Review – Harry Stachini and Emmanuel Sonubi – Edinburgh Previews – The Comedy Crate at the Lamplighter, Northampton, 24th July 2023

Comedy CrateAnother night, another Edinburgh Preview show. This time we relocated to the Lamplighter pub which has an excellent downstairs stage area and works very well as a comedy venue. There had been a relatively late change of cast for the lineup for this show, as is often the case with Edinburgh Previews, but fortunately those nice people at the Comedy Crate have a wealth of comedy contacts up their sleeve, so you never need worry that you’ll be shortchanged!

Harry StachiniOur first act was a new name to us, Harry Stachini, preparing his new Edinburgh show, Grenade. He’s a thoroughly likeable young chap with an engaging personality and his show is an easy-going, happy, laughter-filled hour centred on the notion that we all have a grenade in our lives on which we ought to pull the pin. For him, it was his long-term relationship with Jess (and their dog); for others it could be your job, your health worries, your relationship, or anything. Fascinating that the dog knew they were splitting up before either Harry or Jess did! The show also brings in several comedy nuggets such as his parents’ relationship, teachers’ experiences of dealing with difficult kids, and a dreadful secret that the Virgin Mary might not have kept from Joseph. Mr Stachini is a naturally funny guy, has great material – although, as with nearly all the comedians we have seen over these previews, he knows he needs to get a proper ending sorted! This will be a very good show when it gets to Edinburgh.

Emmanuel SonubiAfter the interval it was time for our relatively last minute change to the advertised programme, Emmanuel Sonubi, previewing his Edinburgh Show Curriculum Vitae. We saw Emmanuel on his first Edinburgh show last year, Emancipated, a very enjoyable romp through his life and times. Now he has a new show, full of brand new material, which also tells the story of his life and times but just from a slightly different perspective! He’s able to get a lot of comic mileage out of his larger than life physical presence, which he can either use to be intimidating, or to play the coquette, which is even funnier – stop looking at my magnificent triceps, stop, honestly, what are you like?! I loved his material about banging gym and wetting you up – who knew? – and he incorporates themes from his time in various careers including being a bouncer, musical theatre and working in IT. Very effective and funny use of music to open and end the show, and there’s loads of laughs in his act as a faux-humble man – you’ll just have to see his show to appreciate it. There’s not much here that needs tightening up for Edinburgh, and he went down a storm at the Lamplighter.

That’s me done for Edinburgh Previews for this year – the main event is looming north of the border in a week’s time. But there are still a few more Comedy Crate shows coming up over the next week or so!

Review – Jo Caulfield and Paul Sinha – Edinburgh Previews – The Comedy Crate at the Northampton Town Centre Hotel, 22nd July 2023

Comedy CrateIt only seems like a moment ago that we were at that town centre hotel in Northampton, inventively named the Northampton Town Centre Hotel (I kid you not) to see Gareth Mutch and Tom Stade wow us with their Edinburgh Previews. And we were back there again on Saturday night to see Jo Caulfield and Paul Sinha do the same! Such is the appeal of both the artists and the event that they held two shows on that day – a 5pm teatime affair and an 8pm grown up’s gig – although I’m sure the material was pretty much the same for both shows. That said, you can’t be sure; as these are Work in Progress shows, they might have risked a few lines at 5pm that bombed and were never heard of again – as indeed might have happened at the 8pm show. Basically, you can look on these shows as a helping hand for the comedians whacking their show into shape, and a serving suggestion for the audience as to what the final product might look like.

