I SEAN HUGHES Spot-on stand-up comedy from a name which is (already!) being handled around vis-a-vis The Perrer.

The Gilded Balloon Backstage (Venue 3B), 226 2151 , untilt Sept (not Mons). 8pm, £4.50 (£3.50).

I EMPTY PDCKETS AND GHEG FLEET The Gilded Balloon has really chosen wisely (or possibly luckily) this year. Nothing hugely original but consistently hilarious comedy from this temporary alliance from Melbourne.

The Gilded Balloon Backstage (Venue 38), 226 2151.until1 Sept (not20, 30),11.3me, £4.50 (£3.50).

I JEREMY HABDY AND KIT HDLLEHBACH Kitjoins hubbythis yearfora pitifully short run. Tickets should be like gold dust for a duo who could each sell out for the entire Festival. The Assembly Rooms (Venue 3), 226 2428.16-18 Aug, 9.15pm. £6 (£5).

I BLIND FAITH Two Australians whose taste is the absolute opposite to their material. One is very bad, the other excellent. Make up your own minds which is which.

The Comedy Boom (Venue 67). 556 0499, until 1 Sept, 9pm. £5 (£4).

I MARK STEEL A cosy chat with the man of a thousand characters. Don't miss them. The Gilded Balloon Studio (Venue 3B), 226 2151, until 1 Sept, 10.15pm. £5 (£4).

I DENIS LEARY Forget Saatchi's Silk Cut. this is by far the best advertisement for the life-enhancing potential of nicotine. Searineg incisive and vicious.

Assembly Rooms (Fringe Venue 3) 220 4348.10—18 Aug.1D.15pm, £7(£6).


Harmer’s way

Australians, as ever, are bulging out ofevery pore ofthe Fringe programme. Whilst the swagmen such as The Como String Quartet and Greg Fleet arrive on day one and struggle in front of often unappreciative audiences, the crown princess Wendy Harmer can swan into The Assembly Rooms at her leisure. Even Mark Little (the sharp-witted antithesis to his Neighbourly creation, Joe Mangel) has to do his stint ofearly Fringe shows before the polite, tartan-trousered Americans have arrived in droves.

Harmer is returning to the cabaret scene after recently having inhabited the cosy surroundings of talk show land. Her Australian TV show, In Harmer’s Way, gave her the opportunity to reach an audience outwith the regular cabaret club goers of Melbourne (most of whom seem to be in Edinburgh this month). It also meant that she could avoid the derisory comments which

dog a sharp-witted female cabaret perfomer.

‘I am a bit sick ofcrowd control,’ Wendy says. ‘I’m not going back to those comedy clubs in the pubs, never again, ever, ever, ever. The last time I did one just to keep my hand in, it was the worst experience of my life. I left the stage in tears. I don’t have to put up with that shit any more and I’m not going to. I’ve lost the need to stand there and prove something.’

Hence the reason why Harmer chooses to appear in the elite surroundings of The Assembly Rooms rather than with her old Melbourne mates at The Gilded Balloon. What should be the same as the good old days, though, is the

quality of Wendy’s material. Along with Rachel Berger (who could, in looks, vivacity and bite, be Harmer’s sister), Wendy doesn’t have much luck in affairs ofthe heart. She also does not shirk from telling her audience all about her problems, as her show’s title ‘Love Gone Wrong’ illustrates. She may, though, only have herself to blame.

‘At the beginning of each show, I’d always do a non-gender-specific routine to get the blokes in. They’d laugh and then I’d kind of, you know, as the routine went on, kick them to death.’ (Philip Parr)

I Love Gone Wrong (Fringe) Wendy Harmer, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428 20 Aug—1 Sept. midnight, £5 (£4).

Stand-up USA

American comedy is at its best when a brave comedian stands in front of a cold audience with nothing more than a microphone and a routine. Its a tough thing to do, maybe the toughest challenge on any stage, especially when you come from another planet like America. Using a mixture of set pieces and audience interplay, the American stand-up has carved a niche in entertainment, touching nerves, bashing sacred cows and exposing national madness. If you want to sample this brand of humour, there are six practitioners who will be working through the Festival.

At the Gilded Balloon, Cathy Ladman is a woman and Jewish but ‘doesn’t mean you any harm.’ She quickly delves into her family, seeking mother revenge because ‘she deserves it.‘ Ladman ranges through personal experiences with teaching, make-up, condoms and crossing into Canada. But why does every comedian from New York seem to be in therapy?

Completing the double bill, Larry Amoros has an unusual opening and unique set of props. ‘As the unbearable heaviness of me,‘ he dwells on the dark side of the human persona: suicide, group therapy, depression, pills and pizza. Amoros's solo is frantic, off the wall and, at times, brlllant. Like Ladman, he too is In therapy.

The Assembly Rooms features Mrs

Tingle's son, Jimmy, a sandy-haired, stocky Boston Irish comic with a very different style. He roams the American political spectrum, using ironic commentary to portray the excesses of public life, such as gun uncontrol, the military, invasions, drugs and morality. At one point, Tingle pleads ‘iust give us a leader.’ Tingle's success depends on warming to his personality, the boyish wonderment at what’s happening around him. Yet where is the real outrage at what went down in the States in the 1980s? Perhaps we all have been blunted by media overdose.

The last and best offering came late at the Assembly Rooms when LA Comics stood the audience on its head, presenting three very different polished performers in a perfectly balanced show.

Brett Butler opened by declaring she ‘wasn't a lesbian art teacher from Glasgow.’ No indeed, Ms Butler was much more interesting; a southern belle transported to the Big Apple. Also in therapy, she touched on her marriages, her mother, men, country

music and hormonal balance. Butler’s warmth and soft allure were disarming, masking a razor-sharp wit and outright mischievousness. Greatlun.

Jeff Cesario replaced Hick Overlon on the bill and proved very good value indeed. This Italian American hit such targets as Bush, Thatcher, Duayle, Eastern Europe, Los Angeles, guns, fast food and spiders in the bathroom. Using a quick style and rapid pace, Casario manages to zap a lot along the way and enjoyed himself thoroughly. He didn’t seem to be in therapy.

Dana Gould suffered for his art and now it's ourturn. His act is much more personal ‘it's hard growing up when your parents are never divorced.’ Somehow he starts slipping into an odd assortment of characters, displaying some bizarre creations and energy reminiscent of Robin Williams and, before him, Jonathan Winters. Gould starts talking to himself in different voices and clearly is the one most in need of therapy. He is eccentric, twisted and completely original, rounding out what must be one of the

. best comedy shows in town. Take a nap

in the afternoon and don't miss these people. (Kerry Napuk) USA Comedy Today (Fringe), Gilded

- Balloon Theatre (38), 226 2151, until1

i (Venue 3), 225 2428, until1 Sept, l

a. Sept (not Aug 20), 7.15pm, £6 (£5)-

Jimmy Tingle (Fringe), Assembly Rooms (Venue 3), 226 2428, until1 Sept, 10pm, £5 (£4).

Between A Laugh And A Hard Place (Fringe) LA Comics, Assembly Rooms

midnight, £6 (£5).

The List 17 - 23 August 1990 29