A new religion rises, as Fascism rears its comedy head at the Edinburgh Fringe

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Snapped shamefully asleep by Scotsman snoop Claire Smith

Snapped shamefully asleep in Brooke’s Bar at the Pleasance by Scotsman snoop Claire Smith

I have only been at the Edinburgh Fringe for less than four days and already lack of sleep is clearly getting to me.

I was shamefully snapped sleeping in the Press Room of the Pleasance Dome by Scotsman reporter Claire Smith. No-one likes a grass, Claire…

In today’s blog, I was thinking of majoring on the show Dave Millett and Tim Renkow Are Meandering With Purpose – featuring two of the most interesting, thoughtful and intelligent pieces of complementary comedy I have ever seen at the Fringe.

But, as regular readers of this blog will know, I tend to rather go for superficial crass excess.

Thus we have Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans – Wonder & Joy and Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II.

A few years ago, I tried to persuade comedian Simon Munnery that we should start a religion by writing a book together. How difficult can it be? L.Ron Hubbard managed it.

All you need to do is read a few Californian self-help books, note the chapter headings and build a pseudo-philosophy round them. People want to be led.

Alas Simon was not keen to be a godhead.

Twin godheads of a new comedy religion rising in our midst?

Twin godheads of a new comedy religion rising in our midst?

But Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans seem set to fill that gap in the market with their successful series of Sunday Assembly events in London and elsewhere. Others have taken up the idea in other countries and, from October to December, Sanderson & Pippa will be embarking on a roadshow called 40 Dates and 40 Nights, hosting Sunday Assemblies across the UK, Europe, the US and Australia.

Their current Edinburgh Fringe show – Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans – Wonder & Joy – which I saw last night – well, it was less a case of seeing it than experiencing it – is less a show, more a cross between an orgasm, a Nuremberg Rally and a drug or adrenaline-fuelled disco rave.

One of the quieter moments last night

One of the quieter moments of Wonder & Joy last night

Singalongs, chants, games, nostalgic disco music and a lot of shouting, bouncing up and down and waving your arms – or, well, anything you fancy – in the air. That was the format. And very sweaty and joyous it was too. Much like the start of a new religion or cult, but without (so far) any animal sacrifice or mass suicides in the jungle. But give them time… Give them time.

At the end of the show, Sanderson yelled at the bouncing audience, “This is not a show – It’s a movement!”

And he could be right

Sanderson Jones proves he is an android

Sanderson Jones encourages new believers

Sanderson encouraged anyone to get in touch if they wanted to start a Sunday Assembly in their town. And, at midday on the next two Sundays, their atheist celebrations of life will be held in Edinburgh.

I am not sure if I will be going. I am not sure I have that much sweat in my body to give. All that bouncing, pogo-ing and waving yourself around! At my age, I just want tea and Victoria sponge and to have the spittle dabbed from the side of my mouth by a nurse.

The only downside of the show last night was that, coming out of the Hive venue’s ‘Bunker’ room, I realised that poor Lewis Schaffer had been trying to perform his show in the adjoining room. It must have been like trying to perform a spoken word show during a Rolling Stones concert.

As I said, the show in the Hive’s Bunker room was part orgasm and part Nuremberg Rally.

Nazi but nice - Frank last night

Nazi but nice: Frank sang last night

Perhaps even closer to a combination of an orgasm, Nuremberg Rally and bunker show was Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II at the Voodoo Rooms.

I saw this glorious celebration of bad taste with comedian Maureen Younger and – linking back to the start of this blog – Claire Smith of the Scotsman.

Maureen speaks fluent German and was able to vouch for the veracity of the occasional little snippets of German. I can vouch for the bad taste. Frank Sanazi claimed that, last week, he had been ejected from PC World.

I had gone expecting more of the same admirable old Frank Sanazi routines though (as blogged about two days ago) missing his fine rendition of Auschwitz Craft.

In fact, this was a real humdinger of a fake Vegas show in the kitsch surroundings of the Voodoo Rooms.

Lofty Anne Stank’s sang of her diary

There was a lofty performance by Anne Stank with her diary

The beloved Führer of Fun sang all his regulars, but also appeared in character as Tom Moans (an aged Tom Jones with a zimmer frame and tight leather trousers belting out pastiches of his songs).

Plus there were the added joys of Maureen Dietrich (I think I heard that right), Anne Stank (emerging from a wardrobe to sing about her diary, then searching for eroticism and love among the men in the audience).

Nancy Sanazi raises a black gloved Reich hand

Nancy Sanazi raised a black gloved Reich hand

And there was a new, even better, version of Nancy Sanazi not just singing Jackboots Are Made For Walking but with an almost genuinely frightening split personality – part dumb American blonde, part screaming, wild-eyed homicidal/genocidal schizophrenic.

Oh – and, just to round off the evening, Jesus Christ appeared, transforming from Messiah to Full Monty type stripper/dancer with red ribbons flowing from the wounds in his hands like some Maoist Chinese ballet from the 1960s.

Nazi but nice.

The whole show.

Frank Sanazi and his stormtroupers triumphed.

Bob Slayer -desperate for books

Bob Slayer – desperate for books, even though he lacks shelves

Meanwhile, in the more mundane world of Edinburgh Fringe promotion, Bob Slayer has put out an appeal for books. Bob’s Bookshop has proved a good idea as a venue, but is sadly lacking in the bookshop area… though Phil Kay‘s long-awaited crowdfunded autobiographical opus is allegedly arriving in the Bookshop on Friday.

My secret view revealed

My secret view of Edinburgh will be revealed

Before that, Such Small Portions’ book Secret Edinburgh with contributions from 160 comedians and vaguely comedy-connected people (including a non-humorous piece from me) should be arriving at other book shops in Edinburgh (and online) on Wednesday after, co-editor Andrew Mickel tells me, the books got held up at the Turkey/Bulgaria border.

Obviously.

This is the Edinburgh Fringe we are talking about. However unlikely or impossible anything is, it may happen.

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