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Fringe comedy: review

Nicholas Parsons' Happy Hour

Nicholas Parsons' Happy Hour

Pleasance Cabaret Bar

Keith Bruce

It has had many imitators, with non-professionals among the most enthusiastic to embrace the chat show format, deluded that it is an easy option. But there is a reason why Nicholas Parsons is the main man on the Fringe with the top names on his show, and that has a lot to do with his vast experience and the 14 years he has been occupying the same slot in the Pleasance programme.

He doles out tubes of Smarties to his guests like points on Radio Four's Just A Minute, on merit and whim. The first recipients are the audience members he engages in conversation for his opening gambit. He may be a gent, but if you are unfortunate enough to be a town planner who admits to some responsibility for Edinburgh's trams, as happened at the show I attended, he will give the rest of the crowd every opportunity to savage you.

The guest line-up I lucked on was as fine as you might hope for. Suki Webster's first play, My Obsession, is another Pleasance show and features herself as the stalking fan of a famous comedian, played by her husband Paul Merton, although she insists he had to beg for the role. It's a Play, Pie & Pint bite-sized piece, but Parsons' testimony is that it is half an hour well spent.

On the evidence of his new show (at the Stand) that Mitch Benn brought along, I will be making a point of catching the follow up to his hit "37th Beatle" show. A witty contribution to the school of faith scepticism called Don't Believe A Word, the two songs from it he played suggest it is every bit as funny and clever - and rather ruder.

Kilted Craig Hill brought the show to a typically spiky close, with more audience-baiting and few chances for Parsons to get a word in, as well as the revelation of his show's original title that was too risque to use. And far too rude to appear here - but you can bet he tells everyone who turns up at the Underbelly.

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