Jo CaulfieldWe started off with Jo Caulfield, a very experienced performer in the world of comedy, preparing her new Edinburgh show, Razor-Sharp. Checking back, I think this will be the 21st time that she’s taken a show to Edinburgh, so I think it’s safe to say she knows what she’s doing – she’s as much part of the place as Arthur’s Seat itself. She admits that all her shows are basically her catching up on ideas and reactions to things that have happened to her over the past twelve months, so you always get a sense of a very personal connection with her material. And much of her material is inspired by the life and times of her husband, of whom I think it is fair to say, she is lovingly critical. She has a hilarious routine about going along to what her husband calls “a night out with the lads” much to their (the lads) uniform horror. Even though it’s a WIP, she’s assured, polished, and superbly caustic. For my own taste, occasionally I find she drifts into the almost cruel with some of her observations, but she does it so nicely that she gets away with it! She also gave a reading from her new book The Funny Thing About Death which I think was in preparation for an appearance at the Book Festival. It doesn’t dovetail into her Edinburgh show but hopefully it helped her decide on which passages she should read there. But if you’re a fan of Jo Caulfield then her new show will definitely be one to watch.

Paul SinhaAfter the interval we welcomed Paul Sinha, previewing his Edinburgh Show Pauly Bengali. We’ve seen Paul Sinha many times before and his is one of the most creative and telling comedy brains on the circuit. This show was like a game of two halves; in the first, we had some of Paul’s classic takes on being a gay Asian with Parkinson’s and his affiliation (or otherwise) with leafy Luton, and in the second, he concentrated on his experience with attending last year’s TRIC awards and his interaction, for want of a better word, with the awards’ sponsor, the one and only GB News. Proudly woke (and why wouldn’t you be?) he’s no friend of KGB News, and there are loads of comedy nuggets to appreciate including why he’s not on Mark Dolan’s Christmas Card list – and probably not Adrian Edmondson’s either. One thing you can say about Paul Sinha, he’s always delightfully indiscreet about people who don’t come up his standard. He has plenty of good words to say about Milo McCabe though – again, why wouldn’t you? Interspersed with all this he gives us some comedy songs on the bontempi and ends up with a comic assassination of someone I’d never heard of but who has clearly been stealing his jokes – which is always a no-no in the comedy world. It needs a little more shaping up and editing but I’ve no doubt that Pauly Bengali will be a big success in Edinburgh.

And there’s more to come – another Edinburgh Preview tonight at The Lamplighter; we’ll be there, will you?

Review – The Comedy Crate, Five Edinburgh Previews, The Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 3rd July 2022

Comedy Crate Jul 3Five Edinburgh Previews for a fiver each? Yes please! It was a full day at the Charles Bradlaugh pub on Sunday to watch these five (well, six really) eager young artists perfecting their comic offerings for our delectation and the future enjoyment of those lucky enough to go to the Fringe in August – including us! Two of these acts are previous winners of Chrisparkle Awards so you already know they’re going to be great. Bear in mind, of course, that all these shows are Work-in-Progress, so it’s unlikely that they’d be comedy perfection yet. One was, indeed, absolutely Edinburgh-ready; two were very close to getting there, and two still needed a fair bit of work, but that’s absolutely The Name of the Game, as Abba would have it. So let’s take them one by one…

Norris and Parker: Sirens (Monkey Barrel Comedy, 21:15, 3-28 August except 17th)

Norris and Parker“Let Piscean comedy duo Norris and Parker lure you into their fever dream for a surreal hour of wild, nautical madness. Debauched sketch comedy for lovers of the strange, the sordid, the musical and the dark.” That’s what it says on the Edinburgh Fringe website.

New to us, Norris and Parker are a chirpy couple who clearly have comedy coursing through their veins, and Sirens is a varied show with many highlights but also a few bits that need some refining. The opening number is great, with smart and witty lyrics, and I really loved their ITV drama sequence Deep Sh*t which beautifully assembled all those midweek 9pm northern drama clichés and took the mickey out of them. The interplay between the two performers works very well, hinting comically at all sorts of rivalries with their friendship, and there is lots to enjoy. Maybe the two Lighthouse sequences, where they’re performing Norris’ play, need some tightening up. But I’m sure this will be a great show on the Fringe.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

Markus Birdman – The Bearable Heaviness of Nearly Not Being (PBH’s Free Fringe @  Banshee Labyrinth, 17:10, 6-28 August except 9th, 16th and 23rd)

