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The Comedy Zone
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
3-28 Aug, 10:45pm-12:15am
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

The Comedy Zone is one of a number of Edinburgh platforms for up and coming comics. Here a bunch of newer performers, who may not yet be ready for their own hour long show, each do twenty minutes and the result is something rather like watching a night in a comedy club.

Compere Iain Stirling, was very good; nice and smart and with that preternatural likeableness that makes for a perfect comedy host. He was perhaps a little unmemorable, but for a show like this one, taking the backseat worked very well.

The first act he brought on was Hari Kondabolu, an American with some nice observations about race and culture, particularly a brilliantly smart recreation of an argument about the colour of Jesus’ skin. He was strikingly intelligent, I’ll definitely be looking out for more from him.

Next came Paul Currie, a surreal, visual comic. At first I really wasn’t sure about his stuff – I’m the kind of comedy fan whose heart sinks when the act dumps a suitcase full of props as he walks on stage – but he thoroughly won me over. By the time he was doing an insane hip waggling dance in a plastic Viking helmet I was sold. There was something extra original about this guy – it was like watching the Monty Python version of stand up comedy.

Final act Phil Wang was more conventional, but no less entertaining. He has some brilliantly wry observations about how, as a young Asian man, he was an engineering student ‘by default’ and neatly skewered a few prejudices about his race and background. Mind you, as more than half of the acts opened their set with a joke about what they looked like – even with a knowing spin – maybe it is time to retire that intro now.

Truly, you never really know what you’re going to get with a comedy showcase, but this one had four genuinely original, genuinely funny acts out of four... which was the last thing I was expecting.

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