I DENtS LEARY Forget Saatchi's Silk Cut. this is by larthe best advertisement torthe lite-enhancing potential at nicotine. Searingly incisive and vicious.

Assembly Rooms (Fringe Venue 3) 220 4348. 10—18 Aug. 10.15pm. £7 (£6).

I JIM TAVARE 0n the one hand. a traditional cabaret blend ol music and comedy. 0n the othera bilingly sharp. new wave wit. One at the many ex-Comic Abusers who are worth checking out this year.

The Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550. 9 Aug—1 Sept(not 13. 30). 10.30pm. £4(£3).

I COMO STRING QUARTET Alter an inexplicable absence last year. one at the hits at the 1988 tringe make a welcome return. An incredibly silly. adolescent and inspirineg lunny evening should be guaranteed.

The Pleasance (Venue 33) 5566550. 9 Aug—1 Sep (not 13. 20. 28). 7.10pm. £4.50 (£3.50).

I RACHEL BERGER AND THE GREAT BIG OPERA COMPANY Another Australian combo with the main attraction most delinitely Ms. Berger. She is one at the sharpest comedians ot eithergender or hemisphere.

The Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550. 10Aug—1 Sept (not13. 20. 30). 9.30pm. £5 (£4).

I JENNY LECOAT and JACK DEE Lecoat steps in atthe last minute to replace the previously advertised Hattie Hayridge. Appearing with the more conventional. but only slightly less tunny, Jack Dee (as seen on Ross/Wogan).

The Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 220 4348.10—25 Aug. 10pm. £5 (£4).



L’cau commotion

What have a That's Life presenter. a revolutionary Communist with a preference for tweed jackets and a Jewish Glaswegian got in common? Well. Messrs Fanshawe. Hardy and Brown respectively have been the last three winners ofthe Edinburgh Oscars - The Perrier Award.

Public acknowledge- ment ofwit brings with it a subsequent increase in ticket price. Therefore. these new wave Brucies and Tarbies can cut short their sojourn in tourist-trapped Edinburgh and get back to the wide open spaces and clean air of SW1 as quickly as possible with the coffers filled. (Although Hardy's meagre three nights is hardly going to swell his pension fund. he will save on phone calls home because Mrs Hardy Kit Hollerbach is on the same bill).

Also. the elite do not have to suffer draughty church halls. The elegant Assembly Rooms with its labyrinthine corridors and jostling audiences who invariably find out that they’ve been queueing for Hank Wangford when they wanted to see Alexander Kollontai (‘mesmerising‘ Time Out) is the venue for the Fanshawes of this world. For all its drawbacks, the Victorian edifice provides the most consistently excellent fare. Meanwhile. The

Gilded Balloon and the Pleasance have hosted the (unacknowledged) funniest shows of the last two years (The Comos in 1988 and Dog's Breakfast last year) certainly weren’t at Assembly.

In 1990. there‘s a lot of money on Denis Leary to walk away with the Perrier prize but the odds are stacked against him. Fora start he‘s a first-timer at the Fringe and they rarely win. Secondly. it is rumoured that new production processes have actually made Perrier healthy rather than carcinogenic so. embarrassingly. Leary might refuse the award on the grounds that he

doesn‘t touch anything that is good for him. Personally. my money‘s on Will Durst; reputations from the previous year usually scoop the spring water and Durst's takes some beating. Apart. ofcourse. from one newcomer who may well be a name for the future; a certain Mr Milligan. (Philip Parr)

I Will Durst (Fringe) The Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 26 Aug—l Sept. 10pm. £5.5()(£4.5()). I Spike Milligan (Fringe) The Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 20—25 Aug. 9. 15. £7.50 (£6). (Preview on 20. 21 Aug— all tickets £6.)

:- Thinking on your feet

Remember John Sessions? on go on. yes you do. He was the one who was so clever he used to come on stage without a script and ad lib his entire show. Today's stock response - ‘So what's so bloody unusual about that?.' Improv. groups are blossoming as never betore and this year The Assembly Rooms is even having a charity night leaturing the best at them (I remember the day when you had to be called Ortega to get a tree show lrom a Fringe performer).

The reason lor this quick thinking revolution is, at course, ‘Who's Line is it Anyway?’ a wonderlul radio show and a marginally less successlul TV series (alter all, having to look at Clive Anderson can be a Herculean task at times). Whilst the Who's Line team popularised the genre it would almost certainly be the less well known names at Jim Sweeney and Steve Steen who Lawrence, Merton et al would choose to give the masterclass. As long ago as 1982, the duo took advantage at that last bastion at live TV -the kid’s show to create still unsurpassed, classic ad-libbed improvisation.

‘We tell CBTV alter two series' says Jim Sweeney, ‘because they were starting to make itvery smart, bringing in things like auto-cue and making it like a sub-Blue Peter. That took away a lot at the lreedom. Up to then. as it was live, they used to let us ad-lib the whole thing. It was 4.45 and you had to think that you could really try stull out. The problem is that all the people who were watching have since grown up. It’s the same with Sandy (Toksvig) at The Comedy Store; people remember her as Ethel trom No 73.’

There's going to be an awlul lot of nostalgic twentysomethings (this one included) in the audience remembering Jim and Steve’s glorious past. But what at the present? I wondered il Sweeney and Steen saw themselves as guilty at opening a Pandora's box lull ol comedians who believe that they can improvise but, in

reality, have Ronald Reagan's capacity lor thinking on their leet.

‘There‘s an awlul lot of what we call born-again improvisers. They have this lervour and passion about impro. and know all the rules which all just gets a little boring. That's why we tend to luck each other about and do things you're not meant to do put each other on the spot. Playing tour or live diller nt characters a night, you‘re sorely tempted to lorce the other one to appear on stage as two characters at once so he has to run around like a lunatic. Steve and I think that as long as the audience is laughing, you‘re line and anything goes.‘

In addition to the duo’s unique improvisational whodunnit at The Gilded Balloon, the more traditional games will provide the basis lorThe Rupert Pupkin Collective shows at Assembly. As usual, Sweeney isn’t prepared to rest on his laurets.

‘We thought that it would be great to get Milligan into one at the Pupkins. It might be complete and utter chaos but it it was crap I wouldn't care. I could say I‘ve been on stage with Milligan and I could go to the grave with that.’ (Philip Parr)

Sweeney and Steen, The Gilded

? Balloon (Venue 38). 226 2151 , 10

; Aug—1 Sept, 6pm. £5 (£4).

1 The Rupert Pupkin Collective. The

Assembly Rooms (Venue 3). 226 2428. 10 Aug—1 Sept. 8.30pm, £6 (£5).

The List ll)— 16 August 199023