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Fringe Comedy: Reviews

Jack Dee's Help Desk

Jack Dee's Help Desk

Assembly George Square

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WITH his deliberately doleful humour, Jack Dee announced that they had tried this show in London- and it didn't really work. Big laugh.

Perhaps they laughed too soon. Not that this didn't work, it's just a format that feels in its infancy - and will fly or crash depending on whoever joins Jack each night.

Audience members were given a shiny card and bookies'-style pen to provide their name and a note of the problem that the help desk could solve. Smacks of a Dave game show? It really did feel like the testing ground for a late night TV show.

He was joined by John Bishop, Sara Pascoe, Jen Brister, and Jon Richardson. With four buddies, it left Jack little to do apart from chair and provide the odd comment.

As great as these were, the show is the panel. With John and Jon at polar opposites of the comedy spectrum, Bishop grins and riffs while Richardson looks like he'd rather be anywhere else.

Pascoe and Brister are sharp and polite, but the hour never really takes hold. Perhaps a limit on the time spent on each problem would help. It's an idea struggling to find its format at the moment.

Andy de la Tour Stand Up Or Die in New York

Gilded Balloon

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IT'S been 30 years since Andy de la Tour did stand-up at the Fringe, alongside Ben Elton and another young guy who had recently made his TV breakthrough - Rik Mayall.

Now he's back after a none-too-shabby career of acting and writing. Fellow Comedy Store pioneer Alexei Sayle returned last year with as much bluster as 30 years ago, while de la Tour takes a more elegant approach, choosing storytelling rather than conventional stand-up.

His route back involved the challenge of tackling New York's comedy clubs after 20 years out of stand-up and this is the story of that.

It's beautifully paced and performed, while being a little "what I did on my holidays" at times, and maybe would have suited a BBC Four documentary format better.

BJ Novak, One More Thing

Assembly George Square

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PERFORMING in a lecture theatre isn't lost on BJ Novak, who suggests that we "open our textbooks". In fact, it's the actor and writer known to us through the US version of The Office and Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds that opens his first book, called One More Thing.

It's difficult to make reading from a book at a lectern much of a performance so, like David Sedaris last year, the hour will depend on the strength of the writing.

The comparisons with Sedaris don't end there. There is a similar fluidity of language and sense of the absurd.

However, while Sedaris uses personal experiences, Novak takes off on wonderful flights of fancy that are also grounded in reality.

Beginning with The Rematch, his update on the Tortoise and the Hare, where the hare demands a rematch, it's seemingly simple ideas that are given Novak's gracefully original slant.

A warm, intimate, hilarious hour - bring your pennies to buy the book and shake his hand afterwards.

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