Best comedy shows at Edinburgh Fringe 2019: reviews of 7 must see-comedians including John-Luke Roberts, Ronni Ancona and Clive Anderson

'Python-esque absurdism': John-Luke Roberts - Handout
'Python-esque absurdism': John-Luke Roberts - Handout

The Telegraph's critics offer a star-rated guide to the best comedy shows at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

John-Luke Roberts: After Me Comes the Flood (But in French) Drip Splosh Splash Drip Blubbp Blubbp BlubbpBlubbpBlubbp!! ★★★★☆

Where: Assembly George Square Studios, Studio Two (0131 623 3030)

When: 5.30pm

Until: Aug 26 (not 14 or 21)

In a nutshell: A hit-and-miss but still rip-roaring hour of philosophically inclined, Python-esque absurdism – with a sub-editor-vexing title – from a performer of tremendous energy and originality. The premise of this elaborately constructed, faintly bittersweet show is that Roberts hates surprises – cue a large screen behind him on which every punchline from the show is written from the start – but it is in fact teeming with them. And so versatile is Roberts with his accents and personae that each "joke" feels more like a miniature sketch anyway. Among a great many treats, there's mindful meditation with a centaur, in-depth musing on Haribo eggs and bears, and a long, particularly super routine based on (of all things) Nietzsche's abyss, which in this case doesn't just stare back at you, but tries to get off with you. You have been warned... MM

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Adam Riches: The Beakington Town Hall Murders ★★★★☆

Where: Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Above (0131 556 6550)

When: 7.50pm

Until: Aug 25

Adam Riches - Credit: Matt Crockett
Adam Riches Credit: Matt Crockett

In a nutshell: Something appalling has befallen the respectable town of Beakington: last night a turtle tombola went horribly wrong, and all 10 Testudines were allowed to whizz out of the drum and splat to their doom on the town hall's walls and floors. Who committed this atrocity? That is exactly what we are going to find out. For this year's vortex of mayhem, Adam Riches returns to the character of self-proclaimed action hero, sleuth and mega-stud Victor Legit (first seen in 2014). With a frankly terrifying amount of audience interaction – as he says, no seat is safe – this riotously ridiculous, Yakult-swigging comic creation sets out to solve the crime. As so often with Riches, deranged creativity, priceless writing and cast-iron charisma fuse into an irresistibly silly and seductive whole, which is not to say that your friendly Telegraph reviewer didn't lose a pint of sweat every time Mr Legit pointedly referred to "the critic who's here tonight". MM

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Clive Anderson: Me, Macbeth and I ★★★★☆

Where: Assembly George Square Studios, Studio Three (0131 623 3030)

When: 9.30pm

Until: Aug 25 (not 12)

Clive Anderson - Credit: Steve Ullathorne
Clive Anderson Credit: Steve Ullathorne

In a nutshell: At 66, the nation's favourite television (and now radio) smart-alec host makes his solo debut on the Fringe. In this hour-long monologue, delivered with real brio, he explores his own Scottishness, rattles through his longstanding obsession with "the best play ever written" (and its long association with ill fortune) and, happy to say, winds up in the domain of the calamitous TV interview. His own famous, magnificent faux pas with both Cher and the Bee Gees make for particularly sparkling anecdotes. But Anderson also finds time to poke some well-judged fun at our current ruling political class. And, while the show  isn't – and makes no claims to be – anywhere near comedy's cutting edge, it is also a complete delight and whizzes by in a flash. MM

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Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod: Just Checking In ★★★☆☆

Where: Gilded Balloon at the Museum, Auditorium (0131 622 6552)

When: 9pm

Until: Aug 17

Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod - Credit: Steve Ullathorne
Ronni Ancona and Lewis MacLeod Credit: Steve Ullathorne

In a nutshell: The much admired Scottish front-woman of the too short-lived early Noughties BBC series The Big Impression joins forces with fellow arch impersonator (and compatriot) MacLeod. The show begins with a brilliant, simple conceit – a Scottish hotel once frequented by stars, now in a rescue-bid scenario by Donald Trump – and some superb mimickry (Boris Johnson, Ian McKellen, Julie Walters, Jennifer Saunders, Audrey Hepburn, Melania Trump and more) before losing its way in a convoluted, clever-clever twist that has the voices hijacking the show and running amok. DC

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Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang ★★★☆☆

Where: Pleasance Courtyard, Cabaret Bar (0131 556 6550)

When: 8pm (additional performances: 11pm on Aug 10, 17 and 14; 11.15pm on Aug 16)

Until: Aug 25 (not 12)

Phil Wang
Phil Wang

In a nutshell:  The silly-willy title of Phil Wang's new show is both apt and misleading. Misleading, because this (by his own, cherishable description) "half Chinese-Malaysian, half normal" young stand-up in fact applies his very considerable wit and intelligence to all manner of ultra-serious topics: male vs female contraception, virtue-signalling on social media, sexual predation, and so on. Apt, because all this is delivered in such a studiedly wry, dry, raised-eyebrow kind of manner that it's hard to tell just how seriously he's taking any of it. On one hand, this device allows him to make all manner of woke points without sounding too pious. On the other, it also makes for a set that, however polished and entertaining, bounces off the emotions and affections without ever fully engaging them. MM

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Tony Law: Identifies ★★★☆☆

Where: Monkey Barrel Comedy (0131 226 0000)

When: 12.15pm

Until: Aug 25 (not 13)

Tony Law
Tony Law

In a nutshell: Decked up like "Vercingetorix in Gangs of New York", the wily, wacky, mercurial Canadian returns to the Fringe with a show that (true to form) appears to career around like a loose, surreal cannon while also doing its best to deconstruct itself before your very eyes. This time round, alongside the (in stand-up terms) hardy perennials of getting older and newfound sobriety, time-travel is on the agenda – cue a boisterous, kind of brilliant but also insanely overlong passage in which Law pretends to be a Deep South entertainer on an 1840s steamer in Russia. Genealogy also looms large, with Law having great good fun with a wild variety of accents and observations. If past shows from this former Edinburgh Comedy Awards nominee have kept the laughter flowing more consistently, the high points here are super, and, as ever, the warm, anything-goes atmosphere Law generates is undeniable. MM

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The Brand-New, Full-Throated Adventures of Reginald D Hunter ★★★☆☆

Where: Pleasance Courtyard, The Grand (0131 556 6550)

When: 8pm

Until: Aug 25

Reginald D Hunter - Credit: Kash Seff
Reginald D Hunter Credit: Kash Seff

In a nutshell: At 50, Atlanta-born, London-based provocateur Reginald D Hunter may be celebrating 21 years on the Fringe, but he's still up to his old mischief. As ever, he treads a precarious tightrope between saying the unsayable (about race, the n-word, the sexual divide) and coming across as a decent cove, using his nationality and ethnicity to make observations that a white Briton couldn't and wouldn't. Sometimes – on Charlize Theron, his new Dutch girlfriend's accent, travelling through the Deep South with a white BBC film crew – his scorn for political correctness works a treat. But it occasionally touches on gratuitousness, and too many punchlines don't quite deliver, with Hunter (on the first Sunday night) completely fluffing one joke about Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott by muddling up their surnames, and several times seeming to pause for "beverage break" laughter that didn't always come. Although his comic "voice" (and marvellously musical, theatrical delivery) remain unique on the circuit, you may find yourself wondering if his heart's still in it quite as it once was. MM

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