EDINBURGH FRINGE – GRAHAM DICKSON IS THE NARCISSIST

Graham Dickson is a talented performer, who has an abundance of charisma. He seems to be an actor capable of great range as well, as evidenced by some of the scenes in ‘The Narcissist.’ But this show was advertised as a comedy, and I did not laugh once.
It is obviously a labour of love, taking influence from pretentious and buffoonish thespians and works of Russian literature, but nothing ever really landed for me. It is a show that tries to do many things, but arguably never really accomplishes any of them. Part of the show takes the form of a farce, as Graham and his director Hamish argue about different approaches the show should take. It then starts to delve into character comedy, Graham playing a Russian man who self-absorbedly looks back throughout his life to give us a taste of his formative years. The lead character, Grigoriy Alexeivich Dhukov takes us on a journey through his life, detailing the life of shit that he’s led up to this point, the experiences that led up to him writing his magnum opus.
With the exception of two cringe inducing American characters that play on tired archetypes, the play mostly follows this Russian protagonist and Graham himself as he breaks character to bicker with the director. The main problem is that while a lot of the writing has the cadence of a joke that invites you to laugh, it’s not actually funny enough to force one out. The story is okay, it might even be pretty interesting if it wasn’t littered with jokes that make you want to crawl out of your skin and out the exit. The show jumps around pretty frantically and Graham does a good job with some of the physical comedy, but neither the characters nor the humor in ‘The Narcissist’ make any impact. It’s not mean or cruel enough to be truly narcissistic, instead it is a lame, ill-conceived concept. It presents itself as a vehicle for character comedy, but nothing about the characters or the writing is particularly amusing.

Last year I worked for a publication that did not publish negative reviews, so I haven’t written one in a while. It does pain me a little to write this, because while the guy although hasn’t written something I could connect with, the audience I was in there with did enjoy it. But still, there were times where the laughs felt forced from the people sitting next to me. I was impressed with Dickson’s acting ability, and he does have the potential to be a great comedic actor. The writing though, needs to be funnier all round. I was almost going to give it a second chance halfway through if they didn’t do a joke about everyone’s least favourite president, but near the climax they blew it with a joke that had no place in a show dealing with a 1930’s playwright. It might have been an out of character moment for Dickson, but it was still a cheap joke in final few minutes. I do wish Dickson all the best though – it’s hard to be objective when something really doesn’t connect with you on such a wide ranging art form such as comedy. I despise most improv troupes that I’ve ever seen on the festival because of each members need to outperform each other. I understand Dickson comes from an improv background and this does feel like a play that was scripted by a good improviser. Perhaps my fault with the show of is just the incompatibility with the styles of comedy we draw influence from.

✮✮✰✰✰

Graham Dickson is The Narcissist is on at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) ​
20:10, Aug 17-27

EDINBURGH FRINGE – NEIL DELAMERE : BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE PENSIONER

I’m not usually a fan of crowd work at comedy gigs, because it’s a mixed bag. There can be too many loose ends and jokes that fall flat, wasting the precious time you have to make the audience like you and your material. However, Neil Delamere has mastered the art of crowd work to the point that it’s flawlessly woven into his fringe show. It’s not often that you’ll get someone that comes out to do the fringe that has so much fun joking with the audience, their actual fringe material becomes barely distinguishable amongst the improvisation.

The show is framed around a story about helping his father deliver meals on wheels to pensioners in Ireland, who at this point is an 82 year old man himself. Whilst telling us about the weirdos and ultra-religious people he delivers food to, he is able to jump around and go off on tangents without going on too long, without straying far from the structure of the show. He enjoys riffing on the audience’s reactions and their flustered answers to his questions, and because you can see his delight it makes the experience a lot more comfortable. He slides into this free-spirited approach on riffing by telling everyone not to be worried if he talks to them, “we’re only having the craic”. I can get behind this method, having spent too many nights cringing in the back of a comedy club when the comic chats up the audience.

Neil is your stereotypical fast talking Irishman, but it’s probably cause of his quick wit trying pushing out the jokes as fast he can. The jokes come so rapidly at some points I didn’t think I would be able to catch up with him. As the show goes on, Neil divulges more about his life in Ireland and about his childhood where the threat of the IRA could be quashed by getting your dad to join Al Qaeda. His main story about his delivery journey doesn’t seem to be anything more than a comedy vehicle, until in the end he ties it all together in a rewarding finale. It’s a performance that heavily relies on but also benefits from the use of improv, using it as a buffer to make his own jokes sound unbelievable. It’s also a show about getting older and dealing with how you cope with the inevitable – your parents getting too old to deliver meals to other old people.

