In the run-up to this year’s Edinburgh Festival, comedians up and down the country prepare their shows, hone them to comedy perfection in time for them to be performed to an audience of six people in the back room of an Edinburgh pub. While the shows are unfinished, they provide a good idea of what the audiences at Edinburgh can expect, but with a little less polish.

XS Malarkey provides a great home for these practice shows; particularly since it can attract a large audience without the inclination towards heckling and breaking the flow of the delivery – several comics over the years have commented on how if an XS audience doesn’t like a joke the comic will be confronted with a wall of silence rather than a torrent of abuse – which on the one hand is probably better for recognising the weak points in an act, but on the other is more challenging since the comic can’t get the audience back onside with a quick put-down to a heckler.

The two acts performing the first ever previews of their Edinburgh shows on Monday night were the fantastic Michael Legge, whose angry rants and stories about his life makes his blog ( a fantastic and hilarious read, and Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ own Phill Jupitus, back on the stand-up circuit after far too long and with a brand new style.

Legge began in traditional fashion, describing the difficulty he’d had in getting to the gig in the first place – the sheer anger that goes into his delivery, though, as he explains how it came to be that just getting to the venue cost him £250, made this opening section very entertaining. What followed was a collection of stories of things that have happened to him, which, while interesting and very funny (the crowd were falling about laughing when he related his story involving a fist fight in a bar one Edinburgh Festival) they seemed not to have much in common, and not much of substance about his linking theme of embarrassment – but since it’s the first preview of this show, this is understandable. Having read his blog, however, it is a little annoying that some of his material is almost word-for-word recitations of some of the entries, although I imagine they will develop more as the previews continue.

Jupitus’ show is a largely improvisational affair; the basic set-up involves Jupitus masquerading as several separate ‘dead’ characters (in this instance, 100-odd year old veteran of the film industry Vernon Hershall-Harley, German U-boat commander Kurt Schmidt, and Jupitus’ own ghost, projected from 50 years in the future), who each took questions from the audience regarding their life and experiences.

This, of course, provides Jupitus with some wonderful opportunities for surreal and outlandish ideas (including having directed a Sex and the City prequel, entitled “Wanking and the Village”, setting up a chain of German-Irish theme pubs named “Paddy O’Hitler’s”, and his own death at the hands of Chris Martin from Coldplay), but the show relies heavily on the involvement of the audience; if the questions asked don’t quite work, then the material won’t work either, and if the audience are shy, there’s likely to be a lot of awkward silences. Similarly, the three separate dead characters mean that questions like “how did you die” were repeated, with Jupitus having to provide three different answers – something which I can imagine leading to either repeating himself each night, or becoming increasingly difficult and annoying for him as the show goes on.

Still though, a little practice and this show will be great – it’s even hilarious when Jupitus corpses mid-way through a particularly ridiculous monologue – but it’s certainly one which will stand or fall based on the audience’s involvement.

Michael Legge will be performing his show “What a Shame” at The Stand Comedy Club II on 1-26th August 2012.

Phill Jupitus’ show, “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’ve Asked You Here…” will run 1st-27th August, at the Stand Comedy Club.


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