Markus Birdman“The award-winning comedian returns with his 15th solo show. Fresh from supporting Jason Manford on tour, including two nights at The Palladium. It’s about life. It’s about death. It’s about getting knocked down, and getting up again. It’s about laughing in the face of it all. It’s about an hour.” That’s according to the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Winner, not only of the Chrisparkle Award for the Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for 2013, but also the Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for the Decade in my 2020 Honours List, I’m already hooked when it comes to Mr Birdman – he only has to speak a few words and I’m in hysterics. This new show is absolutely ready for Edinburgh, and is a comic account (it could be nothing else) of his recent health journey (yes, the J word), having suffered a second stroke last year which has severely affected his sight. Its very personal nature gives it an unquestionable authority, and although we can’t fail to be moved by his plight, there’s no sense of self-indulgence or begging for sympathy; every observation is as razor-sharp and pinpoint accurate as usual, and the hour is literally crammed with fantastic and consistently top-grade material. Absolutely loved it, it’s going to be a Big Fringe Hit.

Edinburgh details here!

Mark Simmons: Quip Off the Mark (PBH’s Free Fringe @ Liquid Room Annexe/Warehouse, 13:45, 6-27 August, every day)

Mark Simmons“The Mock The Week panellist and master of one-liners returns with another show jam-packed with cleverly crafted jokes and improvised gags.” Taken from the Edinburgh Fringe website, with the spelling mistake corrected.

A regular Comedy Crate favourite, we’ve only recently seen Mark at the Albion Brewery in Northampton, and there aren’t many who think faster on their feet than him. The simple basis for this show is that he’s been emptying the loft at his mum’s house and found a box full of comedy memories from when he started stand-up. So he’ll tell a few jokes from his old joke book, share a few pieces of advice that he received from other established comedians, and link a few of these memories to some paintings that were also brought down from the attic. It’s fascinating to see Mark do a work-in-progress because he is so critical of his own material – if it doesn’t get the instant reaction he’s seeking, then it’s out; even though it’s still (in my eyes at least) a really good joke. There’s a wonderful callback saved right to the end which has been looming in plain sight all along but you don’t see it. When he’s decided which bits to keep and which to ditch, this show is going to be amazing. Mr S at his best – you don’t stop laughing all the way through.

Edinburgh details here!

Paul Sinha: One Sinha Lifetime (The Stand’s New Town Theatre, 16:40, 4-28 August except 16th)

Paul Sinha“In January 2020, Paul embarked on a national tour, his most ambitious show combining stand-up, music, hula-hooping and tales of romantic validation and neurological degeneration. As it turned out 2020 proved to be the wrong year to embark on a national tour. For everyone. Undeterred, Paul returns, with the difficult second post-diagnosis album. Expect jokes and surprises. Paul has a story to tell. And an absolute banger of a title.” Yes, you guessed it, that’s what the Edinburgh Fringe website says.

Winner of the Chrisparkle Awards for Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for both 2010 and 2012, and of course best known for being a Chaser on TV, Paul Sinha has an incredible gift for comedy and I’ve never seen him not deliver an absolute blinder of a routine. That said, as he himself pointed out, this was only the second Work-in-Progress show he’s scheduled for One Sinha Lifetime (agreed, great title) and there are about another fourteen to come – so he apologised in advance for the rough and readiness of his hour. And it’s true, there is a lot of work ahead of him to get this material – an account of his rise to the delicate balance of health and comedy he enjoys today – to come together. But it will, I have no doubt.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

Abandoman aka Rob Broderick: Discography (Underbelly, George Square, 21:25, 3-28 August except 15th and 22nd)

Abandoman“Using his innate ability to craft songs on the spot, Rob creates a full discography for a fictional artist created by you, the audience. Using a sample pad necklace to trigger high-production beats, Rob creates the kind of exhilarating live experience that has won him a string of awards, and the highest of international critical acclaim. He continues to sell out his Fringe runs in Edinburgh and Australia each year, wowing audiences wherever he plays.” It will come as no surprise that that’s a direct quote from the Edinburgh Fringe website.

