The cobbles of Cowgate thunder with the hooves of a comedy-hungry crowd during August. Some take the first and easiest exit, falling into the purple arches of the Underbelly, to be coddled by the friendly, famous, and frankly quite expensive acts. The others, those brave souls willing to risk it (for a biscuit) keep on running – for about two minutes. They duck into the Caves, or scramble up to the Tron. They’re looking for danger, for something new – for some unprotected comedy love. And they know where to get it.
With a deliberately varied programme of established acts, up-and-comers and debut sets, Just the Tonic can often be a mixed bag, but it has launched a substantial amount of careers since joining the festival not so long ago, and often books some top-class laughs.
The magnificent Mae Martin brings Mae Day, a winning show that revels in her charming Canadian neuroses. Previews for this have gone down a storm so expect the name to be one you’ll hear around the city too – definitely not one to miss. Mat Ewin’s frighteningly unique, uncompromisingly meta-weird character comedy will be waiting with its head tucked under a curtain in Bruce Hammers’ Bananapocalypse. Another must, if you like that sort of thing – and you really won’t know until you go.
The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek – All New Show 2012 is what is says on the tin; Ronseal’s PR may be in touch. Early in the afternoon, catch Will Marsh’s Ruination, a darkly funny debut show to discover one comic’s technique on getting out of recession. Also riding on the politically- and socially-aware wagon is Guardian Reader, which promises a wry look at lefty liberalism’s penchants for bicycling to work, coffee shop loyalty cards, cloth shopping bags and watching Wimbledon.
Student sketch comedy is on offer from two of the best newer troupes on the circuit. Bristol Revunions have Destination Adventure and Leeds Tealights, current holders of the Best Student Sketch Group mantle and this year directed by Revunion alumnus Jamie Demetriou, offer Sexy Chubby to bring the big laughs. Classic sketch comedy is here too: Luke and Harry’s Dot Dot Dot promises no improv or songs – just laughs from two genuinely funny comedians.
Teutonic rib-tickler Henning Wehn is a late run highlight with show Henning Knows Bestest, and sizzling character comic Loretta Maine returns with Bipolar; if her protest song about trams makes it back in to her manic (depressive) set then it should be a real treat. Late night chuckles from the gutter can be found at quarter to midnight in Denis Krasnov’s Hour of Intellectual Filth – don’t just expect grime: there’s brain behind the bawd.
Seemingly incongruous with the rest of Just the Tonic’s programme, Eric’s Tales of the Sea – A Submariner’s Yarn has become a bit of a Fringe legend, and regularly surfaces with a haul of stars. A heartfelt twist to a cocktail of concentrated hilarity. Get on down.