DAMIAN CALLINAN Testicular hour fails to tickle O.

A visit to the sperm bank must rarely be an amusing experience for anybody. and its comedy value has already been extracted, bottled and labelled by humourists with far greater skill than Damian Callinan demonstrates here. The archetypal Aussie's hour onstage is clearly a form of (questionably advisable) therapy, in a textbook case of highlighting and mocking his lack of fertility before anyone else can. While there is no doubt that he has Suffered a great deal of anguish due to his problems. the show is all too appropriately. er. shooting blanks when it comes to the jokes.

Sporting a nurse's outfit. handing out specimen jars and at one point taking off his trousers and threatening to provide a sample. Callinan provokes everything from bemusement to downright white-knuckle terror in the audience, including an enviable walkout. But the laughter is all too rare. and it's ironic that claiming to ‘take on the taboos of men's trouser troubles' sadly (or inevitably) ends up being a load of bollocks.

(Emma Newlands)

I Gilded Balloon Teviot. 668 7633, until 24 Aug, 6. 75pm, 88.50—59.50 (67.50—28.50).



It's official: romance is dead 00 Ghost tours are annoying because the part of you that secretly believes you may actually see a ghoul, is always let down. This show similarly disappoints. You are drawn to it. suspecting that it

may just present you with the holy grail

of practical dating guides and. of course. it doesn't. Styled as a spoof lecture on the dos and don'ts of modern day courtship, writer Dave Florez and comedy sister double-act Gavin 8. Gavin present a predominantly lame step-by-step guide to chat-up lines. text messages. first-dates and dumping.

The trio exhibits a fairly clear plan of comic action. presenting firstly a generic piece of dating advice. followed by an obvious warning and then a crass interjection. Snippets of groping. swearing and gimp mask- wearing are designed to undermine the homely tone of the initial gags. Sadly, these funny ruptures are all too infrequent and neither they nor Sharon Gavin's sparkling performance. can lift this rather bland show. A great disappointment for the struggling romantic. (Rosalie Doubal)

I Assembly Rooms. 623 3030, until 25 Aug, 8.50pm, lilO—F l l (88.50-69.50).


The life of a sophisticated loser 0.0.

One of the main benefits of Steve Hall leaving his We Are Klang pals behind this festival is that his evil sense of humour is free to flourish. Given his father's idea of the correct way to bring up his children, it comes as no surprise. The title of the show (Vice- Captain Loser) is the nickname Hall's father had for him when he was 14 and gives some idea of dad's warped philosophy.

But this is no tale of teen angst. Indeed. Hall displays a pride in his somewhat oddball family: after all it has given him plenty to joke about. Embracing the art of sophisticated childishness'. Hall tracks his life as a loser in a series of pithy anecdotes. He tells of his Jewish-Catholic guilt. his early role as a volunteer youth worker and his brutal murder of a shagging pigeon. injecting the stories With sharp humour and a gleeful disregard for what is deemed proper. (Marissa BurgeSS)

I Please/ice Courtyard. 556 6550. until 25 Aug (not 20/. 8.30pm. {38.50—69.50 (E7—28l.



The young Thora Hird gets down and dirty 000


Judging by her light Geordie tones. you'd never find Sarah Millican staggering around the Toon with skirt hitched up to her neck. tanked up on Breezers and yelling filthy abuse at anyone with a member. Then again, even though she's been dubbed ‘a young Thora Hird'. it's hard to imagine her spending a guiet night in checking for cream crackers behind the sofa. Contrary to public perception. Sarah Millican claims to be on a hate campaign proving that she is. in the words of her show title. Not Nice; though as the hour reaches its conclusion. we discover the real reason behind the name.

A messy divorce has acted as the raw material for this splendidly coarse show. which only dips when she continues to pummel the 'nice ladies' in the audience for information. Millican has long been tipped as being on the verge of something great and though this debut Fringe hour might not quite be it. the signs are that a career at the high end of stand-up will last longer than her marriage. (Brian Donaldson)

I Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550. until 24 Aug. 7. 15pm, L‘9.50—E70.50 (68—179).

JOANNA NEARY Character comedy of the highest order 0...

Joanna Neary starts her show off in edgy fashion. She's an absolute bag of nerves and there's a real danger that this ropy opening might be translating itself to her audience. But fear not, it‘s just one of the many beautifully crafted characters that she has in store for a Crowd who are as charmed at the end as they were panicky at the beginning.

Whether Neary (who TV watchers might recognise from series two of the Johnny Vegas dope show Ideal) is being a cat or a dolphin, impersonating celebrity chefs or transforming herself into bonkers old BjOrk singing about the credit crunch. each scene is infused with intricate details. layered by pinpoint writing and heightened with a highly polished performance. In a festival rife with frustratingly average character comics (both male and female). you should do yourself a favour and have a peek into Joanna Neary's Magic Hole. (Brian Donaldson)

I Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 24 Aug, 5pm, 29.50—80.50 ($860—$960).

Steve Hall