Stand-up, sketch shows, plays, character routines - comedy comes to Edinburgh in all its forms every August. Over the next few pages, The List looks at who's got their tickling finger on the funnybone. First of all, however, we ask if comedy is still the new rock 'n' roll or if it has lost its edge.
Words: Ross Holloway Photographs: Anna lsola Crolla
AUDIENCES ALL OVER THE CITY ARE HAPPILY chortling into their beer. but as far as the rest of the comedy world is concerned. the Edinburgh Festival is an annual trade-fair. Over the next frenetic three weeks. television deals will be struck for sitcoms. for sketch shows. for adverts. for appearances on chat shows and quiz shows.
For the performers themselves. fame and Alternative fortune is the name of the game. The pressure . is on to produce the comedy goods that are comEdy IS going to propel them up the ladder of success. dead as we In the process. they‘re liable to lose . substantial amounts of their own money. knew It. New They're probably going to get very knackcred. comedy is
very stressed. possibly very drunk. Mental and physical exhaustion are not uncommon. There have even been reports of one stand-up admitting himself into hospital after performing three shows a day at last year’s fest.
more touchy- feely than shouty-
al state of
The early 90s explosion in the popularity of comedy — which saw it hailed as the new rock ‘n’ roll — threw up enormous amounts of talent. Every unemployed drama graduate had a go at getting up on stage with only a microphone to keep them company and a desire to make people laugh. As did many a musician or artist. and some even stepped from behind the counter at Tesco‘s. But one promoter. who would rather remain nameless. reckons that the explosion is now over. “The audience for comedy has got as big as it‘s going to get.‘ he says. The market for comedians is. in economic terms. saturated.
Maybe so. but that doesn‘t mean there's not something out there tickling our chuckle reﬂex. Where‘s the current comedy zeitgeist at'.’ It‘s certainly not political and social commentary comedy. You won‘t find much in the way of angry comedy these days. There‘s no 8()s-style rebellious raging against the government. There‘s certainly no Lenny Bruce subverting our beliefs and shocking our sensibilities. Not even a Bill Hicks to rail against the status quo. Ask today‘s jokers who their comedy heroes are. and they‘re as likely to say Les Dawson as much as anybody else. The reverence that Vic Reeves holds for liric Morecambe is indicative.
British comedy is definitely looking back to past traditions on one hand and innovating in an absurdist and surreal direction on the other.