Comedy Fringe

Laughing Horse Pick of the Fringe — Review

Venue: Maggie’s Chamber in Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Maggie’s Chamber is cavernous compared to some Fringe venues, so it takes a brave comedian to try and fill it with laughs. Luckily, if you do get a ticket for Pick of the Fringe, you’ll see three or four different acts (plus a host), meaning the chances of an hour of awkwardness decreases massively. It’s still a bit like playing Russian Roulette, but when you think about it those odds aren’t that bad – the worst outcome is a slightly dull ten minutes, and not a hole in the head. 

Thankfully, on this occasion, the audience is treated to some excellent and varied stand-up (as well as a few quieter moments for bits that were clearly works-in-progress). Ollie Horn is a standout host, bantering with the crowd about everything from finding love to the perils of the American tourists who usually swarm Edinburgh in August, all without rehashing much material from his recently extended show (and you can’t begrudge him falling back into some kind of familiarity, given the marathon-like nature of the festival). 

The evening’s entertainment is provided by a different stable of comedians each night, and on this occasion, it is Sameer Katz, Adele Cliff, Ruth Hunter, and Ross Leslie keeping the crowd merry. The quartet each offers something different, and all have their moments. With that said, Cliff and Leslie noticeably command the room, with Cliff’s furious punning and Leslie’s easy-going charm showing there’s more than one way to get a crowd on side. 

Katz is understated, and while his material is well-practised, at points he fails to really connect with the audience, earning a few chuckles instead of the belly laughs he’s hoping for. Cliff has a completely opposing style – the jokes come thick and fast, which certainly gives the current reigning UK Pun champion a leg-up in the ten-minute-per-set format of Pick of the Fringe

While Katz and Cliff are by no means prudes (you definitely shouldn’t take anyone under 18 to see them), Hunter pushes the boat out further into the murky depths of dark humour. While some of the edgy punchlines don’t land as well as they could, the jokes are well crafted, relevant, and delivered in an ice-cold deadpan. 

Leslie finishes the show, and finishes it well. One of the few Scottish people left in Edinburgh during Fringe, he has the wonderful ability to poke fun at almost everything without being mean, including many jokes about his homeland. It’s clear to see why this stalwart has built a great career for himself, opening for Edinburgh institutions like Monkey Barrel and The Stand when he’s not delighting us during Fringe. 

If you want a bit of variety and to take a gamble without any real cost (other than that of the ticket, anyway), then Pick of the Fringe is a must-book. Who knows: you might even find your new favourite comedian. 

Dates: Daily at 17.15 in Bar 50 and 19.30 in Maggie’s Chamber until the 29th of August
Image: Ross Leslie