Fringe Comedy

Larry Dean

Heroes @ Monkey Barrel

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Five stars

Hannah Gadsby

Assembly George Square

Four stars

Tom Allen

Pleasance

Four stars

Gayle Anderson

FOR THE sake of decency, I can't possibly tell you what Larry Dean was doing in Dubai, but it's a mighty memorable introduction. Fandan is confessional story-telling at its funniest. Bottle of Bru in hand, Dean gives a riotous run down of the gay stereotypes that he, as a working-class Glaswegian, fails to conform to. If there was a prize for symbolic use of a party popper, he's surely be clutching the silverware. Threaded throughout the set is the remarkable true tale of his Pret A Manger lunch date with not one, but two murderers. It's comedy gold and much like the scran, it's natural and organic. There are some skilful impersonations and accents thrown in too. His "London observational comic" is so realistic I'm half-convinced that I've reviewed his show. But it's Dean's own life, his own fears and failings that the sell-out crowd want to hear more of. His honesty comes with an extra dollop of charm. Don't let the wide-eyes fool you though, this is a carefully-crafted set. It's professional patter in the mold of both Connelly and Bridges. Chase the gay away? Nae chance. On this sort of form he should be elected spokesman for his generation.

Runs until August 27

POWERFUL, raw and at times uncomfortable to watch, Hannah Gadsby's show is comedy, but not as we know it. Like a surreal "all you can eat" deal at the virtual rib shack, I've been picking over the bones of it for days. Gadsby begins by dropping a bombshell that she's giving up stand up. Nanette will be her swansong, her final routine. By way of explanation, she takes a brilliant under-the-bonnet look at the mechanics of comedy. Jokes, she reveals are all about creating tension. The comedian creates discomfort before promptly relieving things with a punch-line. She's sick of "artificially inseminating" situations with tension. Not everything, she decides, can be fixed with a couple of funnies. That being said, she does manage to squeeze quite a few into this furious farewell. She describes coming out to her Tasmanian family, criticises the Gay Pride flag for being "too busy" and admits that her favourite sound is that of a teacup finding its place on a saucer. There's also an utterly brilliant exploration of sexism in art, with Picasso in particular coming in for some real pelters. Then things turn dark. There's chest -thumping, there's anger, there're gut-wrenching revelations before Gadsby leaves the stage. She's created the tension, now where's that joke? It's then you realise that she's no intention of delivering it.

Runs until August 27

FEW people carry off synthetic toadying like Tom Allen. He welcomes each and every audience member to his show with a limp handshake and a bored smile. Imagine Uriah Heep dressed by Armani. This is Allen's tenth Fringe and he's brought along a trademark bitchy and bespoke show. Absolutely is a suave, silk-gowned saunter through suburbia. Living back at home with his parents has made him both nasty and nostalgic – it proves to be a brilliantly funny combination. There's a memorable impersonation of a primary teacher in mid-meltdown. Increasingly frantic, increasingly non-PC. More finger chewing than finger painting, it's a gold star winning performance. There are memories too of old-school birthday celebrations with their paltry party bags and put-upon mothers. But it's during his conversations with the audience that Allen really shines. He cranks up the acid drop with a pick 'n' mix of put-downs. It's what his fans have been waiting for and he doesn't disappoint. A middle-aged businesswoman on a gap year is shown no mercy. Who knew you could create a filthy analogy from Les Mis?

Run until August 27