Saturday 23rd September

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Alex Horne: “Mixing music and comedy was more fun than we were having individually, so we just carried on.”

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Alex Horne’s an unusual entertainer.  Unusual in his preference for somewhat unfashionable but quirkily effective pun-heavy material.  Unusual in drifting from stand-up in the face of consistently strong reviews.  And unusual in his current ability to get programme commissioners to climb over each other to turn his latest ideas into TV gold.

The band he formed eight years ago with two former school friends – The Horne Section – is one such success.  You might have seen them on various comedy panel shows (such as when they hosted Never Mind the Buzzcocks) or heard some of their three acclaimed Radio 4 series.  If not, the premise seems relatively simple but is extremely hard to get right.  The self-styled “mischievous melody makers” perform offbeat comedy songs without any set style, other than a penchant for wordplay and whimsy.  These samples from an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown demonstrates this neatly, veering from hints of Flight of the Conchords in Seasons, to Vic and Bob in Lovely Day, and finally Chas & Dave in Chris Hoy Loves a Saveloy.

This show of variety helped The Horne Section gain a strong following, prompting a UK tour beginning this month.  It starts at the ideally-suited cabaret bar at Soho Theatre tomorrow, a venue they return to twice monthly up until December.  Given the band enjoy improvising with special guests, part of the thrill lies in the unexpected – not least on the opening night when Horne’s long-term collaborator, the unpredictable Tim Key, will team up with them.

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Category: Comedy
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Rhys James: Wiseboy review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

A sharply written tongue-in-cheek take on white privilege from the young master of pithy comedy.

Anyone following Rhys James on Twitter will attest that few comedians package their observational comedy quite so pithily.  While some complain how social media’s devalued the profession, opening the door for the world and its dog to dabble in satire, the Mock The Week occasional uses it to hone his retorts on big news items and day-to-day occurrences – essential panel show practice.  These skills translate to his live material, with 2016 show Forgives being one the tightest-written around.  And in Wiseboy, the son of Harpenden delivers another densely-packed show ironically bemoaning his comfortable, privileged existence.

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Category: Comedy
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Scott Gibson: Like Father Like Son review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gibson follows up his debut smash with an equally engrossing and darkly funny tale of abandonment.

Last year, Scott Gibson impressed the judges with Life After Death, his debut show documenting a sudden brain haemorrhage that called time on his call centre career, and picked up the award for Best Newcomer at the Fringe.  While his candidly entertaining storytelling style suggested the Glaswegian wouldn’t be a one-hit wonder, some doubted whether Gibson could repeat the trick.  Could he uncover enough interesting material in Like Father Like Son to pull off another hit, especially given his recent problems with the authorities?  The answer is ‘yes’.

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Category: Comedy
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Flo & Joan: The Kindness of Stranglers review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Flo & Joan have the world of musical comedy at their feet after this faultlessly entertaining show.

Musical comedy duo Flo & Joan attracted quite a buzz ahead of the Fringe.  This wasn’t due to the title of their new song, Save The Bees, but because many saw comparisons to the fantastic Flight of the Conchords.  On the evidence of this faultless, enjoyable show, The Kindness of Strangers, the buzz was entirely justified.  English sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey – recently returned from Canada and signed to Avalon – have some great years ahead of them.

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Category: Comedy
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Gein’s Family Giftshop: Volume 3 review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gein’s Family Giftshop continue to push boundaries with a hilarious set of darkly puerile perfection.

With many sketch show rivals absent from this year’s Fringe, this was a great opportunity for Gein’s Family Giftshop to consolidate their place at the top table of their genre.  And despite missing a third of their performers due to a last-minute drop-out, Kath Hughes, Edward Easton and director Kiri Pritchard-McLean seized the chance with all six hands, delivering in Volume 3 a dark, chaotic and hilarious show that fuses the clever and puerile to perfection.

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Category: Comedy
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Spencer Jones: The Audition review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Another brilliantly daft show from clown prince Spencer Jones, with tears of laughter and food for thought.

Spencer Jones is an alchemist, turning household objects, daft gags and odd sounds into comedy gold.  How else can you account for grown adults crying with laughter while a rubber-faced man stands on a vibration plate, gradually increasing the speed to maximum?  Or for the same result when he shaves honey onto face and covers it with broken Weetabix?  It’s funny, no – hilarious, because it just is – something the judges even recognised this year by rightly including The Audition on their shortlist for Best Comedy Show of the Fringe.

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Category: Comedy
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Rachel Parris: Keynote review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Parris delivers an upbeat message for the next generation, showcasing her recent development as a stand-up.

Over the past twelve months, Rachel Parris has started to tap into the sort of success her abilities warrant.  This has come at a price: an ominous invitation to deliver a motivational speech at her alma mater, Loughborough High School, in September.  The self-deprecating comedian, musician and actress is concerned she will have nothing of value to say to these “500 teenage girls with the education of princesses, but with the gritty realism of the East Midlands”, so uses Keynote to air what she’d like to share with the next generation and garner other ideas from her audience.

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Category: Comedy
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Wil Greenway: These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Greenway takes his audience on another visceral journey with his latest lyrical tale of courage and memory.

In our Edinburgh Fringe preview, we predicted that Wil Greenway would soon rise to the top of the comedy storytellers.  After the Australian’s performances this month, he’s surely close to achieving this goal and gaining the recognition he deserves.  As with previous show The Way The City Ate The Stars, These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone tells an atmospheric and entertaining story set in South-East Australia.  Its facts may be less dramatic but, as Greenway’s fans have come to expect, the destination is less important than the journey.

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Category: Comedy