delved into nature documentary territory with a riff about wildebeest hunting. It was all very efficient without ever quite setting the room alight.

Australian comic Tom Ballard has had good write-ups already in this Festival and his short set showed why. He was also a very conventional stand-up, but a funny one, whether talking about the refugee crisis or his friend who ate so much cheese it had to be surgically removed. Ballard is clearly going places back home - his stand-out routine was about him being given the job of chairing a Question Time TV show which he admits he royally cocked up. He was surely a contender for winner but didn’t make the top two.

The surprise of the gig was Neal Portenza, an anarchic clown from down under who has been around for a while. This was not Gaulier-style clowning but old school anarchy in a beret and face paint. Portenza wandered through the audience, reworked lyrics to old pop songs and asked a punter to lob a frisbee at him. His highlight was howling unexpectedly like a monstrous bird. There wasn’t much that felt new here and what was done was not done with much style. To my utter amazement he was awarded the runner-up prize. 

Last act of the first half was James Loveridge, a pretty normal stand-up bloke who has recently signed to a big comedy management company. I can see him going places but he does need better, tighter material. His best routine here was anecdote about discovering the joys of going on a hen do. It was rude and crude and felt slightly naughty at an afternoon gig. Elsewhere there was a bit of politics when he discussed equal pay for women. He was quite happy to do his bit for wage parity if it meant she would support him, he joked. It was well-intentioned but it just came across as a little too laddish on this occasion.

Review continues here.

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