The Edinburgh Fringe kicks off around the 30th of this month, with an onslaught of comedy, cabaret, theatre and uncategorisable good times. I'm performing there myself with my spy thriller Tomás Ford Stop Killing People and late night DJ request-fest Crap Music Rave Party.
When I'm not onstage, I co-produce the independent Noodle Palace and Midlandia venues during Western Australia's Fringe World festival, so I'm out seeing a lot of shows come Australia's festival season from February through April. A lot of these end up at Edinburgh come August. Here are ten of my favourites. OK, eleven.
John Robertson is best known as the host of fringe cult interactive videogame The Dark Room (see above), but he's also a formidable storyteller and standup. He's an intimidating presence, and his high status helps his humour land spectacularly. This show sees him take you through the history of evil; ideal material for a man who often comes across as darkness personified.
Lisa Skye's 2013 show Ladyboner was one of the highlights of last years' festival for me. She's a great character; a proudly freak-flag flying Melbournite goth who manages to be one of the most relatable talkers in the country. This year, she's back with a show about how her parents met; it's a kinda sweet, kinda odd hour that will leave you feeling pretty great, though you'll have an overwhelming urge to call your Mum.
It's inspiring to see someone as idiosyncratic as Sam Simmons getting so much traction in the comedy world. His TV series of last year, Problems, was an unconventional treat, and his arguments with his pre-recorded inner monologues are some of my favourite comic moments of all time. I walked past a Spiegeltent in Adelaide where he was performing this show and it sounded like there's plenty of that kind of trademark madness in there.
Jon Bennett has two shows in this years' Fringe. His first show Pretending Things Are A Cock is on the free fringe, and while it's definitely worth checking out, his shows have gotten better as they go along. Fire In The Meth Lab tells the story of his brother's life, going from childhood through to his imprisonment for making methamphetamines. It's a sign of Bennett's deftness of touch as a performer that he can make such dark subject matter into such a funny, warm show.
These guys are a bit of a Western Australian cult act, selling out huge shows at home and slowly building a reputation elsewhere. As could be predicted with a three piece musical comedy trio dressed in matching uniforms, there's a good dose of the Doug Anthony Allstars in what they do. The energy they bring is all their own; over-friendly, hyperactive and a stupid amount of fun.
Another Western Australian comic institution, John Conway fills his shows with surrealist sketches and often bizarre monologues. Imagine the oddest excesses of the current crop of American late show hosts, and then pile on a big old dose of Edinburgh-friendly wierdness. His co-host, Ben Russell, is one of the most off-beat improvisers you'll ever see.
While obviously East End Cabaret's Bernie and Victy hail from the depths of Berlin, they have spent enough time in Australia that we can claim them as our own. These two put on a saucy, clever cabaret that takes all the best bits of traditional cabaret and throws in wild energy and up-to-the-minute subject matter.
Recently returned to Australia after a stint working with Cirque Du Soleil, Alan Girod is a masterful storyteller. This show was a big hit at Fringe World. It chases his journey from being an introverted nerd to a world-touring performer. If you're looking for something that will charm you senseless and leave you with a big smile on your face, this is it.
Last year, I was lucky enough to enjoy a performance by The Loungeroom Confabulators in my Edinburgh lounge room, consisting of Wil Greenway and Stuart Bowden; it was one of the best shows I've ever witnessed, blending naïve stories with dark, twisted humour. In the interests of squishing as many great shows into this list as possible, I've got to insist that you see both of their shows this year; Bowden's lofi theatre tall stories and Gerenway's darkly hilarious fables will charm you to the core.
There's always a moment or ten during a Neal Portenza show where I chuckle to myrself and think "this is the fringe!" Willfully, impossibly stupid, Portenza creates high concept shows designed to highlight his characters' flaws. If you're a fan of the modern clowning style of acts like Dr Brown and Tryve Wakenshaw (Squidboy), you've got to check out Portenza's unique take on it.