Northern Soul

Manchester’s funniest excel at the Edinburgh Fringe

August 25, 2014 Arts, Comedy Comments Off on Manchester’s funniest excel at the Edinburgh Fringe
Funz and Gamez

And so Edinburgh shrugs off its sequins and takes in the bunting as the Fringe comes to end once more.

It’s always a weird feeling on the last day; suddenly redundant show posters hanging by their corners and flyers littering the gutter. We finally hand the city back to its residents and leave them in peace. They breathe a sigh of relief as they claim back their streets.

But it’s been a lot of fun. This year I’ve seen a cabaret artiste play a kazoo with her foo foo, someone trying to breast-feed a bunch of parsley and a small, beautiful, Japanese lady dressed beguilingly as a egg.

Nor is it possible to be an entirely passive audience member in a Fringe show and so I’ve been squeezed, kissed, groped, sat on and got far too close for comfort to a mime artist in full body lycra.

One of the lovely aspects of spending August at the Fringe and being friends with many comedians is that all your mates are up here. Some of them even live here. But many are from back home on the Manchester comedy circuit.

In between reviewing shows I popped in to see Oldham comedian Mick Ferry and Gorton’s finest son Justin Moorhouse. It’s hard to imagine the Manchester scene without these pair but it’s had to do without them for a whole month – both have spent their time here well, performing a solid hour of unashamedly unthemed stand up.

Mick FerryFerry, of Looking For Eric and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow fame, is dissatisfied with reviews in Edinburgh that dismissively describe him as a ‘Northern comic’ (sadly it’s not a term used as much of a compliment) so he gets an audience member to write a review for him where he has already written the ‘Northern comic’  bit at the top of the page so they don’t have to. In the show, Ferry is somewhat preoccupied with ageing. He looks back to his school days and the mysterious but somewhat evil nuns who taught him, and a shameful goat outfit he was once forced to wear for a school play. It’s slightly surreal, unexpectedly whimsical in places and very, very funny. Plus there’s an opportunity to suggest some odds for who’s going to be revealed by Operation Yew Tree as the next nonce, celebrity or otherwise.

Moorhouse, compere of Laugh Local in Chorlton and currently appearing on Coronation Street as a rival landlord to Steve MacDonald in the Rovers, provided a storming show featuring material on his confusion in the bedding department in a store in Australia and the horrors of the Build-a-Bear workshop. It was a cheeky, teasing, solid hours of belly laughs from an accomplished comedian. Who needs a theme when your material is as fine as this?

Myself and Ian Fox‘s (who was also performing his comedy quiz show The Unsearchables) compilation show, a version of Dave Turquoise‘s The Worst Comedy Night in Salford imaginatively renamed The Worst Comedy Night In Edinburgh (In The Afternoon), played host to Manchester comics such as Eddie Hoo, Lou Conran, Jo D’Arcy and Amanda Graham as well as other comics from elsewhere. They’ve all been pitching in to make it a great little lunchtime show and, of course, it’s wasn’t rubbish at all as the name may have suggested. Even Mr Turquoise popped in at one point.

Among the other acts here this month Martin Mor has been performing a variety packed family show, Seymour Mace has been hosting his comedy panel show Questionable Time at The Stand, Comedy Sportz were here for a week performing their own brand of team improv and the incredible Sarah Profit completed a triathlon every day for a fortnight then talked about it in her show in the afternoon.

Elsewhere in the city, Danny Deegan, Dan Nightingale, Mike Wilkinson, Hayley Ellis, Katie Mulgrew, Rachel Fairburn, Katie Mulgrew, Mike Newall – all stalwarts of our local scene – were performing shows.

FAGZ poster TimesOne of my favourite shows this year was Bob Blackman’s Local, by Johnny Sorrow and Mr Swann who won the Malcolm Hardee Award for comic originality a few years ago. It’s a crazy mixture of carefully crafted jokes, old school entertainment and surreal oddities. Mr Swann spends the whole time wearing a balaclava, Johnny Sorrow performs a spot-on impression of Bernie Clifton and they both pay tribute to Bob ‘The Tray’ Blackman which largely involves hitting people on the head with a foil tray.

Manchester has done well in the Foster’s Comedy Awards too with dark sketch group Gein’s Family Gift Shop nominated for the newcomer award and a great victory for Phil Ellis‘s Funz and Gamez which won the panel prize. Ellis, always an offbeat and thinking-outside-the-box comedian, first told me about his idea back in May: “it’s a kids show but it’s not”. I wondered at first how he was going to pull it off but then, after seeing it at preview, I soon realised that it works beautifully, both as a riot of a show for the kids while including adult jokes for the parents. A kid is arm wrestled for an Xbox that doesn’t actually exist, Uncle Mick (Ferry) pops in but has had a bit too much to drink, and there’s a hapless dog, irritable elf and inappropriate clown.

I last saw the North of England almost a month ago. I’ll miss this place but be pleased to see home. Same time next year, Edinburgh.

By Marissa Burgess, Comedy Editor

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