Edinburgh Fringe Review 2019 – Round-Up Featuring Seann Walsh, Phil Wang, Jen Brister, George Egg, Tom Rosenthal, Carl Donnelly & More : Page 2 of 2

Another quick word for another great stand-up show. Carl Donnelly performed in a tiny yurt in the round. He was the first stand-up I’d seen perform in the round since Kevin Hart at the 02 and trust me, Carl Donnelly was funnier. His show was originally going to be how bleak he was feeling but then he cheered up. Bleak or cheerful though, Donnelly is a compelling, comic presence onstage - even when he has his back to you.

I also liked Rob Auton’s show about Time, although I’m not sure if it was any better than his brilliant show last year, The Talk Show. Auton is lyrical, imaginative and playful and has a style all of his own. It is not everyday you see a comedian getting so moved by his own words, but that’s what you get when you see a comedian with the soul of a poet. You also get free flapjacks.

There was no free food at Nick Revell's show, just food for thought. The word "veteran" sometimes has connotations of implying you are a bit past it, but that's certainly not the case for this seasoned performer, who seems to get better with age. Revell is not so much a stand-up these days as a weaver of magic realist shaggy dog stories. His latest set, Eurasia’s Most Eligible Psychopaths and Their Lovely Homes, took the audience on a rollercoaster journey from a down-at-heel pub in north London to dubious goings-on beyond the right-hand side of Europe. They say you slow down as you get older, but not Revell. Ideas, jokes and endless absurdist flights of fancy seem to pour out of his restless mind.

Another stand-up on great form this year and maybe unlucky to miss out on a nomination was Jen Brister, who has found her voice in the last couple of years. Or maybe that should be voices. As she tackled various modern world issues – toxic masculinity, white male privilege – that currently send her into a tailspin of volcanic rage she would double up, grimace and scream her head off. At one point I was sure I saw steam or maybe hot lava coming out of her ears. 

One interesting thing about Brister’s show was at one point she turned to the wall and started having a conversation with herself with her back to the audience. I wrote in my notebook that this was eerily reminiscent of something Terry Alderton has been known to do in his act. As it happened, in one of those odd coincidences that Edinburgh throws up, Alderton was also on at the Fringe shortly before Brister. 

There was a lot of buzz about Phil Wang this year. He sold out his run very quickly and he was being talked about as a possible Award nominee, In the end he didn’t get a nod from the judges, but I don’t really think he needs it. His latest show, Philly Philly Wang Wang, simply confirmed what people already know. That he is a master of the well-polished humorous observations, who has the ability to shuttle seamlessly between filthy childish smut and genuine thoughtful, mature routines. 

This show, despite the silly title, was his most mature yet. He has a grown-up hairstyle, as he noted onstage, and grown-up material about race, relationships and identity politics to go with it. He is probably not the first person to do a routine about the viability of male contraceptive pills but he might be the first to impersonate a sperm when he does it (although Woody Allen did once play a sperm in a film for different artistic reasons). 

I thought Richard Herring had had the last word on comedy penis chat when he did a show called Talking Cock, which explored the male member throughout history. But Tom Rosenthal went further with his show Manhood, which is all about how he copes with being circumcised. It is a show full of shocks about the ups and downs of the penis, but the biggest shock of all, certainly for anyone who has seen Rosenthal in Friday Night Dinner, is that he is not Jewish. 

Maybe if he had been Jewish his attitude to circumcision might have been more accepting, I don’t know, but instead he does feel that he is missing something and – in keeping with one of the themes of Edinburgh 2019 – this is a cause for huge anxiety that he has gone to great lengths to tackle. It’s a bit like a Ted Talk at times, but an honest, funny, frank set. Not to mention one that gives journalists and headline writers a field day. If Rosenthal wasn’t already a star I’d be tipping him for success.

A quick positive word for Jack Gleadow, who didn't get great reviews in Edinburgh for his old school show that mixed prop comedy with autobiography and tributes to Bruce Forsyth and the Chuckle Brothers. Is Gleadow 63 years old? No, he's in his mid-twenties. His act might sound like throwback humour and the writing for this debut was wildly inconsistent, but Gleadow clearly has funny bones and they are going to take him far even if he is not to the tastes of the Edinburgh Fringe star-makers.

Another show with a difference was George Egg’s Movable Feast, in which the Brighton-based stand-up chef cooks using a car engine, tosses a salad in a cement mixer and demonstrates how you can do unspeakable things with a portable grill disguised as a laptop now that they have plugs for computers on trains. 

Egg is a bit of a victim of his own success - when I saw his show a few years ago the audience was so small most of us got a taste of the meals he knocked up onstage. This year he was performing in a bigger tent and there was a veritable scrum for his chicken dish, fish and aubergines at the end. Who needs five star reviews? The fact that the audience is nearly rioting to get at your food is surely enough of a recommendation. Oh, and there’s some tasty, simmering Bill Bailey-ish whimsical comedy between courses too. It can surely only be a matter of time before Egg gets a regular television slot for his madcap cuisine ideas.



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