Paulmooners review

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

No one outside comedy knows who Paul Byrne is. \'Brother of Ed\' is true, as is ‘looks a bit like Johnny Depp’ but that does no justice to his work as a director of stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe. That’s probably because the ideal is that a comedian is a solitary figure, conveying a single voice, even if others helped along the way.

And as testament to how many top-flight comics Byrne has aided, look no further than the line-up for this quite literally ’once in a blue moon’ edition of Andrew Maxwell\'s Fullmooners in his benefit, after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin\'s lymphoma. The bill is like a whole seasons of Live At The Apollo distilled into one night.

Fullmooners, for those who don’t know, was a night celebrating the roguish, experimental dark side of comedy that ran at the London Comedy Store as well various special one-offs, directed by Byrne. Breakdancing to herald the interval, Thriller as the theme tune, and the well-heeled Tim FitzHigham reduced to a menial dogsbody were regular features, in evidence again at last night’s gala in Edinburgh’s massive McEwan Hall. But its chief defining trait is the audience’s Pavlovian barks at the moon. The caped figure of the mischievous Maxwell truly does encourage the lunacy.

The star-studded extravaganza kicked off with Ed Byrne making much hay about his resemblance to Vikki Pryce and Stephen K Amos with festival-friendly material about Edinburgh, as well as the casual racism  he encountered at Adelaide while there for its Fringe.

All rock-solid stand-up from top-flight exponents, but it was Phill Jupitus who first kicked the gig into the realm if the unusual, taking to the stage as Joop Joop the panda, to read a poem about Jeremy Clarkson and his unnatural love of cars. And who knew that pandas were such grumpy bastards.

Jason Byrne – no relation – has been on this stage all month, yet still found something new to distract him: a spare electrical socket. An unlikely starting point for some hilarious audience interaction, but the innocent act of looking at cat pictures on the phone of guy in the front row ended up with a simulated dry-hump on the stage, all wonderfully spontaneous.

From one Jason to another as Mr Manford took to the stage, and surprised us all with a powerful rendition of I Who Have Nothing, absolutely straight. Manford’s shown off his vocal chords on the reality show Born To Shine and been in Sweeney Todd, but this still came out of the blue, and all the better for offering something different. ‘The Barbara Dickson of comedy,’ Maxwell called him, baffling the younger people in the room.

Much had been made of the fact that this Fullmooners benefit was the only festival appearance by John Bishop, who’d flown back from holiday to be here. In the end it was nothing spectacular, a Ryanair gag, a couple of gags about doing the gig for the kudos, and a nice self-deprecating story about his early years in Edinburgh, and the ignominy of being handed a flyer carrying a picture of his own face.

Brendon Burns got part two off to a ribald start, thanks to his wrestling mate Cold Cobana, fellow comic Barry Castagnola and the other Byrne brother, Stephen, trying to distract him from his punchlines by smashing balsawood planks across his skull. It looked painful.

Next the Pajama Men expertly improvved their way around some audience questions as a two-headed monster, answering in unison – or as close to it as they could mange – before a guest appearance from Greasy Fist Joe, a beautifully batshit country singer, brilliantly and incoherently mumbled by Phil Nichol.

More top-flight stand-up hollered out from the grandstanding Glenn Wool – back from LA after the Hollywood career didn’t work out –  and then the master of mayhem, Maxwell, suggesting an ingenious solution to online paedophile porn, before the stand-up section was headlined by the manic Terry Alderton, doing a full set as opposed to everyone else’s curtailed appearance. A bold move for 2.30am at the end of long bill, but if anyone has the supercharged energy to keep the audience alert, it’s him, especially as it’s never quite sure where his improvised scattergun comedy is going.

Finally the gig was closed in traditional style with Lady Carol Of The Moon, tonight giving her unique ukulele-backed interpretation of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and We Could Be Anything from Bugsy Malone. Favourite moment was when a guy started waving his lighter in the air, and a vigilant stewart told him to put it away. We may be children of the Moon, but there’ no reason to flaunt health and safety regulations.

Review date: 22 Aug 2013
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