Gusset Grippers, 12:00, The Newsroom, 3***
Obie: A Comedian’s Guide to Improving your Memory, 14:45, Espionage, 4****
On my TOP TEN WEIRD PRE-FRINGE SHOWS list, Gusset Grippers (3***) is at number one. A comedy show about how not to wet yourself. It certainly caught my attention pre-fringe. I should really have gone earlier in the Fringe, but it started at 12 noon and I was never up early enough! So on Thursday 8th, day seven, I ran up Leith Walk towards the Newsroom on Leith Street to make the start of the show.
I have learned over the last few days that there is a section of the Fringe which is pretty educational. Educational in a more obvious style rather than messages hidden within the arts. There is a brochure sponsored by Edinburgh Skeptics and Good Thinking which showcases nerdy, geeky and educational shows including Gusset Grippers, Bonk! (a sex talk) and the Festival of the Spoken Nerd. There is also something called ‘Bright Club Scotland’ at The Assembly Rooms which “blends original comedy and (PHD) research”.
Elaine Miller is a Chartered Physiotherapist. She knows her stuff. She is warm, friendly and immediately puts her audience at ease. I did feel like I was back at high school in a sex ed class, with her table of props and informative yet informal approach. But none of the local nurses that my school got in to speak to us about sex said anything like: “Imagine you are on a date and you have a fart brewing…” or “pop a finger up your fanny or bum and squeeze” (I must point out she didn’t want us to do the finger thing while we were in the audience, but yes she DID want us to imagine we were holding in a massive fart).
Elaine proved herself as more than just an expert or a comic – but as an ambassador and someone who is out to make a difference. She seems like the kind of person who thinks big, hence bringing what is basically a funny educational health talk to the largest arts festival in the world. Not many people would have the balls (?!) to do that. She is also pushing her findings and knowledge to the government and is standing up for women all over the country who are all facing a common problem but are too embarrassed to speak up. She truly is a woman to be admired and respected.
Elaine’s show was a good laugh. In terms of stand up comedy, much of the comedy material was obvious and verging on the cringey; but that all added to the persona of a lovely knowledgeable mum on stage who loves to crack jokes and has no fear of any rude words. Elaine is the self-titled ‘face of the pelvic-floor’ and she is definitely worth a watch. Not only will you have an enjoyable and free hour, but you will be blessed with much helpful knowledge and less pairs of damp pants for the wash.
Gusset Grippers, The News Room, Leith St, 12pm, FREE. INFO HERE.
The educational theme then continued as I attended Scottish comedian John Obrien’s (Obie’s) show about how to improve your memory. (Obie: A comedian’s Guide to Improving your Memory 4****). I met Obie on the comedy circuit a couple of years ago and I have found his work very interesting. Obie runs workshops in stand-up comedy and memory training and I have attended both and learned a great deal from them. I was intrigued as to how he would merge his comedy with a memory workshop in just an hour. Especially while stating that the audience would “improve their memory”. Could he manage this while also making the audience laugh? Yes – he did.
The thing that I admired most about this set, was the excellent and expert structure of the hour. So much stand-up I have seen is haphazard or lacking in direction, but Obie with this show had a tight and perfectly crafted structure while still allowing for spontaneity, improvisation, audience banter and responding to anyone that happened to call anything out.
The international audience that the Fringe brings is no mean feat for anyone with a thick accent, never mind a proper Glaswegian. It was quite amusing watching the deep concentration from an Israeli couple as they tried to follow Obie’s Glasgow vernacular. But as the show played out the man in the couple chipped in a good few times so he had managed to follow which was impressive in itself.
Within this hour Obie managed to create a great rapport with the crowd, show off his own memory skills which were very impressive, shared how he did this with the audience and allowed them to try out their new skills. None of this dragged at all and it all flowed brilliantly with a neatly tied and timed ending. The audience were delighted with the show and one guy who had been grinning ear to ear the whole way through the performance happily slapped a tenner in the bucket at the end while raving about the hour to his girlfriend.
This routine was laugh out loud funny, wonderfully packaged, included much audience interaction and delivered on the claim that the audience would learn something along the way.
Check it out if you like Glasgow banter, improv, Derren Brown or just fancy a guaranteed good hour on the Free Fringe.