The Ones to Watch: Comedy

Who will be funniest at this year's Fringe? Ben Williams selects the best of the bunch

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Fest's Comedy Pick of the Fringe
Published 15 Jul 2017

Joseph Morpurgo: Hammerhead

Following his VHS adventures, faux verbatim theatre and a very intimate episode of Desert Island Discs, this ingenious character comic is back with more high-concept, multimedia wizardry. Morpurgo’s last show—2015’s Soothing Sounds for Baby—was an absolute triumph, bagging an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination and winning three Chortle Awards. No pressure this year, then.

Fern Brady: Suffer, Fools!

Straight-talking Scottish standup Fern Brady has had word-of-mouth hits in previous years, and 2017’s show looks set to be another from day one. The Bathgate-born comic—and former Fest reviewer, don’t you know—tackles weighty topics with an unfussy, unapologetic manner that forces audiences to hang on every word. A proper talent.

John Kearns: Don’t Worry They’re Here

Kearns is the only comic to win both Edinburgh Comedy Awards in consecutive years – quite a feat, yet this tonsure wig and false teeth-donning comic managed it. The 30-year-old standup’s absurdist tales hide a deep, meaningful truth about life’s many obstacles underneath screechy meanderings and imaginative metaphors. Genius? Absolutely.

Alexei Sayle

The political status of this country over the past few years has been, for want of a better word, an absolute shitshow. Who better, then, to pick apart this government’s many mishandlings than everyone’s favourite Marxist comic Alexei Sayle? Along with a few others, he pretty much invented alternative comedy.

Evelyn Mok: Hymen Manoeuvre

This Swedish standup is one of our top newcomer tips. The 29-year-old’s abrasive presence and blunt observations (often about her vagina) have brought comparisons to Amy Schumer. But in her debut solo show, Mok reveals her persona is more of a shield to hide her lack of confidence.

Aditi Mittal: Global Village Idiot

Aditi Mittal—star of Radio 4’s A Beginner’s Guide to India—was one of the first women to perform standup in her home country, where she’s now a huge star. This is the Mumbai-based comic’s Fringe debut, and with a Netflix special recently announced, who knows when she might next be in town.

Found Footage Festival

This cult US show—where adorably nerdy comics Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher showcase strange clips from old VHS tapes they’ve found in thrift stores and garage sales—is so much fun. Who knew old exercise videos, bizarro public access shows and corporate training montages could be so entertaining?

Mat Ewins Presents Adventureman 7: The Return of Adventureman

For pure laugh-a-minute silliness, Mat Ewins is hard to beat. His video-based mischiefs pack more jokes into one frame of footage than most comics put into their entire shows. So much so, you’ll want to see it again just to look out for the gags you missed first time around.

Desiree Burch: Unf*ckable

Sex, race and capitalism are the topics of choice for this smart, fiery standup, who’s popped up on 8 Out of 10 Cats and The Guilty Feminist Podcast recently. The New York-born, London-based comic is quickly rising up the comedy ranks thanks to her candid tales, well-informed opinions and slickly-crafted jokes.

James Adomian: Lacking in Character

There ain’t much this Nebraska-born comic can’t do. He’s a superb standup, a talented improviser and a master character comic. You might’ve heard him on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast or seen him playing Bernie Sanders in various viral videos. At the Fringe, his character creations are wrestling with his true self (not literally).

Rob Auton: The Hair Show

Rob Auton really commits to his art. Not only is The Hair Show a gentle, whimsical comedy show all about manes and moustaches, locks and mops, the poet/comedian isn’t shaving or cutting his hair until the final performance of the show. Considering it’ll probably tour, that could be this time next year.

Sara Pascoe: LadsLadsLads

You don’t need us to tell you that Sara Pascoe is a must-see. But, hey, we’re going to add to the praise. In her solo shows the inquisitive comic and TV regular tackles highbrow questions and intelligent topics with silliness, smart wit and pertinent pop culture references.