(Editor's Note: These are 2012 highlights. I'll make my 2013 picks as soon as the Edinburgh program is announced. Meanwhile, check out the list to see what you can expect from the Edinburgh Festivals.)
Comedy has always played a big, and growing part in the Edinburgh Festival. The comedy lineup for 2012 is no exception. Comedy makes up about 36% of theFringe Festival program compared to 28% for theater and loads more than any other art form. There's stand up, sketch shows, comedy partners, improv shows and satirical reviews.
With thousands of performers and individual performances, picking the top acts has got to be a bit of a random game. So I'm recommending a shortlist of comedians I've seen and enjoyed, as well as some that arrive trailing plaudits and the looks of winners. But if you pick up a buzz while you are in Edinburgh, for heaven's sake have a go with someone new. You never know, you might discover the next big comedian of the decade. Or you could sit through a turkey of a performance. The gamble is half the fun of Edinburgh.
Updated Feb. 2, 2013
- Al Murray - The Pub Landlord: The Only Way is Epic - Britain's favorite "pub landlord" comedian will be polishing up his act with preview performances at Edinburgh before his national tour. The Telegraph calls him 'A national treasure', and praise from the Times is impressive too - 'The way he integrates the crowd into the show is awe-inspiring'. After last year's successful pub quiz based show, Murray will also be hosting three nights of pub quizzes in aid of a Cambodian children's charity. The Guv's Olympic Pub Quiz is described as the gold standard of pub quizzes. Pub questions, pub landlord rules.
- Marcus Brigstocke: The Brig Society - Brigstocke proposes the total restructuring of every aspect of British life through the medium of jokes. See it raw at Edinburgh before he departs for a national tour in the Autumn.
- Ted & Co The Dinner Show - If you were a fan of Father Ted and the rest of the Craggy Island crew, you'll have a good time at this dinner show at the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvernor. The impersonator/comic actors of Laughlines bring their show to Edinburgh complete with a delicious meal. The Cork Independent says, "Very enjoyable ... with all the laughs a Ted show should have".
- BBC Live at Potterrow returns for the second year - this time for the full festival - with a whole bunch of goodies, early to late, throughout the festival. Live shows, comedy writers' workshops, top comedy stars, masterclasses. BBC Comedy Presents is three weeks of late night live comedy. Plenty of live broadcasts of BBC Radio comedy and chat and BBC Radio 1's Fun and Filth Cabaret with comedy, music, magic, dancing and surprise appearances from A-List celebs.
- Best of the Fest - Late night compilation of some of the best comedians in town at the Assembly Hall, around midnight most nights.
- Cambridge Footlights in Perfect Strangers - This legendary sketch comedy ensemble from Cambridge University has been around for more than 127 years and this year celebrate 50 years on the Fringe. The company has a stellar list of alums and their shows are among the hottest tickets at the festival. They sell out fast so don't wait if you want to see the next Sasha Baron Cohen or David Baddiel, or Graham Chapman or John Cleese or Peter Cook or Stephen Fry or Germaine Greer or Eric Idle or Emma Thompson, or Hugh Laurie or Griff Rhys Jones or…
- 10 Films With My Dad How do men communicate? "From John Wayne to 3D, see how two men found each other through cinema." The Scotsman called it "charmingly funny." This is part of the PBH Free Festival at the Voodoo Rooms.
- WitTank - Character and sketch comedy. The stars of BBC3's Live at the Electric are, according to the Independent, "Hilarious" and the List says, "A dazzling display of sketch genius... There isn't a single down moment in WitTank's exhilaratingly perfect set'.
- Well Done You - Part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. Ruth Bratt and Lucy Trodd present their debut character sketch comedy show, comedian Rob Brydon called them, "Deliciously dark and very funny".
- Tiffany Stevenson: Uncomfortably Numb - Tiffany takes on the battle of ageing and finds that it is more than skin deep. The Guardian calls her,"Mouthy, cynical and sexually frank".
- Lights!Camera!Improvise Improve comedy got a bad name from years of overexposure in grindingly boring and self-indulgent television programs. Maybe its time to give it another go. Since 2009, Scat Pack are a regular Edinburgh sell-out. Watch them create the award-winning movie before your eyes, then rewind to the best bits from a different angle.
- Lucy Porter - People Person Lucy first hit the Fringe with a stand-up solo show 10 years ago. Since they she has been an Edinburgh favorite and now trails media popularity as a regular voice on BBC Radio 4 and most of the popular BBC comedy panel and stand-up shows.
- Mark Watson's Edinborolympics - Whatever this multi-award winning comedian does is worth watching. The Times called him,"The highest achiever Edinburgh has seen this decade." In 2012, international teams of comedians will compete in disciplines not recognised by the so called 'real' Olympics. "Different, mostly stupid events each night." Check his website for a full schedule.
- Daniel Sloss: The Show - Already tearing up the UK TV comedy circuit, this 21-year-old has been doing stand-up since he was 16. He's been called a hormone-ridden prodigy. Whatever your age, you'll find his observations on life and youth genuinely funny.
- Shappi Khoorsandi:Dirty Looks and Hopscotch - The London Evening Standard says the star of BBC Radio 4's Shappi Talk is on the brink of becoming a household name and calls her "piercingly funny".
Compilation ShowsThere are quite a few review shows that give you tasters of several different performers so you can sample before you buy. The Fringe also has some famous, intimate late night comedy shows where you never know who might do a stand-up turn. Try one of these:
- Best of the Fest Daytime
- Best of Scottish Comedy at the Stand Comedy Club
- Best of Irish Comedy at the Stand Comedy Club
- Late 'n Live
- The Late Show Two hours of laughs for a tenner at the Underbelly, now in Bristo Square.
- Laughing Horse Free Pick of the Fringe - Part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.
- Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe - Eight acts, 90 minutes at lunchtime. Look before you leap. Now in its 21st year.