I’d heard great things about Abandoman but never actually seen him before, so I was really looking forward to his set. Full of attack, interacting not only with the audience but with tech in a way you rarely see, he elicits nuggets of information from audience members and then turns them into song. It’s an act that requires not only incredible creativity but also one helluva memory. He even managed to get me up on stage to confess to something naughty I’d done when I was about nine (I’m not proud of it, but I had to be honest) which got converted to the medium of music. I sense he is using new tech for this show, which occasionally let him down and introduced pauses into the procedure that I guess are normally missing. Once he’s mastered the tech, this will be another big hit for him I am sure.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

An absolutely superb night of comedy – and there are still more Edinburgh Previews on their way, keep an eye open on the Comedy Crate website for details.

Review – The Comedy Crate presents Edinburgh Previews with Ryan Mold and Josh Pugh at the Albion Brewery, Northampton, 22nd May 2022

Comedy CrateIt’s back to the cosy and welcoming surroundings of the Albion Brewery for some Edinburgh Preview shows courtesy of The Comedy Crate, and a double bill featuring Josh Pugh and Ryan Mold. These shows are, by their very nature, work in progress, so they will always be a little rough around the edges. The comics are there to make you laugh, but at the same time, you’re there to let them know what’s funny and what isn’t! It’s a two-way street.

First up was Ryan Mold, with his WIP Generation Gap show. This is taken from the Edinburgh Fringe website and describes his show better than I can: “In the mid-80s, at 6 months old, my grandparents become my legal guardians. They showered me with love, but being guided through life by two 70-year-olds with simply no understanding of modern living was a mixture of confusion and embarrassment. I was having to take advice, navigate school and grow into a man from a generation who are clearly not up to date with the 90s trends of the internet, fashion and modern cooking. If I was ever to have a girlfriend, my grandparents’ thrifty car choice, mannerisms and “alternative solutions” would certainly not help!”

Ryan MoldIt’s a great idea for a show and Ryan shares a number of his childhood memories; the bizarre, the disastrous, and the hilarious. Effortlessly affable, he sets up a strong and confident rapport with the audience and it was a very enjoyable set. The structure of the show is absolutely in place; all that’s needed now is to bring in a few more recognisable and relatable experiences that make the audience react “yes! Absolutely!” This is quite a personal show, and you get the feeling that Ryan is sharing some very private moments, so the authenticity of his material is totally bang on. Work in progress indeed, but I’m sure the finished product will be a success. If you’re in Edinburgh over the summer, the show will be at Just the Tonic at the Mash House every day from 4th to 28th August except 15th.

After the interval, we welcomed Josh Pugh, with his show, Sausage, Egg, Josh Pugh, Chips and Beans. Again, here’s the description from the Edinburgh Fringe website: “English Comedian of the Year winner and star of Comedy Central Live and Dave’s Hypothetical. Tour support for Joe Lycett and ‘almost certain future star’ (, Josh takes us through the past two years of his life, trying to have a baby and accidently losing Captain Tom’s birthday cards in his own unique and hilarious style. Amassing over three million views on his Twitter videos and regularly headlining the biggest clubs in the country Josh is ready to f*ck shit up this Fringe (as a friend).”

Josh PughWhilst I can’t comment on his ability to fulfil that latter promise, this work in progress show is already in very good shape and only needs a few very remote tweakings to become oven-ready, as the Prime Minister would have it. It’s a great title, which gives way to his first excellent joke, but doesn’t have any relationship with the content of the set, which takes the slow progress from Josh and Mrs Pugh’s initial desire to have a baby, through the rigours of set-time sex and the ignominies of IVF, to a final happy ending. Wrapped around this tale are several other excellent comedy gems, including the way he expresses how Covid is still “a thing”, but perhaps not quite what it was; and the conjecture of the people in the hospital meeting room next door to the room where he is engaged on producing his perfectly respectable official sperm deposit. You also wouldn’t employ him in a post office sorting room! Josh has terrific delivery and energy, and I’m sure his Edinburgh show will be a scream. He will be on at Monkey Barrel Comedy every day from 3rd to 28th August except 15th and 16th.

More Edinburgh previews on the way from the Comedy Crate, including two full-day line-ups and many other splendid comedy stars. All the details are here.