Neil Delamere: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner is a great show because it doesn’t feel rigid at all. It’s a show that has the promise of something fresh and original each night along with his prepared fringe material. The guy is genuinely affable, but funny too – he’s not pandering to anyone, you can see that the act is what it is, a hysterical hour with a hilarious comedian.

★★★★✩

Neil Delamere is on at Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)​, 21:00
Aug 11-14, 16-27

EDINBURGH FRINGE – BEST OF SCOTTISH COMEDY @ THE STAND 08/08

When it comes to the festival, I don’t get excited to see Scottish comics or most British ones. My eye usually wanders to the fresh stream of American comedians who are trying out their new hour before realising how unprofitable the fringe can really be. But as this year came around, I started to think this is a dangerous mindset to have. This year I’m trying to confront my own prejudices and snobbery towards comedians who perform in Scotland year round, by seeing as much home grown talent as I can.

The first place I could think to get a decent show that has good Scottish acts was at The Stand on York Place, which as Edinburgh’s most prominent comedy club has probably more integrity and common sense than most of the pop-up places at the festival. Being a variety show of sorts, ‘The Best of Scottish Comedy’ is an energising comedy show that works well because it emulates the comedy club circuit these comics have worked in for so many years. Unlike a lot of shows on the fringe which focus on a personality, a gimmick or promise of celebrity guests, BOSC is able to harness what is good about seeing Scottish comedy in a club without taking anything away from it.

The show is held in one of the stand’s festival venues, a full house that got right into it as soon as compere Ray Bradshaw hit the stage. He has an affable quality to him, something essential for a great compere. He was able to rip into the Americans, the loud drunk English and the reluctant Scots in his crowd work, without it sounding hammy or played out. When he even ripped on me, a reluctant ginger kid in the front row, he did it in such a good nature that I was surprised I liked him after it, considering how much self-loathing I feel after being chosen while working the crowd at a comedy gig. Ray was great and I’d like to see him again outside of the host role.

After Ray warmed up the audience, on came Fern Brady, a sharp tongued comedian who opened with a dig at braindead cabbies in Northern Ireland. Fern has the spark – she’s a talented performer who can take on darker material without sounding too cynical or losing laughs to offended gasps. Her jokes felt warm and kind of life affirming, even though they focused on the pros and cons of crushing her tiny boyfriend to death, or cooking eggs for a halfway house full of paedophiles. The levity of Fern’s act was definitely the highlight of the night, she never faltered to what was quite a mixed bag of an audience. She bit through the tuts and groans of the older audience members, telling them she wished she could cancel her fringe show because the 12pm slot is full of old cunts who can’t deal with the word labiaplasty. To be fair, I cringe just thinking about it.

Next up was Robin Grainger, who had a hard act to follow after Fern, but he still had a solid set. Whereas Fern saunters around the stage with the grace of a drunk stepmother, Robin has the manic energy of a kid that’s just done speed for the first time. His main bit deconstructed the pitfalls of releasing mental patients for a weekend, otherwise known as T in the Park. The glorious shamble of a festival, where he tried to perform comedy for a tent full of muddy people chewing their faces off and requesting ‘Wonderwall’. Robin’s strength was telling these weird, abstract stories and I got distracted because his jokes were so similar to my own stand-up material, forcing me to confront myself about why what I wrote wasn’t as good as his material.

The headliner for the night was Mark Nelson, who is best known from this year for making a video with his daughter about the 2017 general election. I had seen Mark before, maybe a year and half ago at the stand. He killed then, and he killed here too. His opening line about the anti-terrorism barriers on the royal mile set the irreverent tone for the rest of his set “As everyone knows, the nemesis of the terrorist is the street performer.” As he slowly sips on a pint he lays down his take on family life, where you don’t like your kids equally and you wish you could die in your sleep. His grumbles about getting on, your ballsack growing bigger and bigger don’t get tired quickly like it would for some comics, it was those down to earth observations about life that completely slayed the audience. I was sat at the front with my girlfriend who was crying with laughter at the start, and then proceed to not be able to breathe.

‘The Best of Scottish Comedy’ exceeded my expectations for Scottish comedians at the fringe this year and left me leaving with a strange, twanging feeling in my heart which I later realised was patriotic pride. As I left the gig and went home, I kept thinking about how damn good it was and how blinded I’ve been due to these insecurities about my own identity. Maybe one day I’ll be able to channel that self-loathing into something worthwhile, even comedy. I was a fool to look down on the broad spectrum of Scottish comedy, because there really is some true greatness in there.

