Pick of the Edinburgh Fringe - Comedy Highlights for 2016

Thousands of Comedy Performers to set Edinburgh Laughing.

Katherine Ryan
Matthew Baker/Getty Images

Comedy has always played a big, and growing part in the Edinburgh Festival. The comedy lineup for 2016 is no exception. Check out some of the highlights

Once again, comedy makes up about 34% of the Fringe Festival program, loads more than any other art form. There's stand up, sketch shows, comedy partners, improv shows and satirical reviews plus the return of some legendary old favorites.

With thousands of performers and individual performances, picking the top acts has got to be a bit of a random game. So I'm recommending a shortlist of comedians I've seen and enjoyed, as well as some that arrive trailing plaudits and the looks of winners. I've also tried to highlight several female comics I like in this very male dominated entertainment form. But if you pick up a buzz while you are in Edinburgh, for heaven's sake have a go with someone new. You never know, you might discover the next big comedian of the decade.

Or you could sit through a turkey of a performance. The gamble is half the fun of Edinburgh.

My Comedy Picks for Edinburgh 2016

Gilded Balloon - The festival's top comedy producers will be filling  venues all over town. Their full season is stuffed with established stars as well as loads of newcomers. Among them:

  • Ed Gamble: Stampede - Popular from television appearances, Gamble's stand-up is described as "a wagonload of misguided opinions and wild conjecture."  Throughout August, the Guilded Balloon at the Counting House,
  • Tommy Tiernan: Out of the Whirlwind -  Mischievous and wickedly funny Irish comedian and one of my real favorites. He finishes an international tour at Edinburgh. If you can get a ticket, grab it. At the Gilded Balloon Teviot Debating Hall.
  • Zoe Lyons: Little Misfit - Fresh from Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and other television appearances, Lyons is witty and dry. The Observer Magazine calls her "Confident and razor sharp" and The Skinny in Edinburgh says, "Probably the most impressive British female comic on the circuit." at the Guilded Balloon, Teviot.

    The Stand Comedy Club - The Stand is producing a fresh line up of new faces, liberally laced with old favorites plenty of funny ladies. Their producers have very good taste and a terrific funnybone so this is the place to risk your cash on an untried comedy act. The ones I'd like to catch include:

    • Jo Caulfield: Pretending to Care - "Award winning comedian with jokes and microphone, seeks audience for good time." What more can you say? She's very funny and known to be "mouthy, sweary and deadly funny.  Stand  5 &6, August 5-28.
    • Katherine Ryan: Work in Progress - The Canadian comedian plays the clueless North American blond with perfect deadpan delivery of razor sharp observations and comments. She sneaks in under the radar to deliver killer lines. Just back from a sell-out tour throughout the UK and Australia, she comes to Edinburgh to premier her newest work. The Times, says she's, "‘Thoughtful, funny and just twisted enough". The Scotsman said, "Warped wit, striking presence, killer lines, calm confidence." If you've never seen her live, book fast because she's only doing ten nights in August at Stand 5&6.
    • Shappi Khorsandi: Oh My Country! From Morris Dancing to Morrissey - Shappi, author of  "A Beginner's Guide to Acting English," celebrates her 40th year in Britain with a "love letter to her adopted land." Always funny. Stand 5, through August.
    • Gary Delaney: There's Something About Gary - Lots of jokes, plenty of them offensive. He thinks a good joke should be "like a drunk Glaswegian: short and punchy". Critics have said he's "one of Britain's grandmasters of the one-liner." August 8 to 14, Stand 1.
    • The Best of Irish Comedy - Four for the price of one showcase of Celtic comics. A different line-up every night. Who knows who will stop in. Previous performers have included Dara O'Briain, Jason Byrne, Dylan Moran, Ed Byrne, Maeve Higgins. Aug 5-28 Stand 3&4
    • The Best of Scottish Comedy - Mix of the top comedians on the Scottish circuit with four acts on every bill. For those outside of Scotland, this is more of a leap in the dark - and you may have to tune your ear to understand the Glaswegians, but bound to be a great, relaxed show., August 5-14 and 16-28, Stand 5&6.

      And Around Town

      • Omid Djalili: Schmuck for a Night  - With credits from Hollywood to television and the West End stage, Djalili's intelligent, energetic and engaging brand of comedy is always thought provoking yet good natured. He's only appearing for five shows so this ticket will be hot. August 23-27 at the Pleasance Courtyard.
      • BBC at the Edinburgh Festivals  - The BBC returns with a whole bunch of goodies, early to late, throughout the festival. Live shows, comedy writers' workshops, top comedy stars, masterclasses. It's all free but ticketed by adraw. Enter by 11pm July 3 and tickets will be issued from July 7.
      • Cambridge Footlights: International Tour Show 2016: Lagoon - This renowned sketch comedy ensemble from Cambridge University boasts a stellar list of alums and their shows are among the hottest tickets at the festival. They sell out fast so don't wait if you want to see the next Sasha Baron Cohen or David Baddiel, or Graham Chapman or John Cleese or Peter Cook or Stephen Fry or Germaine Greer or Eric Idle or Emma Thompson, or Hugh Laurie or Griff Rhys Jones or David Mitchell or Robert Webb or…Aug. 3-14, 16-21 and 23-29 at Assembly Roxy.
      • Marcus Brigstock: Why the Long Face Well established comedian and commentator on the world we live in, Brigstock is witty and very topical. If you don't keep up with politics and world affairs you may be left behind. But if you do, you'll love his show. The Telegraph said, "Rare is the stand-up show that makes you laugh, think and then fight back the tears. This is it."  August 5-14 at Pleasance Courtyard.
      • Henning Wehn: Westphalia is Not an Option - Germany's comedy ambassador to Britain is indescribable - and so is his accent. Quite surreal. He says, "Westphalia is not an option. Come along. Or else." August 4-7, 9-14, 17-21, 23-28 at Just the Tonic at the Caves.
      • James Acaster: Reset - Nominee for the top Edinburgh Fringe comedy award in 2014, Acaster made the rounds of all the top TV comedy shows in Britain this year. The promise is that he will be "Running his mouth off about a bunch of stuff nobody even cares about", but the Guardian says there is no one better at constructing a show." One of comedy's most original voices. Funny in a low key kind of way that creeps up on you.  Aug 3-28 in the Pleasance Courtyard.

      Compilation Shows

      There are quite a few review shows that give you tasters of several different performers so you can sample before you buy. The Fringe also has some famous, intimate late night comedy shows where you never know who might do a stand-up turn. Try one of these:

      • Best of the Fest Daytime
      • Best of the Fest - Late night compilation of some of the best comedians in town at the Assembly Hall, around midnight most nights.
      • Late'n'Live
      • Laughing Horse Free Pick of the Fringe -at The Free Sisters, part of the Free Festival. 
      • Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe- Seven acts, 90 minutes at lunchtime - different taster show every day. Look before you leap. Now in its 25th year. At the Gilded Balloon Teviot.