Andy Zaltzman:

Satirist For Hire

The Stand

IN the ultimate act of audience participation, Andy Zaltzman asked a question of his crowd before he, or anyone else had even reached Edinburgh. In an e-mail to all ticket holders, there was a request to send him a topic that he could satirise on their behalf.

This suggests a spontaneous, off-the-cuff hour, which of course it couldn't be for a man with Zaltzman's brand of intellect. But that's not to say that there is no on-the-spot thinking and reaction.

However, it's clear that political satire is his game and that's his strength.

When it heads off from that it becomes a little less sharp, but there's a genuine warmth to him that is missing in many other comedians who don't shy away from the highbrow.

Cardinal Burns

Pleasance Forth

TRANSLATING TV success to the live stage is a tricky one, particularly when that success has had the benefit of make-up and costume. Prosthetics, cross-dressing and location filming have created the running jokes that make up the inventive Cardinal Burns sketch series.

Dustin Demri-Burns and Sebastian Cardinal didn't tread the traditional stand-up route, so face the challenge of making their characters, alongside new creations, fly on a black stage with a limited dress-up box.

All sketch shows are hit and miss, but there's little that doesn't work here. The biggest laughs comes from close interplay. It's not a double act as we've known it, but it's clear how the pair bounce off one another when they are fully inside their creations.

It shows the strength of the television show that there was disappointment that favourite characters such as Banksy and the girls from Young Dreams didn't make an appearance, but many of the new characters were so strong on a first outing is a good sign.

Robert Newman, New Theory of Evolution

Stand in the Square

IT'S fair to say that many people left Robert Newman's hour shaking their heads, the majority in awed disbelief that he can take such complex ideas from science and break them down before getting the laugh from something altogether sillier, while others, quite clearly, just didn't have a clue what was he was on about and still expected him to say "that's you, that is". However, the scale and ambition of the piece is startling and crucially (for comedy) incredibly funny.

The premise of the show appeared to be research into turkeys on the France/Belgium border, who proved his thoughts on the inheritance of genetic behaviours. Indeed. He deserved a quiet room, however, instead of what he described as an Afghanistani yurt. He battled on well over the boom of fireworks, even drawing some laughs, imagining what the council tax couldn't afford thanks to the nightly pyrotechnics. "Boom! There's your Meals on Wheels. Boom! There's your needle exchange…".

It would be interesting to see a transcript of a show as packed with ideas, flights of fancy and historical storytelling. It takes his level of performance and commitment to make it work.