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The Comedy Reserve
Published on Tuesday, 23 August 2011

4 stars

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
3-14, 16-21, 23-29 Aug, 9:30pm-10:30pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The shared bill is a common way for new stand-ups to approach Edinburgh; in a double- or even triple-header, up-and-coming comedians each perform a 20-30 minute set to fill the standard Fringe hour.  The Comedy Reserve is just such a presentation by Pleasance, supported by the Charlie Hartill Special Reserve arts development fund.

The format for the evening was straightforward: Jim Campbell acted as compere, easily building a rapport with the bevy of young ladies on a girls’ night out in the front row.  Campbell may not be an instantly familiar figure, but one of the quirks of the Fringe is that I’ve now seen him perform more or less the same material three times in two years; and his familiar (to me) rap battle with the disaffected youth of Essex worked well on this crowd.

First up for an extended spot was Joe Lycett, a loquacious and instantly likeable figure.  He will soon be known to the world – or at least the parts of it watching BBC1 on a Saturday night – as the "announcer" in the Alexander Armstrong-hosted gameshow Epic Win.  Even without that broader recognition, Lycett easily had the audience eating out of his hand with his slightly naughty charm.

Next on was Julian Deane, an edgier and less effusive personality.  His material covered his inauspicious roots and his role as a father to a young teenager.  It was dark and at times on the cusp of being unpleasant, but – despite seeming nervous when engaging with the crowd – Deane managed to keep the audience on his side.  

The last comedian on the bill was young Geordie comic Luke Benson, who made great play of his enormous stature (he's 6'7'' or some other ludicrous proportion) with a series of height jokes – not all of which measured up.  Nonetheless, he was confident and assured, and had some great, if crude, punchlines.

The Charlie Hartill Special Reserve is a charitable fund which provides financial support for projects by young performers, writers, directors, technicians and producers.  Previous acts to have benefited from the fund include Roisin Conaty, “Best Newcomer” at Edinburgh Comedy Awards last year.  It's easy to imagine some of the current crop making a similar impact in years to come.

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