Fringe review: Best of the Edinburgh Fest

With the strong reputation of the Best of the Edinburgh Fest from previous Adelaide Fringe festivals, there was good reason to hope it would be a winner again in 2023. Happily, we can tick that box. ★★★★

Feb 24, 2023, updated Feb 24, 2023

Five comedians are name-checked on the Fringe site for the various Best of the Edinburgh Fest shows, and in a “lucky dip” mode you get to see three without knowing in advance which ones. Not being sure what’s to come can have its own frisson.

On this night we were laughing with Gary McCallister (AKA Mickey D), Mark Simmons (from TV’s Mock the Week), and Markus Birdman. It was a three-course meal in humour that was well worth digging into, with each comedian’s approach quite different.

McCallister doubled as MC, so got to appear twice. His was the intro to the whole show; one that often turned into an in-your-face tirade. The black-kilted Scot with the blue mohawk and maximum accent played it rough but inclusively, except for some big cracks regarding residents of a certain northern suburb. They really copped it.

Both Adelaide’s reputed conservatism and our hopeless drivers also got a serve. If the last two are frequent and pretty safe subjects, the jokes were at least delivered with a bit of welcome fire.

Simmons was much gentler. Scared of sitting in the front row at a comedy show? You’re not alone. There’s that tingle of mixed desire for laughs and wishing they won’t be at your expense. On the other hand, interaction with the performers is what some people crave. Simmons offered lots of that and it was not threatening.

His humour came from a ready stock of one-liners, mostly of the double-meaning style one could associate with Butlin’s boom-tish word-play or an American comedian like Steven Wright. It was a bit juvenile at times but always welcome, especially when he played off a series of answers to questions aimed directly at individual audience members.

Two different flavours in humour and still Birdman to come. This felt like dessert; the special dish you didn’t know how much you would appreciate until the situations and punchlines resonated long afterwards. Narrative-driven and very personal, his jokes centred on parenthood and major health issues.

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The variety in the show was a blessing and everyone will have their favourite comedian from the night but if choosing one to see again? That would be Birdman, perhaps in his own extended show.

Meanwhile, we can say that Best of the Edinburgh Fest does it once more, offering just what we really need ­– a damned good laugh.

Best of the Edinburgh Fest continues until March 19 across two venues in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Markus Birdman is also presenting a solo show at the Rhino Room from March 14-18.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

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