Fringe Comedy

Nish Kumar

Five stars

Stephen Bailey

Four stars

Brett Goldstein

Three stars

Pleasance Courtyard

Marianne Gunn

Seeing comedy at the Fringe can be a time-slot gamble. Most late afternoon shows will have to temper their material somewhat (although some acts resist) while the later shows may have to deal with a "bevy" of problems. Sitting pretty with what is probably one of the best slots at the Pleasance Courtyard is Nish Kumar, who is back this year with a less esoterically titled show. Kumar jokes that "Long Word... Long Word... Blah Blah Blah... I'm So Clever" was the result of serious PR negotiations and he regales the crowd with the many titles he dismissed along the way.

There is an intelligence to Kumar's humour and he quips about his politically left-leaning material in an engaging and self-deprecating manner. The show is also finely honed and crafted, there is no false start and it's likely you'll still be laughing as you exit the (albeit oven-like and claustrophobic) Upstairs space. Having performed stand-up for 10 years - and perhaps more importantly approaching his 30th birthday - he reflects upon the process of comedy itself. He pushes boundaries (and indeed crosses them) but all the while never leaves the audience with any sense of animosity. Caustic-free, if you like. Whether this is Kumar's year for comedy plaudits remains to be seen, but if I was a betting person I'd put some money on the seven fifteen.

(runs to August 30)

Twinkly Mancunian Stephen Bailey has a rather earlier slot and, deep in the belly of the Pleasance in one of their Cavern spaces, he gives it his all in Should've Been a Popstar. Much about Bailey screams kids TV presenter - the aforesaid twinkly eyes, the fetching bow tie and the seemingly boundless energy - but his material verges on potty-mouth territory at times. Hailing from a famous housing estate, his material reflects on growing up gay and working class: the bullying, the girlfriends and his escape to University. He looks back on his formative years with affection, gently mocking his parents who have a dream to own a caravan in Benidorm. Having rounded up a significant proportion of his audience by providing camp antics on Arthur's Seat, he will be fit as a fiddle by the end of the Fringe if he continues this innovative marketing technique.

(runs to August 30)

Brett Goldstein moved proceedings into darker territory. A self-confessed depressive as a child, his show focused on his foray into drug taking (while a musical theatre student in New York City) which - surprisingly - painted the whole experience in a rather good light. Titled Burning Man, he explained that he had missed last year's Edinburgh Fringe in order to head to the voyage of self-discovery in the desert. This part of the show was by far the most intriguing and had he focused more on this than cheap Jimmy Saville and Bill Cosby gags his show may have been more engaging. What was mainly lacking, however, was a sense of warmth and joy through performance. "I don't know how to start a comedy show," he had quipped in a deadpan style at the start of his show. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to finish one either. Perhaps with greater rapport with his audience there will be less of a charisma chasm in the future.

(runs to August 31)