From Work in Progress to Edinburgh Award for Best Stand-up Comedy Show, this has been quite the few weeks for Ahir Shah! Always an assured performer, he has really taken it up several gears this year to present Ends, one of the most beautiful and emotional stand-up routines I’ve ever seen. An homage to his nanaji – maternal grandfather – who arrived in the UK in 1964, leaving behind his wife and three kids in order to work to raise enough money so that the family could join him – five years later. But it’s also a look at the differences between today and the 1960s, with hilarious stories including why he’s grateful for his Latin schooling and his dad’s reaction to Sunak becoming Prime Minister. Mr Shah’s comic delivery is fast and furious; I doubt any other comedian gets quite as many words into his hour as he does. His material is fully original and always comes from the heart. There’s a serious side to almost everything he says, but he never loses sight of the fact that the show should, above all, be very, very funny. This is about as good as it gets.
Dane Baptiste: Bapsquire, Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive).
Dane Baptiste returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new show, Bapsquire, his self-styled super-English alter ego designed to broaden his audience in these harsh austerity times, even if it means being somebody he isn’t. But the old Dane still comes through, more mature now he’s 41 and shortly to become a father, and still angry at injustice and prejudice. He’s resigned to performing in a venue that smells of bin juice and urine, because it’s all going very well in showbusiness. Unlike Ahir Shah whom we saw earlier, he’s much less forgiving of Rishi Sunak because the PM’s no friend to the performing arts and would have wanted him to retrain; and he’s also unforgiving of the racism he has encountered – why wouldn’t he be? As always, he has a surefire manner and supreme stage confidence, and it’s a show packed with laughs and original material. And whatever you do, don’t offer him any vegan cheese. A great show.
Sam Williams: Himbo (WIP), Just the Tonic at the Caves.
Sam Williams’ Work in Progress show takes him from his middle-class upbringing in Maidenhead, through middle-class living in London, to visiting his parents in middle-class rural Wales. He’d be the first to say that he’s middle class, but his story also involves mummy issues, therapy, a psychic, dogging, masturbating in class, and having to come out as Christian. A slightly surreal last show of his Edinburgh run, as Mrs Chrisparkle and I formed two-thirds of his audience. But Sam was up for it and keen to give his best, and there’s a lot of entertaining material there, which just needs a little sharpening up – but that will come. An extremely likeable performer, with a confident stage presence, a perfect communicator’s voice, and an unexpected show finale!
Myra DuBois: Be Well, Pleasance Dome.
Rotherham’s answer to Dame Edna, Myra Dubois hosts a get-together of people who need her help – and the nearer to the stage they are sitting, the more in need of help they are. In fact, she announces she’s giving up showbiz in order to work with her wellness guru to give a little love back to the world. All of the trademark elements of a Myra show are there – thinly veiled jealousy of her sister Rose, some no holds-barred interaction with the audience, and a couple of ghastly comedy songs. There’s no doubt that she’s a great comic creation, but this show falls apart with about fifteen minutes to go, when there doesn’t appear to be much material left to wrap it up. There was also some excruciating chat with one member of the audience where Myra asked him about the therapy he was undertaking – and he accidentally overshared why he was having it and she made the most inappropriate rejoinder – I hope the chap wasn’t offended! Started very well – tailed off significantly!