Preview: The Week Ahead Aug 26 - Sept 1

janeane martin

As the Edinburgh Fringe Festival finally finishes the sensible comics will be taking a well-earned break, but for some international acts there is no rest for the wickedly funny. Janeane Garofalo comes directly from Edinburgh to the Soho Theatre with her, well, judging from what I saw at the Assembly Rooms last Wednesday, to call it a show, would be stretching definitions a little. She entertained a sparse audience with scattershot personal anecdotes and references to TV programmes nobody knew about and at times struggled to make sense of her own notes.

There were flashes of her supercool sardonic humour, riffing on Life of Pi, pubic hair and bead shops, but the whole thing felt pretty flat. Although part of the problem was the layout of the room which meant that when people went to the toilet – or left - they thought they had to walk straight in front of Garofalo to get to the exit. She does not seem the most relaxed performer at the best of times – she famously walked off at Latitude in 2009 after around ten minutes – and seeing people leaving your gig halfway through is hardly going to fill you with confidence. She is at the Soho Theatre until Tuesday and hopefully a fuller room and a better route to the lavatory will make for a much better gig.

Two Australians also make the relatively short hop from Scotland to Soho this week from Wednesday. Matt Okine and Ronny Chieng shared a Best Newcomer Award at the Melbourne Comedy Festival earlier this year and Okine picked up a Foster's Best Newcomer nomination in Edinburgh last week. Both talk about their family backgrounds – Okine is half-Ghanaian, Chieng from Malaysia – with lively wit, insight and intelligence. Okine has a great anecdote about visiting Africa, Chieng subverts the cliches of pushy Chinese parents. I thought Chieng was the better of the pair by a whisker – on the night I saw them back-to-back Okine had to work really hard to keep a group of potentially boisterous boozy lads in the front row interested while Chieng had a hilarious encounter with an elderly man who, it seemed, had not heard of Bruce Lee. Both are well worth seeing though. The fact that Chieng picked up a newcomer nomination in Australia  but not in Edinburgh underlines just how high the stand-up standard on the Fringe was.

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