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Published on Sunday, 29 August 2010

4.5 stars

Laughing Horse @ Meadow Bar (venue website)
6 - 29 Aug (not 17, 24), 7:45pm (8:45pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

I've no idea what Amusements, starring Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster, is all about.  At the start of the show, Acaster took to the stage (actually two pallets nailed together and painted black) to call the seven people in the audience to a vote: “either we don't do the gig, or we do it and it'll be brilliant.”  Naturally, we chose the second option, and he was true to his word.

Widdicombe was first up, and if he has a set I'm not sure what it is.  He forsook the microphone to instead get to know the members of the small crowd.  The best way I can describe it is like being down the pub with a really funny mate.  So we talked about our jobs, our studies, our travels; from the lady who plays the Scottish Widow coming to meet members of her fan club, to forensic scientists who've just completed their dissertations, to living in Bristol.  To illustrate what a strange and interesting group we ten were (three more arrived after the start), Widdicombe observed that “you can come to the Edinburgh Fringe and meet a man from the Ukraine who used the same estate agent as you.”

Maybe it won't feature in Dave's spurious list of the Best Jokes of the Fringe, but Widdicombe has a gift for matey, congenial banter that made his half hour fly by.  Acaster has a slightly different comic persona, and taking the stage afterwards he recognised that “it was like I've taken your best friend away”.  He acquitted himself well, though, and actually incorporated some of his material rather than ad-libbing entirely, it seemed.  He may have got a bit sidetracked by a discussion with forensic science girl, who was enjoying a celebratory bottle of wine or three, but it was all to the good.

So. I've no idea what the show is like normally – it may be like this all the time, or it may be a regular stand-up set, or it may be something else entirely.  What I do know is that the hour I spent with them is one of the most entertaining I've had this Fringe – and I think Yuri, Pierce, Fraser, John, Holly, Verity, Holly (really) and the other two whose names I forgot would agree.

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