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Life on the edge of The Fringe

It wasn’t so much the Fringe, more the fringe of the Fringe.

Edinburgh veterans will know what I’m talking about – your shoes stick to the floors, the beer is bad and served in plastic cups, and you squeeze into dank cellars (all the venues feel like dank cellars, even the ones upstairs) to be entertained.And some of the entertainment is as bad as the beer.

When and why did the f and the c words and the w word and the s word and the bj words become embedded into stand-up comedy routines? Call me the wrong demographic if you like - one of the “comics” did just that – but when one routine got into excruciating detail about a particular and a particularly uncomfortable sex act, I didn’t see anyone laughing.

In fact the younger people I was with thought nothing of walking out. But that’s what the fringe of the Fringe is all about: You take pot luck with the hundreds of flyers shoved into your hand in the street and you may hit gold, or find only the shh… you-know- what.

Gold there was: American comedian Russell Hicks (right) was a high point with terrific improv, using his amazing quick wits, and the audience, to develop genuinely funny routines on the spot. Bobby Mair, Canadian stand-up, all unkempt hair and gangly limbs, used his presumably true personal history of adoption and addictions to spin out another genuinely funny and clever act.

And David Quirk, an Aussie (there could be a theme developing here) had something different –stories without many belly laughs, but reflective and engrossing. And performed on the top deck of a bus.

Finally, to try to rectify the gender imbalance - there’s no getting away from this, the fringe is mainly white, middle class and male - the best of the bunch for us was probably Ireland’s Joanne Ryan, (right) talking about whether or not at the age of 35 she should have children.

This may not sound a great subject for side-splitting comedy, but using a mixture of Monty Python-style animation and very funny recorded interjections from her mother, she managed to make the show both thought-provoking and highly entertaining.

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