Edinburgh Fringe Review 2019 – So You Think You're Funny? Final 2019, Gilded Balloon

The final week of the Edinburgh Fringe feels like it is full of comedians being up for all sorts of prizes, but this is an important one. Previous winners include Peter Kay, Dylan Moran and Lee Mack and more recently Aisling Bea and Tom Allen so this is a genuine feather in your comedy cap.

First up in this year's final was Lebanese Fady Kassab. Maybe 2019 is the year of the Lebanese stand-up at the Fringe – Janine Harouni is half-Lebanese and has been bagging plaudits here. Kassab certainly has an interesting comedy perspective, talking about moving first to Germany and then to Australia in search of a better life. He had a nice relaxed style but beyond the distinctive subject matter of growing up in a war-torn country – and a good gag comparing comedy and Israel because they both go to places you normally shouldn't go – his material lacked the punch needed to make him a contender for top spot tonight.

Charlie George – no, not the 1970s footballer – started by explaining that as a child she had wanted to be a man so she could swing her dick around. It was a course gag which was not typical of her set. After this wobbly start George picked up momentum. Like Kassab she also had a back story to give her strong material, George is half-Indian, half-white (her description) and was brought up by a mother who used to go round collecting for the Salvation Army. George went with her when she was selling the Watchtower and recalls her first crush on the doorstep. This personal material was stronger than her gags about mindfulness and helped to land the second runner-up spot (that's third place to you).

Next act British-Canadian Claire Haus certainly made a visual splash in her denim jump suit, which was also a jumping off point for her first few gags about resembling a pest control woman and various other onesie-based occupations. Sometimes this newcomer competition puts people through to the final who have something about them but are still very raw. Haus very much falls into this category. She certainly had presence and the occasional sharp insight though, so it will be interesting to follow her career.

Phillipino stand-up (from Toronto and living in the UK, keep up) Erika Ehler had a style that easily stood out. She had the darkest, edgiest material of the night which maybe meant that she wasn't to everyone's tastes. References to Amanda Knox and Malaysian air crashes wre among the more brutal asides in her short set. She also talked about having Attention Deficit Disorder and the side effects of medication she was taking. It was not the kind of material you would hear on Live at the Apollo, that's for sure. 

The final act of the first half could not have been more different to Ehler. Irishman Shane Daniel Byrne came onstage in tight shors and a tucked-in shirt. It looked from a distance as if he had lederhosen on and had forgotten his braces. And the funniest thing was that his outfit was not really essential to his act, as this civil servant quipped smugly but comedically about being from an EU country and not only that, one that had had a referendum and got the right result – the marriage equality vote in 2015. Some of his gags were slightly low hanging fruit – mocking young people today, for example – but he had the kind of fizzy personality that could take him far. It was probably his personality rather than his jokes that won him first runner-up position. 

Review continues here.


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