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Des Clarke - Clarxism
Published on Thursday, 27 August 2009

I haven't laughed so hard or so much at any Fringe show this year as I did at Des Clarke. Cliches fail me - my sides split, my gut burst, etc. And yet... well, put it this way: you don't have to be Scottish to enjoy this show, but it helps.

Clarxism is a lesson in people power. Clarke's basic premise is to have members of the audience shout out things which annoy them; he chooses some to write up on a flipchart; the audience votes for the best suggestion at the end of the show. This provides ample material for Clarke to bounce off, and will also provide the subject matter for a meeting he has set up with Scotland's Deputy First Minister.

As is de rigueur for comedians, it seems, Clarke starts with a poll of the audience, checking where they're from. In the sell-out crowd I attended, the overwhelming majority were from Scotland, where Clarke is a recognisable TV and radio figure. A small handful were from England, and nobody, it seems, was from anywhere else. It's perhaps just as well: while there's comic potential in the similarities between Nicola Sturgeon and wee Jimmy Krankie, there's also little chance a wider audience would have any idea who those people are.

I've seen Clarke's standup several times before, and I think he's a fantastic comedian with a quick and incisive wit. I just worry that his parochial following and his tendency to follow jokes with gurning and squeaky voices could put many people off; the insular focus certainly sits uncomfortably alongside the more international dimensions of the Edinburgh festivals.

So where does that leave us? Five stars if you're Scottish, three if you're not; we'll split the difference and say four.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2009.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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