 

 

SCOTLAND.MPEG

I’m pretty sure neither Sam or me had any real ideas when we made this. He just picked up a bat and started saying dumb shit. There’s maybe another couple things like this in the editing pipeline, as YouTube is a fan of quantity, not quality. I can not describe what this has done to me psychologically. I have started to feel patriotic in places where I felt no patriotism before. I can confidently say that I’m immune from the ‘500 miles’ effect having lived by Easter road for a couple years, but Glasvegas…a band I used to have such disdain for because they ruined a perfectly good slang term for Glasgow…I’ve been singing that ‘Daddy’s gone’ song for a couple days now and not ironically. I used to think they were just another overproduced band from the overpopulated indie scene of the mid 2000s, I even made fun of the sad nature of it being a daddy issues song. But now I’m listening to it and enjoying it, and even thinking that the guy did an amazing job on the production. The accent being super weegie doesn’t even scratch me, or make me cringe like so many ‘Scottish cringe’ red flags have done so before. What is happening to me? Just a couple months ago I was telling Scotland fans at the six nations how much Scotland never did for me, how much I wanted as a kid to leave and start again somewhere else, somewhere that wasn’t here. Now I’m listening to old Glasvegas songs and actually liking my home country? Be warned : this could be the end of my only shred of personality folks. Check back near New Years Day to see if I’ve got an opinion on the latest ‘Only an Excuse’.

THE CARSON BLAZKOWICZ SHOW (PILOT)

O, Carson what have we done to deserve such majestic fuckery? Let me present the pilot episode of ‘The Carson Blazkowicz Show’. This is our submission into ‘Test Card’, a talent scheme by the Edinburgh TV Festival. I chanced upon an advert at this otherwise dull careers festival and went to see the boys afterwords who agreed to film this with me. It was this, or a completely scripted show which i don’t think we could have done on a budget of nothing. The result is what you see here, a weird talk show using the format as a way to push forward surreal comedy sketches. However, doing this has given us a little insight on what direction to take it from here. I hope that you enjoy this programme, and that you think it’s a good idea for us to continue making them. Otherwise, i’ll have to go back to trying to making Harry Potter fanfiction come alive in front of the greenscreen.

NIGHTMARE CHALLENGE – EPISODE 1#

Nightmare Challenge is a podcast about things gave us nightmares and still do to this day. When I was a child, everything they showed me on television induced me into a state of paralysis, I couldn’t turn away because there was only 4 channels and only one with any kids telly on. To this day, I can’t stomach the body of work made by Ragdoll Productions. I’m sure you all have things that give you an unsettling feeling in the recesses of your damp, dank mind. Perhaps it was an episode of ‘Boy Meets World’ that just went TOO far? Or perhaps it was a game on the Amiga that everyone told you was ‘mega haunted’.

On this podcast we explore some of the things that made us want to piss our drawers with irrational fear. Surely these things were made with the consideration of their audience of weak children with developing minds, whose ability to draw fear from nothing is at maximum capacity. The mind of a child is a fragile, broken thing, and I don’t know what I would do if I had to go through it all again. Maybe read a book or something. This episode features our co-host Sam Mackeddie, whose own fears include morality tales from the 1930’s and everyone’s favorite ‘Roy Chubby Brown’, a man who on the surface appears to be offensive – but his jokes don’t make enough sense to offend anyone.

MISTY BUSINESS

Misty Business is a documentary I made for University after they deemed my pitch for a doc about squatting in a Spanish hotel ‘so lame’. The title comes from Father John Misty, an artist who I have yet to ever listen to. But I always liked his name, and i thought it appropriate in the misty, empty place Scotland can be sometimes.

I’ve got to really thank all the people who appear in it, and Andy Donaldson (wecamefromwolves) who kept me company when i was cold and alone in Dundee filming at a bar i’d never been to before. Fun Fact : the barmaid at that place was the most unhelpful, unpleasant people I’ve tried to speak to in a bar. I was the only person in that whole bar, and she clearly didn’t like that she had to serve a customer and not chat with the chef for another 30 minutes about getting neck tattoos. Not that i have anything against neck tats…I just like getting served pints without getting sneered at.

Emily Atkinson who is a delightful singer also graciously let me film her soundcheck, which led to her becoming one of my favorite performers. I had seen her once before, but in the year that had passed she had significantly stepped her game up. It was mind-blowing, and now i’m a huge fan. You can find her stuff here.

I will be working on a follow up in the year to come, having already filmed a couple of interviews which would be perfect for it. I had to cut a lot of stuff out of this one for time constraints so it’d be good if i can get it to be around a half hour or so. I’ll get some people in it to totally trash the original doc.

GRAVE SHITTER – MUSIC VIDEO

This is a strange one. I had written a script to make a short film about two brothers, one who loved his dear deceased father and the other who knew about some damning details about him, leading him to defecating on his grave. The film would have ramped up into a piece about blackmail, as the shitty brother starts getting threatening messages about being a shitter.

