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Julian Hall – comedy at Edinburgh

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While London and other cities recover from being plunged into anarchy, Edinburgh’s dark clouds have fortunately only been weather-related – the chaos here is of an altogether more jovial kind.

For a much needed laugh, and respite from bad news you could do worse than check out the debut show from Holly Walsh (Hollycopter, Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm) who recounts the story of how she broke her arm after jumping off Worthing pier during the annual Birdman competition. The former children’s TV presenter’s show is, despite the subject matter, bright and breezy and runs the gamut of comedy skills from puns to Powerpoint.

Not averse to a Powerpoint presentation himself, anti-comedian Ed Aczel (Ed Aczel Doesn’t Exist, Underbelly, 7.20pm) pulls off a difficult balancing act by delivering a low energy show but keeping the laughs regularly rolling in. His theme is a dissection of how marketable he is to the industry, a self-referential exercise that throws up some deliciously unsuitable ideas for TV shows among other gems.

Equally consistent with his gag count is 2007 if.comedy award nominee Tom Binns. Spirit Comedian (Pleasance Courtyard, 6.15pm) is the second outing for Binns’ character Ian D Montfort and his mind-boggling mix of mentalism and mirth. Although this show is a little more static than his first outing, it is still a high-quality affair and the hour passes as quickly as if you’ve been hypnotised.

The hour spent with Viz co-creator turned character-comic Simon Donald (Simon Donald’s Dirty Great Fringepiece, The Stand, 10.30pm) does not pass so quickly. A series of rather one-dimensional creations, most of whom are parodying stand ups, unsuccessfully attempts to lift the lewd humour Donald was so famous for from the page and onto the stage.

Actress and comic Kerry Godliman (Wonder Woman, Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm) also uses a comic character to inspire her, this time for a monologue lament about juggling family and career. Living up to her childhood idol proves tricky, and not for just the obvious reasons such as not owning bullet-repellent bracelets. Though somewhat anxious not to be beaten by the clock, Godliman gives herself enough time to show off a quick wit and her frank and engaging demeanour.

Someone else in a hurry is the gruff Nick Helm (Dare to Dream, Pleasance Courtyard, 4pm) whose debut show last year started a buzz that looks set to continue this year with a similar high-octane, rock music-assisted collection of poetry and song. There are scenes of mandatory audience participation that, although coming under duress, are mercifully embarrassment free. One way or another it is hard not to get caught up in Helmania.

2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Tim Key (Masterslut, Pleasance Dome, 9.45pm) returns to Edinburgh with arguably his best show yet. Pithy poems, tender short films and delicious asides entwine to provide a satisfying hour, one that is likely to be among the most artful and playful on the fringe this year.

One final spectacle that the fringe-goer might be interested in, though maybe not a lot, is the appearance of Paul Daniels (Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, Assembly George Square, 5pm). Apparently unscathed after his recent encounter with Sooty, the old-school entertainer puts on a pleasant, if low-key, hour in a venue that is normally a lecture theatre. Luckily Debbie McGee is on hand to add glamour and a very cute rabbit enjoys a show-stealing cameo.

Julian Hall

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