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Big Value Comedy Show - Early
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
3

3 stars

Just the Tonic at The Caves (venue website)
Comedy
2-13, 15-26 Aug, 6:00pm-7:10pm
Reviewed by Martin Lennon

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

The Big Value Comedy Show is responsible for nurturing the talents of the best young comedians in the UK. It's a tough gig, however, when you have to play the lunchtime show on a Sunday, and you got the impression that the four comedians were going to have to do something special to impress the eager audience in a venue at the Caves – which one of the comedians insightfully described as a “bouncy castle meeting a sex dungeon”.

The show started off with Ben Van Der Velde, who described himself as a Geordie Jew. His attempts at crowd participation were painfully forced, and seemed to totally backfire. To me he had something of a rock-star persona, and his overconfidence was frustrating at times to witness. But when he concentrated on telling jokes, he did come out with a few good ones: for example, his idea of sending a mouse to Switzerland for a more humane death was well-received.  The final word on Van Der Velde has to go to his father, who, when asked if Ben was an accident, responded, “no, you were a hideous experiment” – I kind-of felt the same about his act.

Next up was David Murphy who, at twenty years old, was the youngest in the group. His age did present some challenges, as his references would probably suit a teenage crowd better than the more adult crowd he had. Describing himself, predictably, as a cross between Harry Potter and Gok Wan, Murphy’s attempts at crowd participation were horrendous, and his tales of his adventures also failed to impress. Examples such as skiing trips in France and getting dumped while on a Greek holiday didn't have sufficient levels of interest, and didn't pull the audience in at all. His set was definitely the weakest of the four I saw, but there’s no doubt can improve in the future.

Andrea Hubert, a Jewish Londoner, performed next.  She talks about how she stands out for her appearance (she’s over six feet tall, which a man in one of her jokes says is “just unmanageable”), but it’s clear she also stands out for her comedy. She doesn't shy away from controversial topics – be that Nazi jokes or adventures on notorious website Chatroulette – but she is also a gifted storyteller, and I was impressed by her use of puns (she thought her jokes on anorexia “wore a bit thin”). Hubert was the highlight of the show for me, worth the price of admission on her.

But the actual headline act was Jonathan Elston from Coventry. He has been described as a “chunky piece of funky”; it's easy to understand why he was headlining, and it's clear to see he has an abundance of talent. But here, he failed to impress in what was an average set. He started off well, with a good gag on ‘99p’ vs ‘£1’ stores, and why every penny counts. But he was a bit too over-familiar with the crowd at times, and also perhaps not familiar enough with his own material – at some points, he contradicted himself when setting up stories.  He possessed a lot of charm, but his jokes on geriatric fights and Alzheimer’s, for example, didn't get the reactions he was hoping for.

On balance, you certainly do get value for money, and taken together these comedians will appeal to a wide range of punters. I think their biggest drawback is that the material is not really suitable for a lunch show. At 12:30, Edinburgh is simply not ready for constant jokes on lady farts, Alzheimer's or Chlamydia, and it was a mistake to be so full on, so early. Still, I think we will definitely see these comedians in the future – especially Andrea Hubert who I am sure will become a well-known name at the Fringe in the years to come.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  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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