We set out to the graveyard to film our scenes, but i had left the tripod back at the flat. Not wanting to waste the day, we filmed a home-video style piece that could be turned into…something. I had this riff lying around that i had no other ideas for other than the chorus being “fuck…you” over and over – and we decided to turn sam’s antics into a music video.

The result is what it is. I liked the VHS effect, but i should have kept the 3:4 aspect ratio. I had fun editing it, it distinctly reminded me of our first youtube video some 11 years back Danger, Danger High Voltage! in that it’s a video with Sam doing silly and random shit set to music. It’s probably something he gets a kick out of, because he always suggests to make one. I think the way forward is to edit like a DJ Douggpound song.

I understand it’s not for everyone. My brother was the first person i showed it to and he did not think it was funny. He thought it was kind of sad. After he said that i kind of realised that the setting is not altogether appropiate. He also hates MDE which Sam forced us to watch before we filmed this.

Until i met Hector, and he said he and Aiden had made the same journey up to Dean Graveyard and spent a couple hours drinking in there like teens. So it’s not just me that is still hanging in graveyards at the age of twenty six. I hope i can repurpose the film I wrote into something else. We are filming a pilot for a talk show soon (with no budget) and hopefully we can use some of the scenes in that. Like this poker scene where they’re all betting on this hentai doujinshi.

Fuck you, Theresa May

I think it might be pretty clear from this video that i don’t like Theresa May. I don’t, nor do i like any of the English Tories, but this was only meant to be a joke. I had this footage of the leaders of the political parties on a table football game, and started to think “oh i could do a short funny thing with these and then the punchline would be theresa may fucked up in calling this election” but as i started to write the song it started to get less silly and more angsty. I did a couple rewrites of the lyrics while sitting on the toilet, and that’s where i do my angriest writing. It turned out kind of funny to me, because she seems like such a laughable, fragile figure who also is a dangerous reactionary. The problem with conservatives is that their views on what the right thing to do for society or the country rarely hold up under the pressure of real life situations. I thought the dumbest thing she said in her campaign was about the terror attacks “Enough is enough.” I had this image of all these radicalised terrorists putting their guns and knives away and shrugging because this woman told them to. The reasons for terror attacks are not always clear, but to then blame something huge and free as the internet for the rise in attacks is ridiculous. The current government doesn’t understand the internet, it scares them. But if you were to schedule it like a drug, you’re only going to put everyone at further risk.

I can’t talk about them for too much because i just get angry. I was happy to see Corbyn finally given the praise he has always deserved and overcome the stabs in the back that the Blairites gave him. It’s why labour has made a comeback in Scotland, they don’t support Scottish labour, because they all seem like a bunch of entitled cunts that can’t be told ‘no’, it’s people like Corbyn they like, somebody who isn’t a stuffy little prick looking down at their constituents.

(Isn’t it weird though how specifically scottish labour are more unlikable than the regular brand? Why did it evolve like that? Just before the election nadia met a bunch of them using a conference room at work and they were treating people like they were on the caste system)

Tim Farron, who cares really. He brought Lib Dem back from the brink, and Clegg got ejected. They fucked up though. They really fucked it with that coalition.

Nicola Sturgeon, we love you. I mean, you’re the best. Whenever somebody criticizes the SNP, they are just mad jealous. I think.

The weird one in the bunch is Ruth Davidson, leader of Scottish Conservative. She always seemed like a walking paradox to me, proud LGBT, remain supporter, – is constantly getting these things dangled in front of her like keys. She doesn’t seem bad, but i still don’t get what to be a scottish conservative is about. It means you like the UK, sure. You don’t like independence, okay. But that was their entire platform this election – just “FUCK THE SNP”. I like the SNP, a lot. Sure they’re maybe a little slow on some things, but you can’t blame them, they’re Scottish. They’re just a bunch of dirty urchin children who grew into those suits.

Ruth Davidson doesn’t really have anything that annoys me, but i feel bad for her. It’s like she seems a little powerless through all this and you don’t really ever get to see what she cares about, why she got into it all. She’s the one tory that i still got sympathy for. but at the same time, i don’t understand how anyone can like the Tories without being an insufferable cunt. I’ve still to meet somebody that was conservative that wasn’t deeply unpleasant to be around.

THE BUTCHER

The streets of Glasgow’s west end are full of unbearable hipsters and intense alcoholics. It’s only appropriate that we chose it as the location of our film The Butcher which is about an intolerable douche and his high school chum, who may or may not have homicidal tendencies. It features all the great locations of the city, like Anderston Crane…and the G12 union bar. This one was shot by the great Sam Rose, who is currently working on his pet project Death Police with conspirator Sam Mackeddie. More on that later. For now, enjoy the second part of the “tradesmen” trilogy, produced by the sumbarino brothers and Rose productions.