Edinburgh’s Fringe and Montreal’s Just For Laughs: the same but very different

Luca Cupani yesterday in Edinburgh

Luca Cupani was back in Edinburgh yesterday

Yesterday I chatted to Italian comedian Luca Cupani. He had just come back from representing the UK at Canada’s Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

He – Italian comedian Luca Cupani – had been officially representing the UK along with Japanese comic Yuriko Kotani. Although he had not actually encountered Yuriko over there but had seen Danish comedian Sofie Hagen.

“Perhaps Danish comedian Sofie Hagen,” I suggested, “was representing the UK instead of Japanese comedian Yuriko Kotani.”

“That could be,” said Luca.

“How was Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“I feel like a nun who goes to an erotic fair who comes back to the nunnery with a bag full of dildoes and she doesn’t even know if they are dildoes. I realised only at the end how big it was.”

“Just For Laughs?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Luca.

“Just checking,” I said.

“I met this person,” continued Luca, “and these people and that person and they were approachable. I found out that the more important they are, the more easy they are to talk with because they are resolved: they are happy.”

“It was different from the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.

Luca’s current show at the Fringe

Luca’s current Confessions show at the Fringe

“Well,” said Luca, “the Fringe is all on the shoulders of the performers. You do your show and, among the punters, there might be some industry people. But the industry it is hidden; you don’t see them. In Montreal it is more visible – the industry. The companies, they promote the shows, they invite people and then the punters come. It is on the same level as Edinburgh but different.

“And they are Americans and Canadians, so the least experienced comedians there have maybe had sold-out tours across the USA. If you have a sold-out tour in the UK, you have maybe been to 10 or 12 cities. There, they have filled arenas across 40 or 50 cities. It gave me a sneak-peek into the real world and the fact there is a chance to make a living out of comedy.”

Luca’s current Fringe show is The Admin of Death and Other Confessions in the 40-seat BlundaBus.

Yesterday was a normal day for me in Edinburgh. It spat with rain occasionally and, in the streets, I bumped into perhaps 10-15 people I knew. Plus 3 people with whom I had longish conversations and whom I have clearly met in the past but I had no idea who they were. Not even after longish conversations. It is difficult to probe too deeply without asking outright: “Just who the hell exactly are you?”

I blame a combination of a lack of sleep and too much Red Bull.

Many Godden as Moses

Marny Godden, as Moses, met Japanese John

All I know clearly is that I saw Marny Godden’s multi-character-based show Where’s John’s Porridge Bowl? in which she starts dressed as Moses with beard, staff etc and riskily but successfully kept picking on three Japanese punters in the front row as audience participants despite the fact two had limited English. One of them went into such extended giggles at one point that Marny rightly just looked at her for around ten seconds. The main picked-upon Japanese was a triumph of unlikely audience-choice who joined-in enthusiastically while one of his chums videoed it on a smartphone.

Charlie Dinkin

Charlie Dinkin – with tales of headless snails and swastikas

Good punters also helped Charlie Dinkin’s show Can’t when one member of the audience volunteered that her mother enjoys killing snails by drowning them in beer then cutting their heads off. Charlie fought back with the real-life surreality of a night she spent with a member of the Bullingdon Club involving swastikas.

Who said 1960s-style events were dead?

Highlight of the day, though, was seeing Candy Gigi’s show If I Had a Rich Man.

Candy Gigi (with carrots) and a meaty comedy show

Candy Gigi with carrots and a meaty comedy show

Last week, I booked her to sing on the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday of the Fringe – on the basis that, from previous shows I had seen, I knew she could sing and it would be unexpected.

When I first saw her perform a few years ago doing 10-minute spots involving hysteria and desperate vegetable-eating, I thought she was wonderfully original.

Once seen, forever remembered. But I did wonder how on earth she could develop the act beyond 10 minutes.

She proved me wrong when she did a half hour Fringe show two years ago, still based heavily around hysteria and vegetables but which was held together by force of personality. For that, she won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award for Comic Originality.

She is now back at the Fringe with an extraordinarily original full-length show which holds together and, indeed, has a climax. I can only describe it as a surprisingly dark and surreal autobiographical Jewish musical. Because, unknown in advance to me, this show turned out to be a part-belted-out-with-full-force comedy with blow-your-head-off songs. Whether her voice will last to the end of the Fringe, I don’t know.

Because of the singing and the occasionally quite dark mostly autobiographical narrative it is a different act, though vegetables do make a late and always-welcome appearance.

If I were a hack and desperate writer, I would say there is now comedy meat among her vegetables.

But I am, of course, not.

So I won’t.

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